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Project : East west rail - Oxford to Cambridge

Publication date 04 December 2020
Minor administration 29 April 2021

Oxford to Cambridge : east west rail in Hertfordshire

This is part three of our review into travel by rail in the Oxford to Cambridge arc.

Here is the revised summary diagrammatic map included in part two.

Revised summary southern option for Oxford to Cambridge arc central section

The final paragraphs of our part two conclusions are reproduced here.

We are proposing east west rail at Watford i.e. Rickmansworth to the Abbey line and a new line from Stevenage to Harlow Town. Of the options available to enable east west rail from Rickmansworth/Watford to Harlow, an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield provides an interchange with Midland Main Line (MML) services and does not depend on the availability of paths on the MML. This extension of the Abbey line, coloured green on the diagrammatic map above, would seem to be the best option and is therefore our proposal.

We propose an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield. We are also proposing east west rail at Watford i.e. Rickmansworth to the Abbey line and a new line from Stevenage to Harlow Town.

Railway lines are expensive and a new railway line is a significant proposition. Railway lines can be planned in advance by planning and safeguarding a route prior to any decision to proceed. Thus for example Crossrail was planned and safeguarded decades ago. We therefore propose :
i) that an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield be planned and safeguarded;
ii) that a new line from Stevenage to Harlow Town be planned and safeguarded.

These proposals are the key outputs resulting from our research published in parts one and two. Some readers will find of interest the photographs towards the end of part two in section "A new line from St Albans Abbey". Other than that, it is possible to follow the essence of our current thinking purely by reading this part, part three.

Part one : Oxford to Cambridge by rail : southern options for the central section

Part two : Oxford to Cambridge : east west rail at Watford

Parts one and two can also be accessed via List of articles

Radlett SRFI

Radlett Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) i.e. freight terminal on the former Radlett aerodrome site was discussed in parts one and two.

We will discuss co-existence between an extension of the Abbey line and the proposed Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett aerodrome site.

Radlett SRFI as proposed can be assessed by viewing the illustrative masterplan provided by the proposers Illustrative Masterplan who have also made available a site location plan Site Location Plan (both open in a new window or tab). These were also referenced in part one. It may be worthwhile to keep the first of these open whilst reading the following.

In light blue on our diagrammatic map above we have shown Thameslink via St Pancras and we can compare this with the connection to the MML required for Radlett SRFI with a new bridge over the MML. At the point that we designed the connection in light blue this was on the assumption that Radlett SRFI would not proceed, however we now find ourselves considering the potential for co-existence between an extension of the Abbey line to Hatfield and Radlett SRFI. It seems reasonable to attempt to align our connection in light blue with the connection required for Radlett SRFI. We now need to align the other parts of the infrastructure.

As illustrated below, a new rail link connecting Watford to Hatfield, coloured red, would cross the site of Radlett SRFI. It takes inspiration from the dismantled rail link from the Abbey line to the MML at Napsbury but turns to the east. Connecting directly onto the Midland Main Line (MML) overbridge as proposed for Radlett SRFI, it is clear this would imply a significant redesign of the plans for the SRFI. The overbridge would accommodate dual track.

A new rail link connecting Watford to Bedford, envisaged as enabling an Oxford to Cambridge service via Aylesbury, Watford Junction, St Albans (City) and Bedford, would cross the site of Radlett SRFI. This also takes inspiration from the dismantled rail link from the Abbey line to the MML at Napsbury. It is clear this would imply a significant redesign of the plans for the SRFI. There are a number of alternatives. We have illustrated two, of which the northern would be less disruptive to the current plans for the SRFI.

For either or both of these rail links, cut and cover might be considered prior to construction of the SRFI, although matters to examine would include rail gradients. We will not further examine cut and cover.

We are proposing an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield, coloured green above and below. This would seem to co-exist with the plans for Radlett SRFI as currently envisaged. We did not engineer this, rather we observed it. This also would connect directly onto the MML overbridge as proposed for the SRFI, albeit dual track, but would not seem to imply change to the design of buildings as currently envisaged. As a first approximation the extension of the Abbey line might be located along the north eastern boundary of the SRFI i.e. form the boundary.

