National Rail Elizabeth Line
Aerial view of Reading station in October 2023
General information
LocationBorough of Reading
Coordinates51°27′32″N 0°58′20″W / 51.4590°N 0.9722°W / 51.4590; -0.9722
Grid referenceSU714738
Managed byNetwork Rail
Train operators
Other information
Station codeRDG
ClassificationDfT category B
Previous namesReading General
Original companyGreat Western Railway
Key dates
30 March 1840First opened
6 September 1965absorbed Reading Southern station
2018/19Decrease 16.980 million
 Interchange Decrease 4.143 million
2019/20Increase 17.081 million
 Interchange Increase 4.352 million
2020/21Decrease 2.963 million
 Interchange Decrease 0.680 million
2021/22Increase 8.818 million
 Interchange Increase 2.216 million
2022/23Increase 12.401 million
 Interchange Increase 3.730 million
Passenger statistics from the Office of Rail and Road

Reading railway station is a major transport hub in Reading, Berkshire, England; it is 36 miles (58 km) west of London Paddington. It is sited on the northern edge of the town centre, near to the main retail and commercial areas and the River Thames. It is the busiest station in Berkshire, and the third busiest in South East England.[1]

Reading is the eighth busiest railway station in the UK outside of London and the second busiest interchange station outside London.[2]

The station is managed by Network Rail and is served by four train operating companies: Great Western Railway, CrossCountry, South Western Railway and the Elizabeth line.[3]


Original station

Great Western Railway station (right), South Eastern Railway station (left) in 1865

The first Reading station was opened on 30 March 1840 as the temporary western terminus of the original line of the Great Western Railway (GWR). 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 built, 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.[4]

In 1844, the Great Western Hotel was opened across the Forbury Road for people visiting the town. It is thought to be the oldest surviving railway hotel in the world.[5] 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.

Between 1865 and 1867, a station building, built of buff bricks from Coalbrookdale with Bath Stone dressings, and incorporating a tower and clock, was constructed for the Great Western Railway. Sources differ as to whether this was a new building, or remodelling of an earlier Brunel building.[6][7] In 1898 the single sided station layout was replaced by a conventional design with 'up', 'down' and 'relief' platforms linked by a pedestrian subway.[citation needed]

Access to the station from Broad Street was not direct, until Queen Victoria Street was built in 1903. This provided a route through to Friar Street and Station Road.[8]

Platform one at Reading railway station in 1945

The station was originally named Reading and became Reading General on 26 September 1949 to distinguish it from the neighbouring ex-South Eastern Railway station.[9][10] The "General" suffix was dropped from British Rail timetables in 1973, but some of the station nameboards still stated "Reading General" in 1974.[11] The juxtaposition of the two stations meant that the town's buses showed the destination 'Stations'.

1965 combined station

(Before redevelopment) A train stops at Reading on its way from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads

From 6 September 1965, services from the former Reading Southern station were diverted into a newly constructed terminal platform (4A) in the General station.[12] This was long enough for a single eight coach train, which was later found to be inadequate,[13] and so a second terminal platform (4B) serving the same line was opened in 1975[14] for the commencement of the service from Reading to Gatwick Airport.

1989 redevelopment

In 1989 a brand new station concourse was opened by InterCity, including 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 1860s station building were converted into The Three Guineas public house. Elizabeth II reopened the station on 4 April 1989.

2009–2015 redevelopment

Reading station platforms showing new footbridge
Long demolished staff huts behind the former Platform 10

By 2007, the station had become an acknowledged bottleneck on the railway network, with passenger trains often needing to wait outside the station for a platform to become available. This was caused by limited number of through-platforms, the flat junctions immediately east and west of the station and the need for north–south trains to reverse direction in the station. The Great Western Main Line at Reading has two pairs of tracks – the Main ('fast') lines on the southern side and the Relief ('slow') lines on the northern side. Trains transferring between the Relief lines and the lines that run through Reading West (to Taunton and to Basingstoke) had to cross the Main lines. Those trains, especially slow-moving freight trains, blocked the paths of express trains.

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.[15] On 10 September 2008 Network Rail unveiled a £400 million regeneration and reconfiguration of the station and surrounding track to reduce delays.[16][17] The following changes were made:

The redevelopment was designed to provide provision for future Crossrail and Heathrow Airtrack services at Reading station.

