The South West Herts Growth & Transport Plan (GTP) has recently been published for consultation on the Hertfordshire County Council website.  In this post we provide an overview of the elements of the plan which pertain to the Abbey Line and some of our initial thoughts regarding this.  We would love to hear your thoughts too and for you to feedback to the council on this consultation.

The introduction to the report is as follows:

The south west of Hertfordshire is very busy, with lots of people travelling to from and through the area. There will be even more people living and working here in the coming years as new houses are built and businesses grow. Lots of people currently travel by car for many of their journeys – including for short distances – and the roads can be busy and congested particularly at peak times. This can create further problems, such as:

  • Unreliable journeys
  • Journeys take longer than they should
  • Air pollution and its impacts on health
  • Roads feel dangerous and stop people walking and cycling
  • Buses can be slow and run late
  • Some people can’t easily get to where they need – such as to school, work,
    the hospital, the shops
  • Businesses lose money or have to move somewhere else

We need to improve our streets, footpaths, bus stops and train stations, so people choose to walk, cycle, and take the bus and train more often. This will mean more people can get to where they need to go. It will also help make places in the area healthier and nicer to live and work in

One item to note is the term “train stations”, in the report there are no plans to improve the train service itself e.g. with a passing loop. Hertfordshire county council has previously kicked off previous rail improvement projects, such as the Metropolitan Line Extension (which they then handed over to TfL) – however recently and possibly as a result they have been very reticent to do anything regarding rail improvements. The report goes on to say:

The Abbey Line provides a vital link between Watford town centre and St Albans and also connects communities along the corridor such as Park Street and Garston. The Abbey Line has potential as an attractive alternative to travelling by car on congested parallel roads. Potential approaches to improve service frequency on the Abbey Line include implementing a passing loop along the line to enable two trains to operate in opposite directions or, in the longer term, conversion to an alternative transport system if this were to offer significant improvement to local connectivity. These options would need to be explored in more detail in discussion with all relevant parties. HCC’s objectives and priorities are set out in the HCC Rail Strategy

This is the only mention of improvements to the train service however the potential “conversion to an alternative transport system” is worrying since it could be a gateway to the return of a bus related option.

The proposed changes which the consultation are looking to make on the Abbey Line are covered in package 4 which details:

To maximise the potential of the existing Abbey Line as a rail route by enhancing onward connections into St Albans City, and to transform the parallel A405 into a multi-modal road by diverting strategic traffic onto the motorway network, freeing up space for more local journeys by bus, bike or by car.

The package consists of:

  • The introduction of a new St Albans South Public Transport Hub, linking to the Abbey Line, direct bus services to St Albans City Station, and a transfer point between local and interurban buses. This would complement improved service frequency on the Abbey Line.
  • Additional slips at M25 J21 to allow all movements between the M25 and M1, and streetscape improvements along the A405 at Bricket Wood.
  • Enhanced cycling facilities along the A405 linking St Albans and Leavesden.

The positive aspects of the report are the highlighting of the importance of the Watford to St Albans route along with the low usage of the line, however there are some initial concerns which we have.

  1. A new station will slow down the train service, the current every 45 minute service would be off-putting for a park and ride service and if this increased to every 50 minutes this would be worse for everyone.
  2. One of the aims is improved reliability, this is key to the Abbey Line park and ride service but nowhere in the report is reliability on the Abbey Line mentioned.  Reliability issues is one of the general biggest problems with the Abbey Line currently which we are championing a passing loop to improve.
  3. One thing mentioned at the start but not mentioned regarding the train and the park and ride service is integrated ticketing between the Abbey Line and the bus as well as services from St Albans City – else the same fate will occur as the St Albans Shuttle bus.

Additionally to the above we feel that it would be beneficial to include a desire for a through train to London Euston at least in the morning and evening for commuters.

Finally it would be helpful if they could refine “transform the parallel A405 into a multi-modal road” – which multi-modes are they referring to?

These are our thoughts and feelings, if you agree with us or not we would love you to provide feedback to Hertfordshire county council so that your voice is heard.