Napsbury Interchange as an MML interchange station as illustrated above would require car parking and presumably an access road from the A414. This would need to co-exist with Radlett SRFI which would, as proposed, be immediately adjacent. The access road from the A414 would potentially be shared with access to the SRFI.

At this point we observe an issue with Napsbury Interchange as proposed. The new track in the vicinity of the new bridge over the MML is not straight, albeit required for straight platforms. This is therefore not a suitable location for a station. This prompted a search for an alternative location. We decided to add a connection from St Albans (City) onto the green-coloured line and locate the new station south of this and which we have named Napsbury Lane. The results are now illustrated. Included is an illustration of the site masterplan for Radlett SRFI as proposed.

In light blue we have shown the connection from the MML enabling a freight train into Radlett SRFI. This is as proposed and as illustrated on the illustrative masterplan referenced earlier.

A possible new station Watford Parade on a tunnelled connection from Watford (Met) to Watford Junction, this as an alternative to the Croxley rail link also known as the Metropolitan Line Extension (MLE), was outlined in part two.

We have shown east west rail services via Watford Junction as described in part two. These are Oxford to Cambridge, Oxford to Stansted Airport and a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading.

Extending the Abbey line : east west services at Watford Junction also co-existence with Radlett SRFI

The new station Napsbury Lane would be an interchange station. Some MML services would call at Napsbury Lane by turning off the MML between Radlett and St Albans (City), pass over the MML and then turn back on. As a preferable alternative, platforms on the MML itself could be considered. East west services via St Albans Abbey would also call at Napsbury Lane. Services via the red-coloured line from Watford to Hatfield would call neither at St Albans Abbey nor at Napsbury Lane.

Napsbury Lane is potentially located to the north of the A414 North Orbital road. As an interchange station, it is possible the station would not be designed for journeys commencing by car i.e. there would be limited or no car parking at the station. Alternatively a parkway station might be provided; this would need to be determined.

Napsbury Lane and Shenley Lane form the B5378. They provide a full interchange with the A414 in both directions.

Satellite view https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.7310299,-0.3158889,500m/data=!3m1!1e3

There would therefore seem to be the potential for an interchange at Napsbury Lane with buses on the A414. North of the station, Napsbury Lane joins Mile House Lane and which passes beneath the MML. Traffic lights added at the bridge would, we estimate, permit single-deck buses to use this route. Thus buses both eastbound and westbound on the A414 turning off to call at Napsbury Lane station, continuing via Mile House Lane and London Road to the City centre then return to the A414 : no purpose in these buses calling at the City station since Napsbury Lane provides the MML interchange.

It is possible that the capacity for vehicles turning on to the A414 in either direction from the B5378 is limited and that it would be undesireable for rail passengers to alight at Napsbury Lane, get into cars and potentially form a queue to turn on to the A414. To avoid this, perhaps exit from the station would be northbound only.

Connection to St Pancras

In light blue we have shown the connection from the MML enabling a freight train into the freight terminal. This is as proposed for freight. It is likely that a northbound freight train i.e. down from London on the down slow line would use a track traversal on to the up to London slow line and then on to the connection to the freight terminal, i.e. a flat connection. Whilst a flat connection would be sufficient, we presume, for occasional freight trains, there are scenarios in which we envisage the connection also in use for passenger services. We suggest a flat connection would not be sufficient for passenger services. This implies that the connection on to the MML needs to be redesigned. Possibly the up slow line would be realigned with the connecting line to the freight terminal crossing the up slow by means of an overbridge.

We have proposed three east west rail services via Watford Junction. These are Oxford to Cambridge, Oxford to Stansted Airport and a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading. A service via St Pancras would be in addition : some conjectures as to what service this might be are included in part two section "St Albans Abbey to Hatfield corridor". We will also return to this later.

St Albans Abbey & City

We have noted that a new rail link connecting Watford to Bedford, envisaged as enabling an Oxford to Cambridge service via Aylesbury, Watford Junction, St Albans (City) and Bedford, would cross the site of Radlett SRFI. As an alternative we might consider a link between St Albans Abbey and St Albans (City), coloured dark blue above. Essentially this would provide equivalent connectivity albeit via St Albans Abbey. We discussed such a link in part two, however the context here is different : because we are now specifically proposing an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey to Hatfield, any link between St Albans Abbey and St Albans (City) would co-exist with the extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey to Hatfield.

