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Council considers ripping up Abbey Line

The Abbey Line between St Albans and Watford could be ripped up and converted into a busway under plans proposed by Hertfordshire County Council.

The authority’s draft rail strategy suggests that the line is under-used and offers a poor service and explores alternatives to heavy rail that prove more suitable.

The report said the line provides a chance to develop a "radical solution" that operates at lower costs and attracts more users.

One such scheme is a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which would see the railway line ripped up and replaced with concrete busways.

It also suggests that light rail could be an alternative solution, which then could be lead to the development of further such projects in the county if successful.

There have been previous calls for the Abbey Line to be transferred to the ownership of Hertfordshire County Council and run as a light rail concession, with the authority and DfT exploring the idea.

The original proposal was to convert the Abbey Line to light rail for the same cost as the current heavy rail service. However, in 2013, it was announced that the proposal turned out to be “considerably more complicated than originally expected”.

Cllr Derrick Ashley, the county council's cabinet member for environment, planning and transport, said: “Hertfordshire County Council’s Rail Strategy is designed to ensure that the railway can support Hertfordshire and its aspirations into the future.

"It does this by identifying investment priorities for the next 15 to 20 years and beyond, which the county council will work to secure.

“The strategy outlines some key issues relating to the Abbey Line, including poor service frequency, underutilisation and a lack of through services, and examines a number of options for the future of the line.

“An eight-week public consultation to update strategy began on June 10 and I would encourage everyone to read the document and have your say on the future of Hertfordshire’s railways."

Earlier this year Network Rail completed a series of works on the Abbey Line, including an extensive vegetation clearance programme, graffiti removal, improving connections for overhead lines and mechanising the junction that connects the Abbey Line to the West Coast Main Line.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Firstwave59   03/07/2015 at 12:08

The problem with devolving rail services to local authorities is that they are increasingly cash-strapped and, understandably, know little about running railways. At atime when demand for rail is growing any decision to pension a running railway line off is quite literally barmy. It is probably only under-used because the current service patterns are not geared towards practical passenger use. The Gospel Oak to Barking line was in a very similar situation, and tipped for closure. Then TfL took over and made the no-brainer decision to increase service levels and - hey presto - it is now heavily over-subscribed. So, run a good regular service and ridership levels will surely soar!

Steamon   03/07/2015 at 12:44

Totall agree with the above comments.

Dave Horton   03/07/2015 at 13:49

Could not agree more! ABFLY are leading the charge to oppose this silly idea:

Kev Smith   03/07/2015 at 14:21

it surprises me that TFL don't have control of the abbey flyer..perhaps if they did st.albans abbey - Euston or other termini in London as stoppers all day were introduced it may be made more could still stay DOO with ticket a small branch as it is at the moment it will not make money,

Mike   03/07/2015 at 14:41

Passengers worldwide greater prefer rail transport over bus. Why rip up rails that have an interface the size of a 10p coin and pave over the right of way with high carbon consuming concrete with a much less efficient rubber tyre interface? This is short-sighted. Look at the Cambridge busway problems. Most cities are converting their busways to LRT, like Seattle, Ottawa, even Curitiba.

Joe   03/07/2015 at 16:10

I'm not familar with the area. However, the busway in Edinburgh needed ripping up shortly after opening so it could be turned into a tramway. Also noise problems exist at the Dunstable and Luton BRT system. Don't forget only a few buses can use these routes anyway. The cheapest thing to do is add lots of Parry People Movers onto the line.

Mark   03/07/2015 at 18:04

Totally oppose the idea of handing to local authority or busway conversion. I suspect its easy to cancel services at will because it is a branch. It happens on Marlow line. St Albans needs the second link. There are numerous festivals there that bring visitors from across the UK and from overseas - for example the international organ festival that is about to take place. But it needs to run most hours of the day. All the Roman stuff - etc, all brings money to the area. Why can't it become part of the greater TFL service - spend money on a flyover of the main line at Watford and link into the line down through Harrow etc - linked in would encourage more users.

