Journalist and researcher
Both a regional centre and a commuter town, Reading plays a key role in the southeast of England. The new Crossrail, aka the Elizabeth Line, is set to make connections to the capital even easier when it finally opens—it’s expected to be up and running in 2021—while the town has enough job opportunities in IT, finance and more to make people stick around. On top of this, Reading scooped second place out of 42 cities in DEMO/PwC’s Good Growth for Cities Index in 2019, which measures urban economic wellbeing. Together with its prestigious university, famous music festival and loads of outdoor activities, Reading is the new place to be.
Reading’s location is key to its success. As the largest town in England, it is also the main commercial centre for the Thames Valley, an area dubbed the UK’s Silicon Valley. Its excellent rail connections don’t hurt, either: you can be in London in under 30 minutes while there are direct links to Heathrow Airport. It’s often seen as a commuter town due to its proximity to the Big Smoke, but more people commute into Reading than out of it. It’s truly at the centre of the action, and not just for Berkshire.
Reading has a lot going on. There’s the university with its academics and research centres; the booming tech scene; and a host of business hubs that are home to the regional headquarters of multinationals such as PwC, Huawei and Microsoft. The employment rate is 78.3% as of June 2019, which is slightly skewed due to the large number of university students here. At the same time, nearly 50% of the workforce has a degree, which makes it a highly educated place to work.
With Reading’s impressive tech sector, it’s unsurprising that the startup scene is starting to flourish as well. In 2016, 320 digital tech companies were established in Reading. At the same time, there are also plenty of networking opportunities, as well as sufficient local infrastructure such as ScaleUp Berkshire to help budding entrepreneurs. In 2018, the University of Reading’s Gateway building opened its doors, offering cutting-edge lab and office space for growth-orientated companies in the Thames Valley Science Park, which could spark another rise in tech startups in the area.
The centre of action depends on what you do. The official town centre is dominated by The Oracle, a modern shopping centre, with the main high street, Broad Street, nearby. Most of Reading’s work life is conducted at one of seven business centres. The University of Reading is to the southeast, about two miles out of town, and functions as a student hub. Since the Government announced plans for the new Crossrail station in 2014, the surrounding area has received a boost, with more mixed housing developments being built along the Thames.
As a hub for the Thames Valley, Reading truly functions as centre of the action for the surrounding area. Its most famous event is the Reading Festival, for which residents get a chance to purchase tickets before sales open to the public. It’s a friendly and highly educated city, with a mix of students attracted by the university and families looking to get their offspring into one of the highly ranked schools in the neighbourhood. A good 20% of university students end up staying on after graduation, so there’s a fair chance of establishing yourself here for a while.
Its small size and location close to two rivers means that there are plenty of outdoor activities and watersports on your doorstep. Locals can join one of the many rowing or canoeing clubs—one of the best ways to explore the area and meet new people.
The average property price for a flat in Reading in 2019 was £296,483, down 2.3% from the previous year. Buying a house is slowly getting cheaper, and may be a practical option if you’re looking to settle here. Rental costs, however, are climbing, with a monthly average of £777 for a one-bedroom flat.
Reading relies on its bus network, mostly served by Reading Buses, as well as several other bus companies that run to villages nearby. A single ticket is £2, which can be paid either contactless or with exact change, or you can get a day pass for £4.
The town’s massive railway station is a hub for National Rail services across the country: it’s the second-busiest interchange station outside London, used by nearly 20 million passengers a year. It’s also set to be the terminus of the much-hyped Elizabeth Line, which will run through central London to its eastern terminus in Shenfield, Essex, with other terminuses at Heathrow Airport and Abbey Wood. However, dozens of daily services to the Big Smoke are already in place, which makes Reading better connected than ever.
Depending on where you’re relocating from, you’ll have to factor in a variety of costs. Are you close enough to commute to work before finding a new place? If not, you might have to find a short-term rental before moving into more permanent accommodation.
Beyond this, factor in costs such as sending boxes, hiring a man with a van, and more. If you’re relocating due to a job offer, ask your company if they have a relocation package, which could help to soften the financial blow significantly.
First up, let your old council know you’re moving to avoid paying any unnecessary council tax, and cancel all contracts with utility providers. After you’ve moved, make sure that essentials such as banks, subscriptions and more have your new address. If you really want to make sure all your mail arrives, ask the post office to redirect it, but this comes at a cost. Finally, you’ll need to register with a local GP and set up new utility contracts. Don’t assume that your former provider will be the best option in a new location: it always pays to shop around before signing up.
With all this in mind, all that’s left is to say yes to that job offer and make your move to Reading.
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Journalist and researcher