In construction terms, this would need to be assessed. Another matter is that the connection on to the MML would be flat since we have been unable to find any alternative. This connection would be onto the western-most pair of lines and which are the MML fast lines. There would be reservations about any such proposal.

A link between St Albans Abbey and St Albans (City) also gives rise to operational matters since more services are being routed via St Albans Abbey where a change of direction is necessary.

We have proposed three east west rail services via Watford Junction. These are Oxford to Cambridge, Oxford to Stansted Airport and a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading. If all three of these services ran via St Albans Abbey and each operated as a 2 trains per hour (tph) service, platforming at St Albans Abbey would need to be evaluated.

Additionally, we have noted in part two that although there is potential to upgrade much of the Abbey line to dual track, this would not be feasible north of How Wood until the approach to St Albans Abbey. It is clear that 6 trains per hour in each direction i.e. 12 trains per hour in total could not be accommodated on this single track section. Possibly the Oxford to Cambridge service and the Oxford to Stansted Airport service could operate as a single train from Oxford to St Albans Abbey where the train would divide to provide a service to Cambridge and a service to Stansted Airport. In the opposite direction, a train from Cambridge and a train from Stansted Airport would be attached at St Albans Abbey to form a single train to Oxford. This would introduce operational complexity and we doubt any such proposal would be well received.

With Oxford to Cambridge and Oxford to Stansted Airport operating as a single train on this single track section in addition to a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading, each 2 trains per hour, there would be 4 trains per hour in each direction i.e. 8 trains per hour on the single track section. Even this would be difficult to accommodate and so we might envisage one of these services only operating as a 1 train per hour service.

The means of escape, as it were, is the red-coloured line from Watford to Hatfield which enables some services to not be routed via St Albans Abbey.

With a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City)

A direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) would imply a significant redesign of the current plans for the SRFI. Here we will discuss what would be the advantages.

East west rail in Hertfordshire i.e. services via Watford and Welwyn as proposed require an interchange with the MML. An Oxford to Cambridge service via Watford and Bedford provides an interchange at Watford between east west services and the MML to the north. Let us consider a Thameslink service via St Pancras and Radlett to Watford, potentially operating either via St Albans Abbey or via the line coloured red from Watford to Hatfield : in the latter case we have already noted that this line from Watford to Hatfield would also imply a significant redesign of the current plans for the SRFI.

With a Thameslink service via St Pancras and Radlett to Watford, whether via St Albans Abbey or not, we have an interchange at Watford between east west services and the MML to the south. The result is that we have an interchange between east west services and the MML, both to the north and to the south, at Watford. That is, Watford becomes the interchange station between east west services and the MML.

A direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) implies there is no requirement for a new MML interchange station. Napsbury Lane is not required.

It would seem that a Thameslink service via Radlett to Watford via St Albans Abbey reduces the available capacity for east west rail via St Albans Abbey. The uncertainty arises since there is the possibility of routing trains between Watford and St Albans Abbey via the direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) as an alternative to the single track section between How Wood and St Albans Abbey. This also serves to make the direct link of greater value.

Some years ago the decision was made not to extend Crossrail onto the West Coast Main Line (WCML). If this decision were reviewed, we would have the prospect of an interchange between Thameslink and Crossrail at Watford Junction, or the possibility of a combined Thameslink-Crossrail service.

There is an additional service that we might consider, being a service from or via Bedford, Luton, St Albans (City) and Watford Junction to Euston. The service makes use of capacity released on the WCML as a result of HS2 and offers passengers who might otherwise have used crowded Thameslink services access to London instead via the WCML, that is, the service is reasonably regarded as strategic. We should note that the effect of a Thameslink service to Watford as hypothesised above has the effect of drawing passengers on to Thameslink even though these services are crowded, therefore the additional service from or via Bedford and Watford to Euston compensates.

With a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) an interchange station Napsbury Lane could nevertheless be provided, in which case it is reasonable to suggest there would be no Thameslink service to Watford.

Without a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City)

We established above that a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) implies there is no requirement for a new MML interchange station. Without a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) an MML interchange station has to be specifically provided. We suggest Napsbury Lane.