Henry Law   03/07/2015 at 21:27

Bad idea. The Cambridge busway should serve as a warning. Light rail with on-street extensions is the way to go.

Andrew Gwilt   03/07/2015 at 22:32

London Midland could lose the Abbey line if Hertfordshire County Council is to discuss on whether the Abbey Line could become a tram line serving villages between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey as the single line passed over the M25 London Orbital Motorway with a line speed of 45mph and a passing section as the line could operate 2tph hourly 24/7. I don't think that Herts Council want to turn this single line into a busway which means take down the OHLE and remove the signalling and tracks instead keep the tracks but convert the OHLE from 25kv AC Overhead to 750v DC Overhead or 3kv DC Overhead with new train-trams to be used but not to be operated by London Midland but to be operated by a new name as Watford St. Albans Transit managed by Herts Council & Network Rail.

Stephen Skinner   03/07/2015 at 22:43

Agree with the main thrust of the others - Guided busway is a retrograde step.

Neil Palmer   04/07/2015 at 02:53

It's interesting that this branch (at Park Street) borders the western edge of the site of the proposed Radlett Rail Freight Interchange (the Midland main line lies on its eastern edge). It's possible this branch might be of use to get freight directly to the West Coast Main Line at Watford. A coincidence this proposal to convert that branch to a busway comes on the same day that St Albans City & District Council decides not to appeal this weeks court decision that gives that interchange the final go ahead. You would have thought guided busways had been discredited enough with the Cambridge to St Ives example, which was delayed time & again, way over budget, has poor evening services, and now apparently the busway itself is in need of repairs already (it should have been made a tram/train line) and also the reports of the low ridership on the Luton & Dunstable busway. Some people just never learn.

Joan Wade   04/07/2015 at 12:13

"The authority’s draft rail strategy suggests that the line is under-used and offers a poor service." It is underused because it offers a poor service! The answer is to increase the service.

Timcastle   04/07/2015 at 13:20

TfL in the form of London Trams put a proposal in about 10 years ago to take the line under its wing. A pity that it received so much opposition at the time mostly because Herts Council didn't want London Rail services in its back yard.

Tallbloke   05/07/2015 at 16:00

the fact that this has reached the news means unfortunately that thornhill and her money grabbing croaneys have probably already done the deal and carved themselves a nice slice of cash and nothing can stop it now .

Gabriel Oaks   06/07/2015 at 09:10

Improve the frequency and reliability of this rail service and passengers will come!

Nonsuchmike   06/07/2015 at 14:51

So many comments above hit the nail on the head, especially those about greatly increased usage following improved line services. I would add that the Cambridge Busways are a fiasco which should never have been allowed to happen and the Luton one is scarcely any better. There follows historically the usual cuts to bus services from the hands of others, not railway or integrated transport supporting people, and this results in the localities getting a really poor service after millions spent in developing an "advanced" service. Don't trust the "promises"; stick with the tried and tested formula of improving rail frequency as a better, greener, cheaper, more environmentally friendly way of running a transport service.

Barry Oakley   06/07/2015 at 18:43

When I lived in East Yorkshire two rail lines from Hull to Hornsea and Withernsea were closed during the 1960's when, according to a BR manager, running and maintenance costs were deliberately inflated to falsely prove the lines uneconomical. If fares are going uncollected on the Abbey Line there is little wonder a question mark hangs over its future.

Anonymous   07/07/2015 at 20:15

Double the track between Watford and St Albans, or create passing loops. Run services between St Albans Abbey and London Euston, calling at Bushey, Harrow & Wealdstone and Wembley Central (after Watford Junction). This would give a new link from St Albans to London, taking pressure off the Thameslink route, as well as giving an increased frequency on fast services between Watford and Euston.

Anonymous   09/07/2015 at 18:41

Use some new Class 350 trains as well

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