TRANSPORT bosses have confirmed that Crossrail will be extended to Reading.
The landmark announcement was made by Rail Minister Stephen Hammond this morning, who confirmed that the high-capacity rail link will be extended the 14 miles from Maidenhead to Reading via Twyford.
Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have battled to get the new rail route extended to connect Reading with more major London stations after the original plans were for the line to terminate at Maidenhead.
Mr Hammond said the announcement confirmed the Government’s dedication to delivering a high quality rail network and added: “It will improve connectivity and deliver greater choice and convenience for passengers travelling into London.
“It will also make better use of the already congested Great Western Main Line, freeing up capacity for further improvements including potential direct services from Reading to Heathrow as part of the Western Access Scheme.”
Under the new plans the link will be built by 2019 and will provide a slower “stopper” service without toilets or catering facilities which is expected to take 50 minutes to reach Paddington compared to the 25 minute fast Intercity service.
While Reading East MP Rob Wilson welcomed the decision, he warned that it was only the first stage and that a second phase was needed to make sure the town reaps the full benefits of the new service.
He said: “With a bit of foresight and planning, Crossrail can and should offer a direct link between Reading and central London, the City and Canary Wharf at competitive speeds, offering greater convenience and choice to Reading’s businesses, commuters and residents.”
Mr Hammond confirmed that the Department for Transport (DfT) will begin a detailed study of the benefits and costs of building additional facilities to enable faster Crossrail trains and the results are expected to be published in October.
Mr Wilson said the new infrastructure needed for a faster Crossrail could be built by 2020 or 2021 and added: “I am pleased that the rail minister has announced that the infrastructure improvements needed to deliver a more rapid and direct Crossrail service with fewer stops and faster journey times will be fully analysed as part of the next investment review.”
Reading West MP Alok Sharma also welcomed the announcement that Reading commuters will have a direct link to the City of London and Canary Wharf for the first time. He said: “This announcement is a clear recognition of Reading’s importance as an economic powerhouse and will improve further Reading’s access to the City of London and Canary Wharf.”
Borough transport leader Cllr Tony Page hailed the decision as a victory for common sense and added: "Reading Borough Council has been the consistent champion of promoting improvements to Reading Station and the need for extra train capacity into and out of the town.
"Crossrail can deliver major benefits to the Thames Valley and we will be working with the DfT and all train operators to deliver these. At last the dots have been joined up.”
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Ricky Duveen said ending the line at Reading had always been the most logical decision and added: "This decision also confirms that Reading is the beating heart of the Thames Valley and cannot simply be ignored on such a major project as Crossrail."
Andy Malone, sales director of Atlantis Property, added: “This can only be seen as positive news for Reading and the wider area, not only in terms of the eventual improvement in journey times between Reading and London, but more so as a clear indication of the level of confidence the Government has in the town by deciding that Reading will provide the West terminus for Crossrail.
“It is however vital that the second phase is pushed through to ensure that Reading continues to develop into a major hub of economic activity not only in the UK, but within Europe.”