A MULTI-million pound scheme to upgrade Theale railway station has been delayed by at least another two years.
The busy station, which handles more than 400,000 passengers a year, was to have received a new footbridge and lifts as part of £2.9m work to improve accessibility.
The improvements, paid for by a Department for Transport fund to Network Rail, will also provide a new ticket office, development of a park-and-rail facility and a new pedestrian entrance from Brunel Road.
Work was meant to be completed in February 2014, but Network Rail and First Great Western, now known as Great Western Railway, were unable to agree on the design.
Now the project has suffered another blow as the Government has said that funding has been deferred for at least two years.
In a letter to the MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma, rail minister Paul Maynard said that a number of projects were to be deferred following a review.
This, he said, would enable high priority schemes to be delivered as planned.
“Unfortunately, Theale was one of the 26 stations chosen to be deferred because the project was not as advanced as many of the other projects,” Mr Maynard said.
“I know this will be disappointing, but I am afraid Theale is not in a unique position.”
Mr Maynard did say he was committed to delivering the scheme as soon as possible after April 2019. The project is likely to consist of a new bridge and three lifts and believed to now cost between £3m and £4m.
Theale district councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem) said: “I am very disappointed about the extremely long delay.
“Theale is a busy station and passengers have to climb up over 20 steps and descend over another 20 to get from the booking office or car park to the platforms. This makes it impossible for disabled people to use the station and very difficult for anyone with walking difficulties.
“The new ticket office is likely to be brought into use soon, so passengers using it will have to walk halfway across the car park before negotiating the stairs to the platforms.
“Given the long history of this project, I have little confidence that work will begin in 2019.”
After the new ticket office was completed, Great Western Railway announced that unexpected work to divert a sewer pipe had delayed the construction of the lifts and footbridge.
Contracts then had to be renegotiated after Network Rail became a public sector body and the work was transferred to it.
Network Rail then said that it had inherited a three-year-old design, which needed to be compatible with the electrification upgrade to the line through West Berkshire.