There would be a service from Napsbury Lane to Watford. We calculate a service every 20 minutes between Napsbury Lane and Watford can be provided by three trains and that a service every 30 minutes can be provided by two trains with three drivers. Details are available in part two section "Freight to Radlett SRFI and Watford Junction to London Colney local service". The description in that section of access to Radlett SRFI by turning back on the "Saints link" to St Albans Abbey does not apply. London Colney station as referenced there is now Napsbury Lane, London Colney station now being located at London Colney.

There is discussion of a service between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey every 30 minutes by the use of two trains. With an additional driver, we calculate two trains can provide a service every 30 minutes between Watford and Napsbury Lane via St Albans Abbey.

Potentially How Wood and Park Street stations would be replaced by a new Tippendell station. Timings on the existing line could be taken to determine whether trains should be timed to pass at the existing How Wood station or at a hypothesised new Tippendell station. These timings are :
(i) Watford to Tippendell calling at Watford North, Garston and Bricket Wood but not How Wood;
(ii) St Albans Abbey to Tippendell not calling at Park Street;
(iii) St Albans Abbey to How Wood not calling at Park Street.
In conjunction with an estimated journey time from St Albans Abbey to Napsbury Lane, a timetable can be calculated and a decision made as to whether trains would pass at How Wood or at a new Tippendell station. At whichever station was chosen, there would be a central island platform with two platform faces enabling a driver to disembark from a southbound train and board a northbound train.

For a service every 20 minutes with three trains, there would be a central island platform with two platform faces at Bricket Wood. Additionally there would be two platforms at St Albans Abbey.

A service from Napsbury Lane via Watford to Euston would be worthy of consideration. The service makes use of capacity released on the WCML as a result of HS2 and offers the option of Thameslink passengers alighting from crowded services to arrive at London via the WCML. Such a service can reasonably be thought of as strategic however it does not attract customers to the extent of the service described in the previous section from or via Bedford, Luton, St Albans (City) and Watford Junction to Euston since a change of train is necessary.

Without the line coloured red from Watford to Hatfield all east west rail services operate via St Albans Abbey. As we have noted, upgrading the Abbey line to dual track would not be feasible between How Wood and St Albans Abbey and we suggest this limits trains to 3 per hour in each direction. Of the two east west services Oxford to Stansted Airport and a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service, we suggest one would operate 2 trains per hour and the other 1 train per hour.

It is unlikely that 3 trains per hour would provide a service every 20 minutes between Watford and Napsbury Lane, whereas the two trains per hour service would reasonably provide a service every 30 minutes between these stations. Without east west rail at Watford, a local service every 30 minutes becomes the 2 trains per hour east west service via Watford when east west rail at Watford is subsequently added, whereas a local service every 20 minutes would, it seems, no longer be provided when east west rail at Watford was subsequently added. This would suggest that a local service every 20 minutes is perhaps best avoided.

With the Abbey line extended to Napsbury Lane but no more than a safeguarded route beyond that to London Colney and Hatfield, a service between Bedford and Watford could be considered with trains changing direction at Napsbury Lane and at St Albans Abbey. However with the subsequent implementation of a line to Hatfield, we then have the potential for three services operating via St Albans Abbey and which the single track section between How Wood and St Albans Abbey would not be able to support. A choice then has to be made.

We take the opportunity to note that we envisage the extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield as dual track in its entirety, whether or not there is a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City). For completeness, this offers greater flexibility than the scenario in part two section "Watford via St Albans Abbey to the MML northbound" which was written prior to our proposal to extend the Abbey line to Hatfield.

South Herts MRT

Hertfordshire County Council's plans include an east west road-based Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project centred on the A414. This was referenced in part two with the following illustration :

A414 Mass Rapid Transit

Hertfordshire's rail strategy of 2019 was also referenced in part two. Figure 5 in the section West Coast Main Line illustrates Watford Junction as a "super-hub". It clearly illustrates Hertfordshire's east west road-based Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) competing with the Abbey line. The railway line itself would provide an ideal alignment for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and therefore the competition leads to closure of the railway line and conversion to a bus link.

Mass Rapid Transit at Watford Junction

Question 1 : Does South Herts MRT put the Abbey line at risk of closure ?

Answer : Yes. However the approach taken by Hertfordshire County Council has been to simply assume that there is no realistic prospect of east west rail in Hertfordshire as an alternative to South Herts MRT. We hope to have shown that the assumption is incorrect.

