The Wokingham Paper

Reading Council confirms: plan to concrete over River Thames is dead and buried

MRT revised proposal
An artist's impression showing how the proposed bus lane bridge will dominate the historic riverside

PLANS to concrete over ancient riverside to create a single-track bus lane bridge to Reading Station are now dead and buried.

Earlier this week, Reading Borough Council confirmed that the proposal to create the bridge – which they called a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme – has been withdrawn after Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee turned it down twice.

Under the plans, the natural landscape around the Kennetside area and the River Thames between Thames Valley Park and the Caversham Bridge roundabout would have been concreted over for the bridge.

Buses would have run from a new 270-space park and ride in Thames Valley Park to the rear end of Reading’s railway station – leaving commuters an eight-minute walk into Reading’s town centre rather than seconds had they used the existing bus network, which has stops through the town.

In a statement, Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “In light of Wokingham’s second refusal and the removal of LEP funding for the scheme, the Council has decided to officially withdraw its planning application for the new pedestrian, cycle and public transport link in East Reading.”

The proposed single lane bus lane bridge over the River Thames. Behind it are two of Brunel’s historic bridges

Campaigners for the Don’t Trash The Thames group, which led protests against the £33 million scheme, were delighted.

In a post on social media, they said it was “great news” and they welcomed Cllr Page’s offer of hearing from the public.

“One of our team members has already reached out to Cllr Page requesting a meeting,” they added.

Cllr Page continued: “A great deal has been said about the East Reading MRT proposal, some of it based on genuine concern about the riverside setting of the new route, and some of it based on confusion around the benefits of the scheme.

“The fact remains, however, that the significant levels of growth Reading will inevitably absorb in the future means we need to find sustainable transport solutions which offer realistic alternatives to the private car.

“The East Reading MRT application offered a walking, cycling and public transport alternative to the thousands of commuters who drive between Wokingham and Reading every day, adding to congestion and poor air quality experienced by residents in Reading.”

He added: “I will also be extending direct invitations to engage in this important process with opponents of the East Reading MRT scheme.

“I hope they will agree to meet with me personally for a constructive and open discussion on options to provide sustainable transport solutions for East Reading, including the alternatives that were investigated at the East Reading MRT planning stages.”

Now, Cllr Page said that Reading Borough Council will be working on a new Local Transport Plan for the Reading area later this year.

“While it has not been possible to progress the scheme, the Council’s own financial investment will certainly not be wasted and will now feed into the development of a new Local Transport Plan.

“So we will now move on, look forward and engage with people on how these serious issues can be tackled in the future.”

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