In this week's column, Jason Brock, the council leader, celebrates the opening of the Reading West station ticket office building, which was some nine years in the making. Councillor Brock writes:

Reading punches above its weight in a lot of ways for a town of its geographical size.

Transport wise, not only do we have three motorway junctions, but we also have four train stations.

And I was very pleased to see the opening of the new Reading West station building this week – our second new station opening in less than a year, although this is what was more of a comprehensive refurb than brand new.

While Reading Station is one of the busiest rail hubs in Britain and used by nearly 20 million passengers per year, our other stations are on a much smaller scale and serve the local community.

Reading West can be used for travelling toward Basingstoke or Newbury or just to hop into Reading town centre and the £4.5 million upgrade project has really lifted it up.

The new station building on Oxford Road looks excellent and provides a much more welcoming and much safer environment for people.

It also provides additional services for users, such as the ticket and information desk, customer toilets and a retail space.

The project involved the Council working with Great Western Railway and Network Rail and we were keen for local residents to benefit as well as train passengers.

The new ticket gates, better lighting and CCTV cameras will significantly improve safety as the platforms will only be accessible to paying passengers. This should help deal with anti-social behaviour that has been experienced in the past, as previously non-ticket holders could also access the platforms. And the Council has installed a new bus interchange, improved the cycle parking and pedestrian crossing in Oxford Road, and worked to improve the Tilehurst Road entrance to the station.

While this is all great news, I know that there is one important issue that has not yet been fully addressed – full accessibility.

The installation of lifts was not part of these works, as Network Rail tell us this would involve completely rebuilding the platforms which was not within the budget available. However, the new station building has been ‘futureproofed’ for the installation of lifts in the future and the Council will continue to work with our rail partners to make Reading West a fully accessible station.

Meanwhile, three lifts are being installed at Tilehurst station which is going to make a big difference to many local residents who use the station, or perhaps who have not been able to before. Well done to the Labour Kentwood ward councillors who have long campaigned for the station to be made accessible to all.

It is through working with our rail partners that Reading has seen the remarkable transformation of its main station and the surrounding area, as well as the opening of Green Park Station last year.

As a Council, we are also putting on new bus services to allow people to easily reach train stations, reducing the need to go by car.

In January, we introduced the Buzz 9 service which calls at Green Park station and starting in April, the new Buzz 18 will stop near to Tilehurst Station. Of course, Reading West is already very well served by the No 17 and access has now been improved.

All of this is part of the Council’s aim to encourage more people to use public transport, reduce private car use and therefore cut emissions, improve air quality, create a healthier environment for residents and helps make Reading net zero carbon by 2030.