RAIL passengers travelling between Oxfordshire and London over Easter are being urged to allow extra time for their journeys, due to the closure of the main line at Reading.

Network Rail is shutting the route through the town from late tonight until early on Tuesday to carry out a key phase of a £900m, five-year project to boost capacity.

New entrances, platforms and a footbridge will be completed and track moved to allow a flyover to be built.

Bill Henry, Network Rail’s programme director, said: “We realise it will be an inconvenience to passengers to plan alternative routes while we undertake the most ambitious part of this massive project to date.

“If there was any other way that we could deliver the improvements, we would do it.

“But passengers should understand that during the 10 days of disruption to train services, we plan to achieve as much as we could in 20 weekends of work.”

As a result, First Great Western trains between Oxford and London Paddington will be diverted to operate via the Chiltern Line by reversing at Banbury, with extended journey times.

Many of these trains will run to and from the west of England and south Wales, offering direct services between Oxford and Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea from Good Friday until Easter Monday.

Cotswold Line stations in west Oxfordshire will get a shuttle service between Didcot Parkway and Worcester, with passengers travelling to or from London having to change at Oxford.

These alterations will also apply on Sunday, April 7, when the line through Reading will again be shut.

During both closures, buses will replace trains east of Didcot to Reading and stations in the Thames Valley towards London.

From Tuesday until Saturday, April 6, trains will be able to run through Reading but a special timetable will be in force and buses will continue to replace trains at intermediate stations between Didcot Parkway and Reading, including Cholsey.

FGW managing director Mark Hopwood said: “The work taking place over Easter is the most extensive phase of the upgrade scheme to date. Network Rail is doing a fantastic job improving Reading station.

“We have sought to minimise disruption to our customers’ journeys as far as possible. However, many journeys will be affected and I would encourage passengers to check before they travel.”

CrossCountry trains between Banbury, Oxford and the South Coast are also affected by the closures of the line through Reading, with services running to and from Didcot Parkway, where coach connections to Winchester will be available.

Click on the link for more information and special timetables.