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Reading Central
Reading Central
Reading station frontage, showing the old from 1860 (left) and new station buildings from 1989 (right)
Local authorityReading
Grid referenceTemplate:Gbmapscaled
Station codeRDG
Managed byFirst Great Western
Platforms in use12
Live arrivals/departures and station information
from National Rail
Annual rail passenger usage
2002/03 *  12.946 million
2004/05 *11px 13.297 million
2005/06 *11px 13.571 million
2006/07 *11px 14.368 million
2007/08 *11px 14.549 million
2008/09 *11px 14.384 million
Original companyGreat Western Railway
30 March 1840Opened
National Rail - UK railway stations
Template:Hide in print
* Annual passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Reading Central from Office of Rail Regulation statistics.
Template:Portal frameless

Reading Central railway station or (Reading Central formerly Reading General) is a major rail transport hub in the English town of Reading. It is situated on the northern edge of the town centre, close to the main retail and commercial areas, and also the River Thames. Adjacent to the railway station is a bus interchange, served by most of Reading's urban and rural bus services.

Reading is a major junction point on the National Rail system, and as a consequence the railway station is a major transfer point as well as serving heavy originating and terminating traffic. The station is sponsored by ING Direct and the University of Reading.

Reading is served by three train operating companies - First Great Western, South West Trains and CrossCountry.


File:Bere Alston, Reading & Wokingham RJD 64.jpg

A 1909 Railway Clearing House map of lines around Reading

File:Reading station 1865.jpg

The Great Western Railway station (on right of picture) in 1865. The former Southern station is on the left

File:Reading Stn 13 front.JPG

A closer view of the new station entrance, on the site of the old Southern station

File:Reading railway station MMB 13 166218 458006 43131.jpg

Reading Station; view looking west along platform 5, with platform 4 opposite

File:Reading station from the rear.jpg

Reading station from the station car park at the rear of the station

The first Reading station was opened on the 30 March 1840 as the temporary western terminus of the original line of the Great Western Railway (GWR). At a stroke the time taken to travel from London to Reading was reduced to one hour and five minutes, less than a quarter of the time taken by the fastest stagecoach. The line was extended to its intended terminus at Bristol in 1841. As constructed, Reading station was a typical Brunel designed single-sided intermediate station, with separate up and down platforms situated to the south of the through tracks and arranged so that all up trains calling at Reading had to cross the route of all down through trains.

New routes soon joined the London to Bristol line, with the line from Reading to Newbury and Hungerford opening in 1847, and the line to Basingstoke in 1848.

In 1860 a new station building, in Bath Stone and incorporating a tower and clock, was constructed for the Great Western Railway. In 1898 the single sided station was replaced by a conventional design with 'up', 'down' and 'relief' platforms linked by a pedestrian subway.

The station was originally named Reading and became Reading General on 26 September 1949 in order to distinguish it from the ex-South Eastern Railway station nearby.includeonly>[1]includeonly>[2] The "General" suffix was dropped from timetables in 1973, but some of the station nameboards still stated "Reading General" in 1974.includeonly>[3]

From 6 September 1965, services from the former Reading Southern station were diverted into a newly constructed terminal platform (4A) in the General station.includeonly>[4] This was long enough for a single eight coach train, which was later found to be inadequate,includeonly>[5] and so a second terminal platform (4B) serving the same line was opened in 1975includeonly>[6] for the commencement of the service from Reading to Gatwick Airport.

In 1989 a brand new station concourse, included a shopping arcade named after Brunel, opened on the western end of the old Reading Southern station site, linked to the platforms of the main station by a new footbridge. At the same time a new multi-level station car park was built on the site of the former goods yard and signal works to the north of the station, and linked to the same footbridge. The station facilities in the 1860 station building were converted into The Three Guineas public house.

Reading Signal Works[]

At some time between 1859 and 1865, the Great Western Signal Works were constructed on lower ground to the north of the station. These works grew until by 1872 they were employing 500 men and producing most of the signalling equipment used by the Great Western Railway. The signal works continued in existence until 1984.

Motive power depot[]

The GWR built a small engine shed in the junction of the lines to Didcot and those to Basingstoke in 1841. This was enlarged and rebuilt in 1876 and again in 1930. It was closed by British Railways in 1965 and replaced by the current purpose-built Traction Maintenance Depot.[7].

