Rail (UK)

Read­ing sta­tion

ANDY COWARD pro­files the win­ner of Ma­jor Sta­tion of the Year at the 2020 Na­tional Rail Awards

- United Kingdom · London · Birmingham (England) · First Great Western · South Western · Royal Philips Electronics · National Rail · Network Rail Route 18 · Cardiff Central to Nottingham Route · South Western Railway · TfL Rail

Read­ing is will­ing and able: RAIL pro­files the win­ner in the 2020 Na­tional Rail Awards Large Sta­tion of the Year cat­e­gory.

Through­out the his­tory of RAIL’s

Na­tional Rail Awards, recog­ni­tion in the hotly con­tested Sta­tion of the Year cat­e­gory has al­ways been highly prized.

Net­work Rail and the var­i­ous train op­er­a­tors are all keen for their sta­tions to be hon­oured. A Sta­tion of the Year ac­co­lade also gen­er­ates a huge amount of pride for staff who of­ten go above and be­yond to help make their sta­tion stand out from the crowd.

And ev­ery year, the en­tries in the four cat­e­gories (Ma­jor, Large, Medium and Small) get stronger, pro­vid­ing an un­en­vi­able job for the NRA judg­ing panel.

The en­tries are gen­er­ally judged from a ‘Mys­tery Shop­per’-style visit, where the judges make an anony­mous, un­sched­uled visit to the sta­tion to view the fa­cil­i­ties and pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence for them­selves. As ex­pe­ri­enced rail pro­fes­sion­als with a long his­tory in the in­dus­try, these sea­soned judges know how to spot a win­ning en­try.

How­ever, in 2020, things have had to be done dif­fer­ently. A new judg­ing process had to be adopted due to restric­tions im­posed be­cause of the Coron­avirus pan­demic, while the NRA cer­e­mony it­self was held vir­tu­ally, hosted by BBC news­reader Huw Ed­wards and

RAIL Manag­ing Edi­tor and Events Direc­tor Nigel Har­ris.

This year, it was not pos­si­ble for the Mys­tery Shop­per vis­its to take place. In­stead, the judges re­viewed their marks for the past two years where the in­for­ma­tion was avail­able, as well as check­ing the Trans­port Fo­cus marks from Jan­uary 2020 (again where the in­for­ma­tion was avail­able), re­view­ing pho­to­graphs ac­com­pa­ny­ing each en­try, and val­i­dat­ing their re­sults with a panel of 27 in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sors who lived within easy reach of the sta­tions be­ing con­sid­ered.

Each cat­e­gory had an al­lo­cated judge who ranked the sta­tions within their cat­e­gory into a league ta­ble, and who un­der­took the best pos­si­ble due dili­gence avail­able to en­sure the judg­ing was fair and con­sis­tent with how it would have been un­der more nor­mal cir­cum­stances.

And at Septem­ber’s on­line cer­e­mony, Read­ing was an­nounced as the Ma­jor Sta­tion of the Year for 2020.

The sta­tion has changed be­yond all recog­ni­tion in re­cent years, with Net­work

Rail in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity as part of the mod­erni­sa­tion of the Great West­ern Main

Line route.

At one time, Read­ing was re­garded as a no­to­ri­ous bot­tle­neck in the rail net­work, al­most in­ca­pable of manag­ing the num­ber of ser­vices that needed to pass through the sta­tion each day.

And with grow­ing de­mand for rail ser­vices, es­pe­cially after a thriv­ing pe­riod of pas­sen­ger growth fol­low­ing pri­vati­sa­tion of the rail net­work, ca­pac­ity through Read­ing had be­come a ma­jor is­sue.

Start­ing in 2009, Net­work Rail there­fore be­gan a rad­i­cal and ex­ten­sive pe­riod of mod­erni­sa­tion and ca­pac­ity im­prove­ments that have trans­formed Read­ing sta­tion and the sur­round­ing area into an award-win­ner.

These im­prove­ments in­cluded a new track lay­out that helped to re­move the con­ges­tion that had pre­vi­ously built up on the ap­proaches to the sta­tion. A mile-long viaduct was con­structed to the west of the sta­tion to ac­com­mo­date the fast in­ter-city trains op­er­at­ing along the Great West­ern Main Line, help­ing to re­duce the num­ber of de­lays by sep­a­rat­ing the fast main line ser­vices from the

re­lief and freight lines.

The new track lay­out meant that trains no longer needed to queue to en­ter the sta­tion and could still be op­er­ated if there were any prob­lems with other ser­vices. Ad­di­tion­ally, the mod­i­fied track lay­out has pro­vided ca­pac­ity for six ex­tra freight trains each day, help­ing to re­duce the amount of freight that has to be trans­ported by road.

Along­side the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing plat­forms, five ad­di­tional plat­forms (four through plat­forms and one ad­di­tional bay plat­form) were con­structed within the sta­tion area. This has in­creased plat­form ca­pac­ity, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the ex­panded track lay­out which as­sists with the smooth flow of trains through the sta­tion.

Pas­sen­gers also ben­e­fited from a new up­per con­course with lifts and es­ca­la­tors, while its plat­forms of­fer ex­ten­sive canopies, wait­ing rooms, toi­lets and re­tail out­lets.

A new en­trance and ticket of­fice were built on the north­ern side of the sta­tion, while a new en­trance was pro­vided on the south­ern side. The two en­trances to the sta­tion were linked by con­vert­ing a sub­way be­neath the plat­forms for pedes­trian ac­cess, al­though there is no di­rect ac­cess to the plat­forms from the sub­way.

