News Archive

October 7th, 2021 - London North Western Railway Autumn Stakeholder Briefing 6th October

This virtual gathering was attended by reps from Marston Vale, Watford and Abfly rail user groups, among others. Much of the ground had been covered in LNR’s Abbey Line briefing (see my post of 31st August).

New points which may interest Abbey Line users:

July 15th, 2020 - July 2020 Webinar

June 24th, 2020 - COVID-19 rail replacement bus services

London Northwestern Railway have advised us that they still have around 100 members of their train crew unavailable to work due to the COVID-19 situation. This means that they have insufficient train crews available to provide a reliable train service on the Abbey Line and therefore the replacement bus service will unfortunately have to continue.

They will however review the situation after the next uplift of services into London Euston from 6th July, and may be able to provide a limited morning and evening peak train service on the Abbey line at a later date.

ABFLY have made suggestions to improve the replacement bus service and will continue to press for the full train service to be reinstated as soon as possible.  We have also written to the MPs for Watford and St Albans to make them aware of the situation.

October 30th, 2019 - Busway update – October 2019

A recent report to Hertfordshire County Council’s Infrastructure Panel (GIPE) appeared to raise the possibility of a Abbey Line busway. The officers’ report stated:

The Implementation Plan will need to include reference to the role of the Abbey Line, particularly given the interest in those keen to see the conversion to MRT. It is very unlikely that a solution involving steel wheels on rails will be financially feasible and the solution is likely to involve permutations of dedicated route construction, repurposing of existing highway, necessitating rubber tyred rolling stock.

Abfly submitted a strong rebuttal case to local councillors on that panel, as a result of which, the chair of the panel made the following statement:

Derrick Ashley opened the meeting by giving a statement that there are no plans to convert the Abbey Line into a bus way, just that it should be integrated into whatever solution is decided upon for the east-west MRT

We are grateful to county councillors Sue Featherstone (Conservative), Asif Khan (Labour) and Sandy Walkington (Lib Dem) for taking up the case and Derek Ashley for making such a clear statement on the matter.

October 20th, 2019 - Comparing the Busway proposal vs the current Railway with a passing loop

We have tried to provide the most objective comparison between the Busway and Railways with passing loop proposals for simplicity. 


The retention of the Abbey Line as a railway provides a number of advantages including speed, environmental impact, lower capital expenditure, customer experience along with rail network benefits. The investment in a passing loop is also a lower risk option and a much smaller investment for the improved frequency which the bus way would provide. The downsides of this is that the county council don’t have as much control rail and can’t make some of the decisions unilaterally but need to champion the changes to the Department for Transport.

The improvements to the Abbey Line with an addition of a passing loop would open up the potential of the line and cost substantially less than the guided busway. We feel this is the best way forward but we leave the decision for you, the readers, to make up your mind.

October 20th, 2019 - Advantages of the Abbey Line remaining a train line

The Abbey Line is a 6.5 mile electrified railway line connecting Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey station. In its current form the line permits a single train which shuttles between the two stations.  The current railways line is suitable for heavy rail, the same as you would get connecting Watford or St Albans with London. As opposed to a tram which you might find in the center of Birmingham or Manchester.

Advantage of retaining the Abbey Line as a rail line

October 20th, 2019 - Information about the Busway proposal

There has been lots of talk about turning the Abbey Line into a Guided Busway system. This would involve replacing the current railway line with a concrete guided busway. In this post we provide a review of the busway option, in future posts we review of the current railway and in the final post a comparison between the two.

To our knowledge this would be the first time that an active railway line would be taken up to install a guided busway. Normally a guided busway is installed because it is cheaper than building a full rail solution. In the past previously removed train lines (such as a result of the Beeching cuts) have had a guided busway installed but this was years after the removal of the train line.

To try to keep the explanations simple we have deferred the supporting math into the footnotes, so it is there if you want to understand our working but also not cluttering the text for those people who are happy to accept our numbers.

Without significant changes to the bridges along the Abbey Line it would only permit single story busses and not double deckers. As such, for the purposes of comparison we will use one four car train being of equal capacity of five busses. 1

Things which would not change by the Abbey Line being a Guided Busway System and continuing as a railway line.

Advantages of the Guided Bus system

Disadvantage of the Guided Bus system

1 This is based on the capacity of a standard four car train, such as the one used on the Abbey Line, which has 277 seats and space for 117 standing, so a total capacity for 394 people. In comparison a bus has 49 seats and space for 27 standing, giving space for 76 passengers. So for each train there would need to be 5 busses for the same amount of capacity (based on total travellers 394/76 = 5.2 or 277/49 = 5.7 for just seated passengers).

2 2016-17 = £3.03b for 2016-17 = 1.24b miles which is the equivalent of about £2.44 per mile. The length of the Abbey line is 6.5 miles so the total cost per bus per journey is £15.88.  There are 42 runs of the train each day 15.88*42 = £667 per bus per day for 5 busses = £3,335 per day.  The cost of running the train = £3,287 per day.