East Reading Mass Rapid Transit

Thames at Thames Valley Business Park

Mass Rapid Transit or Messing-Up Reading’s Thames?

Local councils and business organisations are proposing to spend about £20million to build a cross town route for buses from near Reading station and bridge, past Tesco and over a new bridge at the Kennet, beside the Horseshoe Bridge, on to the A329 at Thames Valley Business Park. A segregated cycle track and foot-way are also included in the proposals. A car park for 277 cars is proposed by the riverside at the end of the A329 link.

Some will say what is the point of this scheme, can’t the money be better spent? Is the MRT a Messing-up Reading’s Thames, by adversely affecting the limited green space alongside the river?

The new elevated road/busway would be adjacent to the river near Kennet-mouth and the ‘green’ riverside path. Getting motorists out of their cars is laudable, but are there better ways than continuing to subsidise them at vast expense with schemes like this?

There is already a shared cycle and footway along the route, which could be improved, but it is a reasonable route for most users, and provides a pleasant ride alongside the river. The Horseshoe Bridge is somewhat of an impediment, but as a listed ‘building’ it is difficult to make significant changes. Improved lighting and maybe CCTV could help anyone travelling when dark.

What is the point of the MRT; surely travellers from Wokingham and Bracknell would be better using the trains? Or they have the option of the Loddon Valley Park and Ride? There are already buses using plentiful bus lanes in King’s Road which speed buses along most of the route.

Admittedly, changes to the London Road east of Cemetery Junction would be useful to all. Why not make two lanes outbound at least for half of the length to the Sutton’s A329 round-about, and with additional traffic signals at the roundabout to help move traffic out of town?

Local buses could stop at the proposed park and ride site, but use the existing route into town. These measures would help reduce queuing traffic and pollution. They could also be carried out independently of and before any new bus road.

Relocating buses from King’s Road and onto the new route would deprive Reading College, Cemetery Junction area residents, and Royal Berkshire Hospital users of many of the bus services that they currently have. Are these negative impacts factored in?

There are about 10,000 vehicles a day accessing Reading from the east. Does this scheme, with only 277 parking spaces make a sufficient alleviation of existing traffic? Also the proposed time saving of 5-10 minutes is probably taken by parking, waiting and alighting a bus.

The Cross Rail extension lies along this route as does the Waterloo line via Wokingham. A new small station at Thames Valley Business Park on either of the lines could provide a better service, be more cost effective and cause less environmental damage.

Now if we had £20million to spend on cycling improvements in Reading what a change we could make! Unfortunately we are told that most small schemes are ‘not affordable’. But a big scheme with £10million on infrastructure and 50,000 free bikes could surely get more than 277 cars off the roads?

If the MRT is to be built then cyclists and pedestrians should be provided for, but are they just being used as an excuse for an unnecessary bus road? Also, if the route is provided wouldn’t it be preferable to let the emergency services use it?

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Graham Bates

There’s a meeting at RBC this week. This is from “Save Our Ancient Riverside”:
The council has slipped the MRT onto the Traffic Management Sub Committee meeting in the council offices on the 13th September. The meeting starts at 1830 and this section of the meeting will be completed by 1930. The format will be a 30 to 40 minute presentation followed by a question and answer session. Unfortunately it is now too late to submit written questions in advance although we have made sure that a good selection have been submitted. You may have the opportunity to ask further questions in the meeting.

This isn’t the open debate format that we would like but it is a start. Do try and make the meeting to show that this is an issue that people care about.

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