The newly ex­panded sta­tion was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in July 2014, with work on the sur­round­ing track al­ter­ations com­pleted the fol­low­ing year.

And while the sta­tion and track ex­pan­sion project was largely com­plete by 2015,

Net­work Rail has con­tin­ued to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment around the sta­tion, with two rail bridges up­graded to en­able more space for a cy­cle path and foot­path be­neath the rail­way at Cow Lane.

A road widen­ing scheme at Cow Lane has also al­lowed two-way traf­fic to run be­neath the rail­way for the first time, help­ing to re­move a no­to­ri­ous road traf­fic bot­tle­neck in the town.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the project has taken larger road ve­hi­cles into con­sid­er­a­tion. The widened route now al­lows dou­ble-deck buses and larger goods wag­ons to use the route, with the Cow Lane bridge project com­pleted dur­ing 2019, help­ing to im­prove road traf­fic flow.

Used by al­most 20 mil­lion pas­sen­gers each year, Read­ing is Bri­tain’s ninth busiest sta­tion and the sec­ond busiest in­ter­change sta­tion out­side of Lon­don (be­hind Birm­ing­ham New Street).

Over re­cent years, there has been a grow­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that pas­sen­gers want so much more out of a sta­tion than just catch­ing a train. Most ma­jor sta­tion re­fur­bish­ments now in­cor­po­rate re­tail and leisure fa­cil­i­ties - and Read­ing is no ex­cep­tion.

It now boasts a host of re­tail out­lets within the sta­tion, as well as the other fa­cil­i­ties that pas­sen­gers now ex­pect from a ma­jor sta­tion. The sta­tion has a bright and airy feel and the re­fur­bish­ment works have pro­vided a modern and invit­ing sta­tion en­vi­ron­ment for pas­sen­gers.

The main op­er­a­tor of pas­sen­ger ser­vices through Read­ing is Great West­ern Rail­way, but CrossCoun­try, South West­ern Rail­way and TfL Rail (which will run Cross­rail ser­vices on the El­iz­a­beth Line) also have a strong pres­ence.

When pas­sen­ger num­bers de­clined

dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing the COVID-19 lock­down, fol­low­ing the Govern­ment’s ad­vice for the public not to use public trans­port, Net­work Rail took ad­van­tage of the qui­eter pe­riod to con­tinue im­prov­ing the sta­tion - ready for a time when pas­sen­ger num­bers re­turn to nor­mal.

Dur­ing the spring of 2020, the sta­tion toi­lets were re­fur­bished as part of a £ 380,000 project. Baby chang­ing fa­cil­i­ties and im­proved toi­let fa­cil­i­ties for pas­sen­gers with im­paired mo­bil­ity have also been pro­vided. And as with all Net­work Rail-man­aged sta­tions, the use of toi­lets is now free of charge to pas­sen­gers through­out the day, after the com­pany abol­ished its pre­vi­ous pol­icy of charg­ing for their use.

Other im­prove­ments car­ried out re­cently have in­cluded the re­paint­ing of all the sta­tion wait­ing rooms, new cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion screens, and the in­stal­la­tion of hand sani­tis­ing units through­out the sta­tion.

“I am de­lighted that Read­ing is of­fi­cially the best ma­jor sta­tion in the coun­try. It feels amaz­ing for my team to be recog­nised for all the hard work they’ve done,” says Andy Philips, Net­work Rail’s Sta­tion Man­ager for Read­ing.

“In the last year, the sta­tion has con­tin­ued to put pas­sen­gers first by con­tin­u­ously striv­ing to im­prove the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as Net­work Rail and GWR de­liv­er­ing the big­gest timetable change in De­cem­ber 2019 since the 1970s.

“Since COVID-19, things may have changed in the short term. How­ever, the sta­tion has con­tin­ued to de­liver cus­tomer im­prove­ment projects, such as the Brunel Toi­let re­fur­bish­ment and the Lift Safety cam­paign, while a ro­bust clean­ing regime has been in­tro­duced in the sta­tion to re­as­sure our cus­tomers that it is safe to travel by train.

“The sta­tion cel­e­brated its 180th birth­day in March 2020, and as part of this a his­tory vinyl time­line has been in­stalled on the Trans­fer Deck show­ing the changes over the sta­tion’s 180 years.”

Read­ing is a wor­thy win­ner of the NRA 2020 Ma­jor Sta­tion of the Year.

 ?? NET­WORK RAIL. ?? The £900 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment of Read­ing sta­tion in­cluded the con­struc­tion of a new foot­bridge on the west­ern side of the sta­tion that in­cor­po­rates a new south­ern en­trance for ticket hold­ers only.
NET­WORK RAIL. The £900 mil­lion re­de­vel­op­ment of Read­ing sta­tion in­cluded the con­struc­tion of a new foot­bridge on the west­ern side of the sta­tion that in­cor­po­rates a new south­ern en­trance for ticket hold­ers only.
 ??  ??
 ?? MARK PIKE. ?? Great West­ern Rail­way 800313 passes TfL Rail 345027 at Read­ing on Jan­uary 2 2019. Four new through plat­forms have been built on the north­ern side of the sta­tion to in­crease ca­pac­ity, plus an ex­tra bay plat­form for the Wok­ing­ham lines.
MARK PIKE. Great West­ern Rail­way 800313 passes TfL Rail 345027 at Read­ing on Jan­uary 2 2019. Four new through plat­forms have been built on the north­ern side of the sta­tion to in­crease ca­pac­ity, plus an ex­tra bay plat­form for the Wok­ing­ham lines.

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