Question 2 : What if there were to be a partial implementation of east west rail infrastructure in Hertfordshire ?

Answer : With an extension of the Abbey line to Hatfield but without any further new infrastructure we anticipate there would be a service between Watford and Welwyn. Commencing at Watford, the service would call at intermediate stops to St Albans Abbey, Napsbury Lane, London Colney, Hatfield and Welwyn. A cut-down MRT could operate between Welwyn and Harlow. With subsequent additional rail infrastructure including a service between Stevenage and Harlow Town, the cut-down MRT would then be phased out.

The ideological stance of south Herts MRT gives the impression of arising from commercial interests. We suggest it would be appropriate to replace it by an approach based on pragmatism and cost-effectiveness, particularly given the potential for rail corridors to partially or completely supersede it.

Question 3 : How can supporters of the Abbey line campaign for the future of the line ?

Answer : By actively proposing east west rail in Hertfordshire or supporting such a proposal.

Question 4 : What rail service might be proposed by supporters of the Abbey line ?

Answer : A reasonable proposal would be a rail service that calls the entire MRT project into question. Here is an example, also taking account of our project : ECML two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn. It would be reasonable to propose a service between Watford Junction and Stratford. This service invites an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield, also a new line from Watton at Stone to Ware. Our project : ECML two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn notes the potential for Crossrail services on to the ECML and we are proposing a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading and Watford. A service between Watford Junction and Stratford acts as an interim service for both of these.

There are alternative rail services that could be proposed. An alternative could be a service between Watford and Broxbourne with a third track added to the WAML between Broxbourne Junction and Broxbourne : such a service would be the essence of east west rail.

Railway lines are expensive. An alternative would be to propose railway lines that are planned and safeguarded for the future and with a shorter-term plan that avoids the risk of any existing line being closed, specifically the Abbey line. Linking the Abbey line to the MML in such a way as to permit a future line to Hatfield is the obvious choice and is now illustrated.


Summary of east west rail at Watford : Rickmansworth to Hatfield

This is a summary diagrammatic map, the intention being that our other diagrammatic maps are consulted for details. Thus for example there are choices to be made for a connection between Rickmansworth and Watford Junction, including the Croxley rail link, also known as the Metropolitan Line Extension (MLE), a tunnelled connection from Watford Met to Watford Junction or indeed by making use of the dismantled Rickmansworth Church Street branch. We have included Watton at Stone to Ware and Ware to Harlow although these are not an integral part of a specific proposal for east west rail at Watford i.e. Rickmansworth to Hatfield.

We need to consider what service would make use of the connection from the Abbey line to the MML. A Thameslink service to St Albans Abbey, possibly changing direction at St Albans Abbey and continuing to Watford, would be a first option. This would not require Napsbury Lane station as discussed.

A second option would be a service between Watford Junction and Napsbury Lane every 30 minutes provided by two trains and three drivers as discussed. This service changes direction at St Albans Abbey.

Both options can be proposed for the purposes of comparative business case evaluation.

We suggest it would be reasonable for supporters of the Abbey line to make a proposal or support a proposal designed to ensure the future of the Abbey line by proposing a link from St Albans Abbey to the MML as illustrated in light blue.

Guide for cynics to east west rail in Hertfordshire : find any bits of railway line that are east west rail, then join the dots.

Question 5 : Can a rail service be designed that specifically provides what south Herts MRT is hoping to achieve ?

Answer : Yes. By reference to the illustration of south Herts MRT above, let us outline a service that would specifically provide what south Herts MRT hopes to achieve. This is a circular service both clockwise and anti-clockwise. From Cambridge, via Cambourne, Sandy/Tempsford and Bedford, connecting on to the WCML at Bletchley. Calling at Hemel Hempstead and changing direction at Watford Junction, intermediate stations to St Albans Abbey, Napsbury Lane, London Colney, Hatfeld, Welwyn, Stevenage, Ware, Harlow Town with change of direction at Broxbourne if necessary, Cambridge.

Question 6 : Should the entire south Herts MRT project be brought in for review ?

