Mon, 06 Jun 2016
WORK on a £2.9m upgrade to Theale Station is nowhere near completion three years after the project was announced.
Plans to install a new ticket office, footbridge and lifts along with a park-and-rail facility and a new pedestrian entrance from Brunel Road were unveiled in 2013.
At the time, First Great Western, now Great Western Railway, said that the work was expected to be finished in February 2014. But the project has faced a series of setbacks.
Initial delays were caused while the detailed design and contracts were finalised.
After the new ticket office was completed, the company 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.
Now Network Rail has said that it inherited a three-year-old design, which needed to be compatible with the electrification upgrade to the line through West Berkshire.
The district councillor for Theale, Alan Macro (Lib Dem), said the set-back was the latest in a whole series of delays.
Mr Macro said that the lack of lifts meant that people with mobility problems and parents with pushchairs found it difficult to use the station.
He added that the new ticket office had been sitting unused for two years.
He said: “The whole thing is very frustrating.
“It’s a scandal to be honest.
“It’s a catalogue of disasters going on and on and on.
“People are getting very cynical and doubt it will ever happen.”
Funding for the scheme came from the Department for Transport, following a joint bid from West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council.
Network Rail and Great Western Railway both said they remained committed to improving accessibility at stations.
A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers, extensive upgrades are being made to the rail network in the Thames Valley, including electrification in preparation for the arrival of a new fleet of longer, faster, quieter and greener electric trains.
“Upgrading Brunel’s railway is extremely complex, which is why we are currently reviewing the design for the ‘Access for All’ scheme at Theale to ensure it remains compatible with the other extensive improvements that are being made.”
Great Western Railway said: “Network Rail is reviewing updated plans for the station, and we will do all we can to help make these improvements happen as soon as possible.”