The improvements have allowed capacity for at least 4 extra trains in each direction every hour and 6 extra freight trains a day (equivalent to 200 lorries). The local council has also planned developments of the surrounding area in association with the developments at the station.

The cost of the project rose to £897m, but it was completed a year earlier than expected.[18] The rebuilt station was reopened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 July 2014.[19]

Network Rail took over management of the station from First Great Western in April 2014.[20]

Electrification of the Great Western main line through Reading station was completed in time for electric trains to commence service between Paddington and Didcot Parkway on 2 January 2018.[21]

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 a purpose-built Traction Maintenance Depot.[22] This was subsequently relocated by Network Rail, during the redevelopment works in the early 2010s, to the northern side of the tracks to the west of the station.

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, 24-year-old 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 200 feet (61 m) away; West was killed.[23] On the wall of the main station building there is a brass plaque, commemorating the event.

On 12 September 1855, a light engine was dispatched on the wrong line. It was in a head-in collision with a passenger train. Four people were killed and many were injured.[24]

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 London Paddington; the only fatality was the driver of the Paddington train.[25]

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 II.

On 1 August 1990, Class 119 diesel multiple unit L576 collided with a passenger train comprising 4VEP electric multiple units 3508 & 3504, and 4CIG unit 1304 due to overrunning signals. Forty people were injured.[26]

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.


The station is on the northern side of central Reading, off the Inner Distribution Road. Its postcode is RG1 1LZ.[27] In the chainage notation traditionally used on the railway, its location on the Great Western main line is 35 miles 78 chains (35.98 mi; 57.90 km) from Paddington.[28]

Station layout

From 2013

The new Station Square, with (from left to right) Thames Tower offices, the 2014 entrance and bridge concourse, the 1860 station building (now serving as a pub), and the 1989 station building (on the site of the Southern station)

The station has fifteen platforms. The nine through-platforms are numbered 7–15, each split into "a" (eastern end) and "b" (western end) sections. Platforms 7–11 are on the main (fast) lines, whereas 12–15 are on the relief (slow) lines. Relief line platforms 13–15 have access to the underpass for services to London Waterloo and Gatwick Airport.

Reading station platform usage since 2013
Platform(s) Type Facing Used by
  • 1
  • 2
bay west Local Reading to Taunton line services to and from Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn
3 bay west
  • Cross Country services to and from the north (reverse or terminate at Reading)
  • Cross Country services to and from the south (reverse or terminate at Reading)
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
bay east
  • Services to and from London Waterloo
  • North Downs line services to and from Guildford, Redhill and Gatwick Airport

Third-rail electrified

7 through
  • Great Western Main Line services
  • Westbound Reading to Taunton line services
  • Cross Country services to and from the north (reverse at Reading)
  • Cross Country services to and from the south (reverse at Reading)
8 through
  • Great Western Main Line services
  • Westbound Cherwell Valley line services via Oxford
  • Westbound Cotswold Line line services via Oxford
  • Westbound Reading to Taunton line services
  • Cross Country services to and from the north (reverse at Reading)
  • Cross Country services to and from the south (reverse at Reading)
9 through
  • Westbound Great Western Main Line main line services
  • Westbound Cherwell Valley line services via Oxford
  • Westbound Cotswold Line line services via Oxford
  • 10
  • 11
  • Eastbound Great Western Main Line main line services to London Paddington
  • Eastbound Cherwell Valley line services to London Paddington
  • Eastbound Cotswold Line line services to London Paddington
  • Eastbound Reading to Taunton line services to London Paddington
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • Relief lines
  • Elizabeth line to Abbey Wood (terminus)

Between 1975 and 2013

Track layout prior to 27 December 2011
Main (Bristol-Paddington) lines
Westbury lines Goods lines
Relief lines Other lines

Between 1975 and 2011, Reading station had four through-platforms and eight terminal platforms.