Answer : Yes. All the towns in the illustration have railway stations. With the exception of eastwards travel from Hemel Hempstead, we have made proposals for all journeys to be by rail. From the text at top left of the illustration, south Herts MRT aims to enhance Hertfordshire's competitive advantage but this is achieved at the expense of regional travel beyond the borders of the county. Therefore the south Herts MRT project should be brought in for review.

There are however two possibilities. The first is that east west rail in Hertfordshire is considered as an alternative to south Herts MRT. The second is that east west rail in Hertfordshire is actively considered for the longer term, in which case south Herts MRT is potentially no more than transitional and scoped to achieve a reduction in capital costs by comparison with south Herts MRT as a longer-term solution.

South West Herts 2018 Growth and Transport Plan

Hertfordshire County Council's South West Herts Growth and Transport Plan July 2018 is available here : Referenced papers and reports


South West Herts 2018 Growth and Transport Plan package 4

Package 4 on pages 25 and 26, illustrated above, considers the St Albans to Watford corridor. This includes an Abbey line "Park and Rail" Hub, ref SM13, with several alternatives. This is also referenced on page 118 of Hertfordshire County Council's A414 corridor strategy technical report, reference below.

Our proposals render this hub redundant. It is replaced by Napsbury Lane.

If Napsbury Lane is located in proximity to the A414 then it could also provide an interchange for MRT vehicles on the A414.

Also in the South West Herts 2018 Growth and Transport Plan, package 7 on page 34, ref SM23a,b are two alternatives for a new bridge over the Abbey line in the vicinity of Watford Junction. It seems odd to hypothesise building this bridge when it is unclear why the bridge is being built. How much disruption would there be to the Abbey line train service during construction ?

Cottonmill Lane crossing of the Abbey line

Page 126 of Hertfordshire County Council's A414 corridor strategy technical report refers to a new bridge over the Abbey line and which is illustrated on page 128. This would be as a replacement for the crossing at Cottonmill Lane. There is opposition to the proposal to close this crossing with a replacement path beside the line that would add to journey times. This matter needs to be resolved and a new bridge would seem to be the means to do so.

The A414 corridor strategy technical report is available here : Referenced papers and reports

Updated summary diagrammatic map

Let us now update our summary diagrammatic map. In our part two conclusions, we discounted a Luton to Stevenage rail corridor and we take the opportunity to remove this corridor.

We add that the former Leighton Buzzard to Dunstable and Dunstable to Luton railway lines would have formed the basis for an extension to Stevenage but that the conversion to a busway renders a Luton - Stevenage rail corridor implausible. These former lines can be viewed by zooming in on the interactive historic map at interactive historic map (opens in new window or tab).

In part two section "St Albans Abbey to Hatfield corridor" we suggested it would be reasonable to extend the Dunstable to Luton busway to Stevenage. In part one section "Welwyn and Stevenage to Luton" we noted there may be a good case for providing a busway directly both from Welwyn to Luton and from Stevenage to Luton. These extensions of the Dunstable to Luton busway are not specifically illustrated.

Napsbury Interchange is replaced by Napsbury Lane and with a connection from St Albans (City).

We have retained direct links between St Albans Abbey and City, between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) and a new rail link connecting Watford to Hatfield, coloured red. These are as discussed.


East west rail in Hertfordshire
Conclusions

This is part three of our review into travel by rail in the Oxford to Cambridge arc.

We propose east west rail in Hertfordshire with a new rail corridor Rickmansworth, Watford Junction, St Albans Abbey, London Colney, Hatfield, Welwyn, Stevenage, Ware, Harlow Town.

This new rail corridor is designed to complement the planned rail corridor Oxford to Cambridge via Bedford and Sandy and which is currently under development.

Anticipated new services via Watford include Oxford to Cambridge, Oxford to Stansted Airport and a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading.

As part of this proposal, we propose an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield.

A service between Rickmansworth, Watford, Stevenage and Harlow with complementary bus/coach services is an alternative to Hertfordshire's east west road-based Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project as envisaged.

In part two we suggested it would be reasonable to consider the creation of an Outer London rail consortium, particularly with reference to a Crossrail or Crossrail 2 circular service via Reading.