Accidents and incidents[]

Extreme weather was the cause of an early casualty in the station's history. On 24 March 1840, whilst the station was nearing completion, a 24-year old man by the name of Henry West was working on the station roof, when a freak wind (described at the time as a tornado) lifted that section of the roof, carrying it and West around Category:Aldwych Branch The Short Streach Of Line Between Holborn And Aldwych Was Closed In 1994.The Line Was Due To be extended to Waterloo but never was.There will be a bit of Aldwych In My Website when added away; West was killed.includeonly>[8] On the wall of main station building may be seen a brass plaque, commemorating the event. It bears the words of this poem:[citation needed]

Sudden the Change.
I, in a moment, fell and had not time
To bid my friends "farewell."
Yet, hushed be all complaint,
'tis sweet, 'tis blest
To change Earth's stormy scenes
For Endless Rest.
Dear friends, prepare!
Take warning by my fall.
So shall ye meet with joy
Your Saviour's call.

An accident occurred at Reading on 17 June 1914, and was witnessed by the railway historian O. S. Nock, then a schoolboy. The driver of a train to Ascot moved off even though the signal was at 'danger', and into the path of an oncoming train bound for Paddington; the only fatality was the driver of the Paddington train.includeonly>[9]

T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) lost the 250,000-word first draft of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom at the station when he left his briefcase while changing trains in 1919. Working from memory, as he had destroyed his notes after completion of the first draft, he then completed a 400,000-word second draft in three months.

German aircraft tried to bomb the lines into the station during the beginning of World War 2.

On 23 October 1993, an IRA bomb exploded at a signal post near the station, some hours after 5 lb (2 kg) of Semtex was found in the toilets of the station. The resulting closure of the railway line and evacuation of the station caused travel chaos for several hours, but no-one was injured.

Current station[]


File:Reading station layout 2007.PNG

Current track layout
Main (Bristol-Paddington) lines
Westbury lines Goods lines
Relief lines Other lines

  • Platform 1,2,3 - West facing bay platforms. Used for local services to Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn. CrossCountry services from Bournemouth to Birmingham
  • Platform 4 - Fast services from Paddington to the West
  • Platform 4a, 4b — East facing bay platforms. Used for services on the North Downs line and to London Waterloo
  • Platform 5 - Fast services to Paddington
  • Platform 6 - East facing bay platform. Used for terminating local services to and from London Paddington
  • Platform 7 - West facing bay platform. Used for terminating CrossCountry services to and from Newcastle
  • Platform 8 - Local services from Paddington to Oxford. Also used for CrossCountry services from Birmingham to Bournemouth
  • Platform 9 - Local services from Oxford to Paddington and fast services to Paddington and Ealing Broadway.
  • Platform 10 - East facing bay platform. Local stopping services to Paddington calling at most stations.


The main rail route served by the station is the Great Western Main Line, which runs west from London's Paddington station before splitting to the west of Reading station into two lines, one serving Westbury, Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth and the other serving Bristol, Bath, Newport and Cardiff. Services on these lines are operated by First Great Western, and almost all services stop at Reading.

Other main lines connect Reading with Birmingham (serving both New Street and International stations), northern England and Scotland, and with Winchester, Southampton and Bournemouth to the south. Through services from north to south on these lines are operated by CrossCountry, and all services stop in Reading.

The secondary North Downs Line connects Reading with Guildford and Gatwick Airport. Services on this line, together with local stopping services to Basingstoke, Newbury, Bedwyn, Oxford and London Paddington, are also operated by First Great Western. An electric suburban line operated by South West Trains links Reading to London Waterloo station. An express bus service operated by First Great Western links Reading with Heathrow Airport.

Template:Reading Lines

Preceding station National Rail logo.svg.png National Rail Following station

Template:Rail line three to one

London Paddington   First Great Western
Night Riviera
Twyford   First Great Western
Commuter services
Great Western Main Line
Slough or
London Paddington
  First Great Western
Intercity services
Great Western Main Line
  Didcot Parkway or
Terminus   First Great Western
North Downs Line
London Paddington   First Great Western
Intercity services
Reading to Plymouth Line
  Taunton or
Twyford   First Great Western
Semi fast peak time services
Reading to Plymouth Line
Terminus or
  First Great Western
Local services
Reading to Plymouth Line
  Reading West
Terminus   First Great Western
Reading - Basingstoke
  Reading West
Earley   South West Trains
Waterloo to Reading


Station layout[]

To serve the traffic described above, Reading Station currently has four through-platforms and eight terminal platforms. The limited number of through-platforms, together with flat junctions immediately east and west of the station, and the fact that north-south trains need to reverse direction in the station, render the station an acknowledged bottleneck with passenger trains often needing to wait outside the station for a platform to become available.

Plans were produced by Railtrack for a major redevelopment of the station, with rail track on two levels. Since the demise of Railtrack and its replacement by Network Rail, the status of these plans is unclear. There is sufficient space for extra through platforms on the north side of the station, and even a disused rail underpass at the junction to the east, and there have been suggestions in the press to use these for a quicker and cheaper solution. The local Unitary Council announced a scheme projected to cost £78 million early in 2006. Meanwhile the problems were mitigated by the introduction by Virgin Trains of more frequent but shorter trains (now operated by CrossCountry), which are able to use the shorter terminal platforms for reversing instead of needing to occupy one of the through platforms.[10]

Irrespective of railway developments, but likely to be accelerated by them, local authority plans show a comprehensive redevelopment of the area between the town centre and the river, including the station, by 2020.