Reading station platform usage and renumbering immediately prior to 27 December 2011
Platform(s) Type Facing Used by 2011 renumbering
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
bay west Westbound Reading to Taunton line local services to Basingstoke, Newbury and Bedwyn
4 through Westbound Great Western Main Line from London Paddington services 7
  • 4a
  • 4b
bay east
  • Eastbound services to London Waterloo
  • Southbound North Downs line services to Guildford, Redhill and Gatwick Airport

Third-rail electrified

  • 6
  • 5
5 through Eastbound Great Western Main Line services to London Paddington 8
6 bay east Great Western Main Line local services to and from London Paddington (terminus) 16, later removed
7 bay west Cross Country services to and from the north (terminate at Reading) removed
8 through
  • Westbound local services from London Paddington to Oxford
  • Cross Country services to and from the north and south
  • Relief for platform 5
9 through
  • Eastbound local services from Oxford to London Paddington
  • Eastbound fast services to Ealing Broadway and London Paddington
10 bay east
  • Eastbound local services to London Paddington
  • Eastbound local services to Henley-on-Thames
11, later converted to through platform

On 27 December 2011, the new platform 4 was opened, with all higher numbered platforms re-numbered:[29]

Platform 5 (old 4b) opened on 23 April 2012,[30] with platform 6 (old 4a) following on 12 July.[31] The Easter 2013 blockade resulted in the opening of new platforms 12 to 15 and the closure of the old east bay platform 16. Work then commenced to rebuild platform 11 into a through platform, following which the adjacent platform 10 was rebuilt to match.

In March 2013 the subway reopened as a public right of way from the north to the south of the station, with no platform access. This enabled removal of the old footbridge to commence, starting with the two sections nearest the car park which were lifted out in the first two weeks of that month. On 29 March 2013 the new transfer deck was opened, ready for the opening of the new platforms on 2 April. By 7 April 2013 the old footbridge had been completely removed.[32][33]

Recycling of infrastructure

During the station's major reconstruction, and the associated moving of locomotive stabling and the servicing depot from south of the Great Western Main Line to its north, a number of major components either became redundant or were no longer needed.[clarification needed] Network Rail offered these to museums and the railway preservation movement, for a zero price, but subject to the cost of delivery being recompensed. In April 2011, the pair of former 17-metre (56 ft) road bridges to the west of the station were delivered to Loughborough Central on the Great Central Railway for future use on their bridging project.[34] In January 2014 one of the 22,500-imperial-gallon (102,000 L; 27,000 US gal) water tanks was moved to Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway.[35]


A Great Western Railway Class 800 with a service to London
British Rail Class 165 110 & 455 718 at Reading's third rail electrified platforms

The station plays a key role in serving the Great Western Main Line, the line which runs west from London Paddington station to Reading. To the west of Reading station, the line splits into two branches, allowing it to serve a variety of communities in the West and South West of England and onward into South Wales. The main branch proceeds to Bristol Temple Meads, via Bath Spa, Chippenham and Swindon. The South Wales Main Line diverges from the main branch at Swindon with trains running via Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway, and Neath to and from Swansea. Some services on the Great Western Main Line terminate at Bristol, while others continue on the Bristol to Exeter line towards the West Country. The other branch to the west of Reading station is the Reading to Taunton line (the "Berks and Hants" line), which serves communities in Berkshire, Wiltshire and Somerset. High speed services on this line do not normally call at all stations along the route (except sometimes Newbury and Hungerford), and some express services from the South West operate non-stop between Paddington and Taunton. The Reading to Taunton branch joins services travelling south from Bristol on the Bristol to Exeter line at Cogload Junction, to the north of Taunton. The line proceeds to serve the stations of Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and onward to stations in Cornwall such as Par where the branch to Newquay diverges where some trains terminate whilst most terminate at the terminus of Penzance. Both high-speed intercity services and local services are operated by Great Western Railway. Nearly all services are timetabled to stop at Reading.

Other main lines connect Reading with Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International and northern England, and with Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Central and Bournemouth to the south. Through services from north to south on these lines are operated by CrossCountry, and all services stop at Reading, which requires the trains to reverse in the station. The main routes offered by CrossCountry are to Newcastle and Manchester Piccadilly to the north and Southampton Central and Bournemouth in the south.

The Elizabeth line operates a service to Abbey Wood, stopping at most stations to Ealing Broadway. On Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, trains terminate at London Paddington instead.

The secondary North Downs Line connects Reading with Guildford, Reigate, Redhill and Gatwick Airport. Services on this line, together with local stopping services to Basingstoke, Newbury, Bedwyn, Oxford and London Paddington, are also operated by Great Western Railway. An electric suburban line operated by South Western Railway links Reading to Wokingham, Bracknell, Ascot, Staines, Richmond, Clapham Junction and London Waterloo.

Pending the construction of the direct rail route to Heathrow Airport, an express bus service, RailAir, links Reading to London Heathrow Airport, as do suburban services via Hayes & Harlington.

