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Reading Railway Station

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

7. What progress has been made in bringing forward plans to upgrade Reading railway station; and if he will make a statement. (83853)

A business case for upgrading Reading station has been prepared by the borough council working with the region and rail industry partners. The plans include additional platforms and improved passenger facilities. We are working with the council, its partners and Network Rail to explore how the plans can best be progressed.

Does the Minister accept that upgrading Reading station to improve track and platform capacity from 23 to 60 trains an hour is vital to removing the bottleneck from the Great Western main line? Does he also acknowledge the importance of the partnership working between Reading borough council, the local business community and other stakeholders in making such a powerful case for a 21st century station for Reading?

We do recognise the need for work at Reading station. I praise my hon. Friend again for his help in developing the good partnership working with Reading borough council. As he knows, Network Rail’s progress plans for resignalling work for 2011-2014 include Reading, and its business plan base case submission last week included Reading as part of the high-level output specification.

I hope that the Minister has been made aware that I have been working for some time with all interested parties—both public and private-sector organisations—on the Reading station development. As a result, there is now a major opportunity to bring about a transformation of the entire area which will create jobs, regenerate part of the town centre and give Reading one of the best station developments in Europe. That can be done through a Government contribution of about £80 million to start it off. Will the Minister now offer his support for that further ambitious project and will he meet me and other interested parties to take it forward?

A great deal of good work has been done in partnership and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) has been working for some years on taking these developments at Reading station forward. It is important that such partnership working takes place. The programme has already been set out by Network Rail in its progress plans, and its business case has been made about what it would like to see included in the high-level output specification. We will consider that. As I have always said, if Members seek a meeting with me, I will do my very best to ensure that it happens.

Order. May I tell the hon. Gentleman that Reading station is some distance from the green hills of Antrim, but I may be able to do something for him when we move on to other questions?