Reading can already claim to be a successful business location for many reasons. It is ideally located in the M4 corridor west of London, meaning it has a fast road link to the capital and is also conveniently situated for business travellers flying in and out of Heathrow Airport. At the same time it is cheaper to live and rent offices in than the centre of London.
All this may mark out Reading as a very good place to do business, but further development may help boost the town’s business credentials. The town’s railway station provides a key link to and from London, but it has been too small in recent years to deal with the large amount of rail traffic seeking to use it – a potential hurdle for businesses considering moving to the area while maintaining links to other locations around the country.
However, in recent months the station has been undergoing a huge revamp, with Network Rail spending £800 million on improving facilities, increasing capacity and making its Reading train station more user-friendly.
This has included the construction of five new platforms, a new passenger footbridge, step-free access, new track and a rebuilt viaduct to increase capacity to the west of the station. All this will mean less crowded public areas and fewer delays as passenger and freight trains no longer have to queue outside to use the station. In addition to this, new, wider bridges are being but over Cow Lane to enable double-decker buses to use them, while a new cycleway and pavement are also being installed.
All these developments could aid in the enhancement of the business culture of Reading. The corporate culture in the town can become more streamlined, businesses will see offices become easily accessible from various locations, while spending rent could also drop following a move – recent figures released by property broker Cushman & Wakefield suggest average office space in London’s West End now costs an average £170 per square foot, with offices in The Blade – situated just South of Reading station – costing just £30 for the same space and service.
These prices, paired the ease of travel could, therefore, attract investment and with this financial input will be a chance for local businesses to provide services to major companies moving into the town and potentially to enter into partnerships with them. There’s also the additional refurbishment of Eldon Court , which as a central business hub in the Reading area is attracting investment from outside sources.
In fact, there have already been signs of confidence in Reading as a place for investment. In April, Venture developers Stanhope and equity company Benson Elliot submitted a planning application for a £500 million project in the Station Hill area, including new apartments, offices, shops and restaurants. This is not the only proposal, but it shows the potential for commercial growth that the station can provide.
Indeed, with some living in apartments around the town in the same way many do in central London or provincial city centres, the development of the commercial district might go hand in hand with the cultural and residential growth of Reading Town centre. It may act as a magnet for those working in the business sector who like to reside close to their office.
With the station revamp encouraging developers to build more offices, the space needed by major firms keen to move to the town will be increasingly available. This will also make expanding existing firms easier.
So as Reading’s station modernises and expands, the town’s business scene will do likewise.