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Basingstoke   CrossCountry
Bournemouth or Southampton to Manchester
Terminus   CrossCountry
Terminus   Great Western Railway
North Downs Line
London Paddington   Great Western Railway
Night Riviera
Twyford   Great Western Railway
Great Western Main Line
London Paddington   Great Western Railway
Great Western Main Line
    Didcot Parkway
London Paddington     Didcot Parkway or Oxford
London Paddington   Great Western Railway
Reading to Taunton Line
London Paddington   Great Western Railway
Reading to Taunton Line
Terminus   Great Western Railway
Reading to Taunton Line
  Reading West
  Great Western Railway
Reading – Basingstoke
  Reading West
Earley   South Western Railway
Waterloo to Reading
Preceding station Elizabeth line Following station
Terminus Elizabeth line
towards Abbey Wood

Proposed Heathrow Airport links

Reading station was intended to be the western terminus for the proposed Heathrow Airtrack rail service. This project, promoted by BAA, envisaged the construction of a spur from the Waterloo to Reading Line to Heathrow Airport, creating direct rail links from the airport to Reading, London Waterloo, Woking and Guildford. Airtrack was cancelled by BAA in April 2011[36] but, in October 2011, Wandsworth Council announced a revised plan called Airtrack-Lite.[37]

More recently[when?], the Government has committed to the construction of a rail route from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the GWR main line between Iver and Langley, with a west-facing junction there, thus providing for a direct route from Heathrow to the West. Great Western Railway will run this route when completed in 2027, connecting up with the Elizabeth Line branch and replacing the Heathrow Express. See Western Rail Link to Heathrow.


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  2. ^ "Office of Rail & Road".
  3. ^ "Reading; a major transport hub". Network Rail. 2023. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  4. ^ Christiansen, Rex (1981). Thames And Severn. Newton Abbot: David and Charles. p. 20. ISBN 0-7153-8004-4.
  5. ^ "Building the Great Western Railway". Reading History Trail. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Main Building of Reading General Station (1321892)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Information 57" (PDF). British Brick Society. November 1992. p. 13. Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via University of Cambridge.
  8. ^ "Victorian Urban Development". Reading History Trail. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
  9. ^ Butt 1995, p. 195.
  10. ^ Slater 1974a, Western's last "General", p.361.
  11. ^ Slater 1974b, Western "Generals", p.520.
  12. ^ Slater 1974a, New Southern platform at Reading, pp.362–363.
  13. ^ Matthews 2006, p. 30.
  14. ^ Forster, Mark (15–28 August 2007). "Rebuild will unblock Berkshire Bottleneck". Rail. Vol. 572. pp. 46–7.
  15. ^ Station's £400m revamp unveiled, BBC News Berkshire.
  16. ^ Network Rail's plans.
  17. ^ "Reading rail station's £850m upgrade to finish early". BBC News. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  18. ^ "Queen opens revamped Reading railway station". BBC News. 17 July 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2024.
  19. ^ "Network Rail manages more stations". RailStaff. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  20. ^ "GWR Electrostar fleet enters service after electrification completed".
  21. ^ Griffiths, Roger; Smith, Paul (1999). The directory of British engine Sheds and Principal Locomotive Servicing Points. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Co. p. 40. ISBN 0-86093-542-6.
  22. ^ Waters 1990, p. 11.
  23. ^ Kidner 1977, p. 48.
  24. ^ Nock & Cooper 1987, pp. 128, 130.
  25. ^ McCrickard, John P (6 October 2016). "January 1990 to December 1990". Network South East Railway Society. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  26. ^ "National Rail Enquiries - Station facilities for Reading". Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  27. ^ Engineer's Line References
  28. ^ "New platform 4 opens at Reading 31/12/11". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  29. ^ "New platform 5 opens. April 2012". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  30. ^ "New platform 6 opens at Reading station 12/7/12. First train arrives". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  31. ^ "£425M transformation planned at Reading". Railnews. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  32. ^ "Reading Station News, November 2011". First Great Western.
  33. ^ "Old Reading station bridge joins Great Central Railway". BBC News. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  34. ^ Paul Conibeare (10 January 2014). "A new water tank for the West Somerset Railway locomotive department arrives from Reading". West Somerset Railway. Archived from the original on 11 January 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  35. ^ "Heathrow Airtrack Waterloo rail link shelved by BAA". BBC News. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  36. ^ "Wandsworth Council – New Airtrack plan to connect Heathrow". London Borough of Wandsworth. 14 October 2010. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.



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