Last week I met the head of Network Rail for our area. It was the most productive and positive meeting I have had with the railway track operator in my time as MP.
For many years I have been urging the case for a new station for Wokingham. I have wanted this new development as we need a better station. The present building lets the town down, and provides a poor entrance for visitors.
I have also wanted changes to the station roundabout junction, and to substitute a bridge or underpass for the present level crossing. For many years I found plenty of support from constituents and the Council, but no positive responses from the railway.
In the heady days of the middle of the last decade I set out proposals for a new station and better roads which could have been paid for from development gain by allowing the construction of some commercial premises on railway land. They could improve the car park with a second level on a smaller part of the plot. Pre 2007 with so much credit and property enthusiasm around it would have been possible. Network Rail did not want to do it.
Now different and more positive management at Network Rail have some proposals for a new station which I welcome. They will be paid for out of the company’s budget for new stations and station improvements. I was told they intend to let the contract for the building works this month, and to complete the station by March 2013. That is great news.
Better still, they wish to follow that with the construction of an underpass under the line near the Station roundabout. Much of Wokingham’s traffic congestion stems from the Station level crossing, assisted by the other two level crossings in the area. If we can have a new way of crossing the railway for large and small vehicles that does not shut down every time a train arrives or departs, the congestion will greatly eased . Safety will also be much improved.
The bridge under the railway on the Finchampstead Road is our only current route which is continuously open, but that cannot take very high vehicles. Other commercial vehicles need to use of the middle of the road, restricting the flows for other traffic.
At last there seems to be some momentum in the plans to improve our town. A new station and new road layout should give a welcome boost. Roll on the Town Centre improvement plans to take the modernisation further.