Work on Reading’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge is due to begin later this month (October).
Construction firm Balfour Beatty has been selected by Reading Borough Council to build the landmark new structure which, when complete, will be approximately 120m long, with a 68m span over the River Thames.
Reading’s shared pedestrian and cycle bridge will be located to the east of Fry’s Island, between the existing Caversham and Reading Bridges. It will provide a key new route for pedestrians and cyclists from Caversham into the town centre, and to and from Reading Station. On the northern side it will link to the existing paths running through Christchurch Meadows. To the south it will link to an improved riverside foot and cycle path and connect via Norman Place onto Vastern Road.
The bridge is being funded through the Council’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). LSTF funding is ring fenced, which means Council’s like Reading who successfully bid for the money can only spend it on helping to deliver sustainable transport projects, rather than on any other Council projects or services.
Construction of the new bridge will continue until early Summer 2015. As with any major construction project of this type, the outline timetable is subject to weather conditions not delaying work.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The start of the construction phase of Reading’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge is a significant landmark for the scheme. When the bridge is complete in 2015 it will be a unique and stunning landmark structure for the town. It will provide an important new link across the River Thames for pedestrians and cyclists coming to and from the town centre, bringing benefits locally to Caversham and Reading as a whole.
“The construction of any large structure of this kind brings with it some disruption. The Council has worked to carefully plan construction routes with local residents in mind, diverting construction traffic away from central Caversham and minimising impact of people who regularly visit Christchurch Meadows.”
Work to prepare the construction site, set up a temporary compound on the far eastern boundary of Christchurch Meadows and lay the temporary construction access road will start in October. Access will be from a temporary vehicle entrance on George Street, specifically chosen to minimise disruption for local residents and guide construction traffic away from Central Caversham.
As was widely publicised earlier this year, access for machinery to the construction site will mean the removal and replacement of seven Lombardy Poplar trees which run along the eastern boundary of Christchurch Meadows, fronting George Street. This work will form part of preparing the construction site.
The row of Poplars is around 30 years old and it has been found the trees are nearing the end of their safe life and are susceptible to disease. Three of the Poplars fell on George Street during strong winds last winter. The Council has already held discussions with Caversham Globe, the Save Christchurch Meadows group and Reading Tree Wardens about the replacement of these trees. The Council is now preparing a plan and a schedule to replace the trees with new Lombardy Poplars, which takes into account the construction timetable of the new bridge. These plans will be discussed further with the groups as they develop.
The construction access route for machinery and materials being moved onto the site is from the IDR and via the temporary vehicle entrance on George Street. A number of options were considered when planning the route, but the route identified is located away from residential properties, is the shortest route to the construction site and also minimises the need for construction traffic having to travel through Central Caversham to access the site.
The Council has also relocated the popular playground within Christchurch Meadows to prepare for the new bridge. The same popular play equipment as the old playground has been kept and the new play area also benefits from some additional items such as a wooden ‘pirate ship’ in the relocated sand pit area. A replacement ‘zip wire’ for the playground will be put into place in October.