In July 2007, in its white paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway, the government announced plans to improve traffic flow at Reading, specifically mentioned along with Birmingham New Street station as "key congestion pinch-points" which would share investment worth £600 million.[11]

The current plans indicate the final layout of the station will have eight through platforms on four islands: one each for 'down fast', 'up fast', 'down slow' and 'up slow'. The current platform 4 will be used by CrossCountry services in all directions. The disused underpass east of the station will link the electrified Wokingham line to the 'slow' lines at the north of the station complex, allowing for Heathrow Airtrack services. Crossrail could also be accommodated at the new station with little work beyond electrification, as new sidings have been planned to the west of the station.

On September 10, 2008 Network Rail unveiled a £400 million regeneration and reconfiguration of the station and surrounding track, including an overpass system to the West of the station; with freight and passenger trains able to transit from the Reading to Plymouth Line and Reading to Basingstoke Line to the 'slow' lines without crossing the 'fast' lines via an underpass beneath the 'fast' lines, rather than the current flat junction. This is planned to help alleviate current delays, due to slow moving freight trains passing through the station.[12][13] As well as the reconfiguration of the track, five additional platforms are planned; the terminus for London Waterloo will be altered, and the Cow Lane bridge under the tracks will be made two-way and include a cycle path. There will be improvements that will allow the capacity for at least 4 extra trains in each direction every hour.

The station will receive:

  • Five new platforms to ease overcrowding
  • A new foot-bridge between platforms
  • New escalators and lifts
  • A new northern entrance to the station will improve access and the link through the station between Reading town centre to the Thames (Caversham).

These plans provide for possible future Crossrail and Airtrack services at Reading station, building a railway that will be fit for at least the next thirty years. Network Rail are also examining options to:

  • Improve the station concourse
  • Provide new facilities such as improved ticketing
  • Enhance cycle facilities.

Also the improvements will allow 6 new freight trains each day — this could take around 200 lorries a day off the roads. Rail freight has only a quarter of the carbon footprint of moving freight by truck, meaning this project will contribute to reductions in carbon and congestion.

Heathrow Airport links[]

Reading station is intended to be the western terminus for the proposed Heathrow Airtrack rail service. This project, promoted by BAA, envisages the construction of a spur from the Waterloo to Reading Line to Heathrow Airport, creating direct rail links from the airport to Reading, Waterloo, Woking and Guildford. Airtrack is currently unfunded and a public inquiry into the proposals has yet to be held so it will be a number of years before this scheme comes to fruition should it be eventually approved.


  1. Butt 1995, p. 195.
  2. Slater 1974a, Western's last "General", p.361.
  3. Slater 1974b, Western "Generals", p.520.
  4. Slater 1974a, New Southern platform at Reading, pp.362-363.
  5. Matthews 2006, p. 30.
  6. .Griffiths, Roger; Smith, Paul (1999). The directory of British enging Sheds and Principal Locomotive Servicing Points: 1.. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Co., 40. ISBN 0860935426. >
  7. Waters 1990, p. 11.
  8. Nock & Cooper 1987, pp. 128,130.
  9. £78m Plan To Relieve Reading 'Bottleneck'. Retrieved on May 14 2006.
  10. Forster, Mark (15-28 August 2007). "Rebuild will unblock Berkshire Bottleneck". Rail 572: 46–7. 
  11. Station's £400m revamp unveiled, BBC News Berkshire.
  12. Network Rail's plans.


  • Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. R508. ISBN 1 85260 508 1. 
  • "Notes and News" (October 1965). Railway Magazine 111 (774). London: Tothill Press Ltd.. 
  • Hylton, Stuart (2004). Reading — Events, people and places over the last 100 years. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-3906-0. 
  • Matthews, Rupert (2006). Lost Railways of Berkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-990-6. 
  • [1966] (1987) Historic Railway Disasters, 4th, Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1752-2. 
  • Phillips, Daphne (1980). The Story of Reading. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 0-905392-07-8. 
  • "Notes and News" (July 1974a). Railway Magazine 120 (879). London: IPC Transport Press Ltd. ISSN 0033-8923. 
  • "Notes and News" (October 1974b). Railway Magazine 120 (882). London: IPC Transport Press Ltd. ISSN 0033-8923. 
  • Waters, Laurence (1990). Rail Centres: Reading. London: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-1937-1. 

External links[]


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de:Bahnhof Reading ka:რედინგი (რკინიგზის სადგური) nl:Station Reading pl:Reading (stacja kolejowa) simple:Reading railway station