RAIL passengers planning to travel between Oxfordshire and London over Easter are being warned to plan ahead, because of major engineering work at Reading.
As part of a £900m five-year project to improve the railway through the Berkshire town, Network Rail will be carrying out a 10-day programme of work involving opening new entrances, platforms and a footbridge at Reading station and moving track to allow a flyover to be built at the junction west of the station.
Alterations will also be made to signals controlled from the Thames Valley Signalling Centre in Didcot.
A First Great Western spokesman said: “Our aim is to get people where they want to go with the minimum delay and disruption and to keep them on trains as much as possible, because we know that they prefer that to using buses for parts of their journey.
“This is the biggest stage of the work to improve the railway and station in Reading so far, but we are working with Network Rail to minimise the inconvenience to our passengers.”
Trains between Oxford, Didcot Parkway and London Paddington will be diverted to run on the Chiltern Line by reversing at Banbury over the Easter weekend – from March 29 to April 1 – and again on Sunday, April 7, repeating a method of operating first used in December 2010 while new signals were installed at Reading.
During these periods, Cotswold Line stations in West Oxfordshire will be served by a special service running between Didcot, Oxford and Worcester, Great Malvern or Hereford, with passengers travelling to or from London having to change at Oxford.
Over Easter, buses will replace trains between Didcot, Reading and Hayes & Harlington, where a shuttle train service will be running to and from Paddington. On Sunday, April 7, the shuttle trains will run between Maidenhead and Paddington.
Although train services between Oxfordshire and London via Reading will resume on Tuesday, April 2, a special timetable will be in force until Saturday, April 6, and buses will continue to replace trains at intermediate stations between Didcot Parkway and Reading, including Cholsey and Goring & Streatley.
CrossCountry trains between Banbury, Oxford and the South Coast are also affected by the closures of the line through Re ading.
Services will be diverted to start and end their journeys at Didcot Parkway. Buses will then provide connections with Winchester, where trains will operate to and from Southampton and Bournemouth.
FGW season tickets and period return tickets for travel between Paddington and Oxford and stations along the Cotswold Line will be accepted on Chiltern Railways services to and from London Marylebone on the days when the line through Reading is closed.
Network Rail aims to complete its work to increase capacity on the railway through Reading by August 2015, a year earlier than initially planned, although further closures of the line will be needed over Christmas and Easter periods.
For more information on the alterations this Easter and to download special timetable books for FGW services, see firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Your-journey/Rail-improvements/Reading-station-improvements