The following diagrammatic map was included earlier :

Extending the Abbey line : east west services at Watford Junction also co-existence with Radlett SRFI

The current design for Radlett SRFI (freight terminal) builds over the dismantled rail link to the Midland Main Line (MML) at Napsbury and without assessment. As a first approximation, an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield might be located along the boundary of the SRFI. This can be assessed by viewing the illustrative masterplan provided by the proposers Illustrative Masterplan (opens in new window or tab). It would be shameful to miss the opportunity for an extension of the Abbey line and Radlett SRFI to co-exist. We therefore strongly suggest that an extension of the Abbey line be planned and safeguarded and we urge cooperation between statutory authorities and the proposers of Radlett SRFI to achieve this co-existence. There would be changes to the plans for Radlett SRFI. The bridge over the Midland Main Line (MML) would be aligned both for access to the SRFI and for the extension of the Abbey line, the bridge being provided for both. It seems that this alignment is feasible. A wider bridge than that currently planned would be provided to enable dual track. Additionally the connection from the MML to the SRFI might be redesigned to be suitable not only for freight but also for passenger trains, although this would need to be determined.

Unless plans are revised, Radlett SRFI obstructs a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City).

For completeness, a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) would enable a service via Watford Junction on to the MML northbound. A Thameslink service from Watford Junction on to the MML southbound is also possible. Watford Junction then provides an interchange between east west rail and the MML both northbound and southbound.

A direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) implies there is no requirement for a new MML interchange station. Napsbury Lane is not required.

We established above that a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) implies there is no requirement for a new MML interchange station. Without a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) an MML interchange station has to be specifically provided. We suggest Napsbury Lane located on the extension of the Abbey line.

We calculate that a service every 30 minutes between Napsbury Lane and Watford Junction via St Albans Abbey can be provided by two trains with three drivers and we suggest this merits business case evaluation. A driver disembarks from the train southbound from St Albans Abbey towards Watford and boards the northbound train, the two platforms forming a central island. There is one driver on board at Watford and two at St Albans Abbey and Napsbury Lane where a driver is located at each end of the train to enable prompt turnround, particularly at St Albans Abbey where the train is in service. A less frequent service, for example off peak, can be provided by two drivers rather than three.

Napsbury Lane and Shenley Lane form the B5378. They provide a full interchange with the A414 in both directions. There would therefore seem to be the potential for an interchange at Napsbury Lane with buses on the A414.

The key points with which to conclude are as follows :

i) that an extension of the Abbey line from St Albans Abbey via London Colney to Hatfield be planned and safeguarded. We urge cooperation between statutory authorities and the proposers of Radlett SRFI to achieve co-existence between such an extension of the Abbey line and Radlett SRFI;

ii) that a new line from Watton at Stone to Ware and from Ware to Harlow Town be planned and safeguarded. We take the opportunity to note that a new line from Watton at Stone to Ware is also within scope of our project : ECML two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn;

iii) unless plans are revised, Radlett SRFI obstructs a direct link between Watford Junction and St Albans (City) and thereby necessitates the addition of a new station stop on the MML. We propose Napsbury Lane. If Radlett SRFI is to proceed as planned, to evaluate the business case for construction of Napsbury Lane as a limited-frequency interchange station and with a service every 30 minutes between Napsbury Lane and Watford Junction via St Albans Abbey.

iv) as an alternative to (iii), to evaluate the business case for a service via St Pancras probably Thameslink to St Albans Abbey, possibly changing direction to continue to Watford Junction. In this case, there is no immediate need to consider construction of Napsbury Lane although the station would form part of the plans, that is, construction of the station is postponed.

The following is a summary diagrammatic map, the intention being that our other diagrammatic maps are consulted for details.

We specifically propose construction of a link from St Albans Abbey to the MML as illustrated in light blue.

In addition to the planning and safeguarding of lines, this is the key output from our research.


Summary of east west rail at Watford : Rickmansworth to Hatfield

The Abbey station is useful in that it provides access to St Albans for east west rail without requiring paths on the MML.

It should be borne in mind that our diagrammatic maps are intended to illustrate railway infrastructure and are not to scale.

 

This article has provided part three of our review into travel in the Oxford to Cambridge arc.

Part one : Oxford to Cambridge by rail : southern options for the central section

Part two : Oxford to Cambridge : east west rail at Watford

The views expressed in this review are those of RailEnable.

Comments are welcome.

Our current proposals, projects and articles are listed here : List of articles

 

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