Concerns about rail services on the Abbey Line are to be raised with the Transport Minister, after county councillors heard about the number of train cancellations.

The 14-mile Abbey Line is a link between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction railway stations – used by thousands of the county’s residents.

On Wednesday, March 12, the council’s highways and transport cabinet panel was presented with data that suggested there had been around 741 unplanned cancellations on the line last year (2023).

Executive member for highways and transport Cllr Phil Bibby told councillors he would write “a strongly worded letter” to the Transport Minister, to “express our concerns about the service”.

“Repeated cancellations” and “continuing unreliability” were highlighted at the meeting in a motion proposed by Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Cavinder.

His motion suggested that the line seemed to be “picked on” when there were driver shortages – which, it said, had “destroyed passenger confidence”.

It also suggests that as a result of its unreliability, people now looked elsewhere when deciding how to travel between Watford and St Albans.

At the meeting Cllr Cavinder said: “I think everybody appreciates the benefits of this line.

“I think it is a very well cherished line. But I think passengers are becoming disillusioned with it – I think they are losing confidence in it. And somehow we have to get that confidence back.”

Cllr Cavinder highlighted a comment made by a rail-user, who had said that when it was running it was a “real asset” to the community.

However, that rail user had also pointed to its unreliability, adding "it would be great to know that if you go somewhere you will be able to get back".

According to data presented to councillors, in 2022/23, the Abbey Line was used by 265,000 passengers.

It was reported that local rail user groups had monitored the Abbey Line and found 741 unplanned cancellations in 2023.

According to their data, the highest number of unplanned cancellations were recorded in December (160) and in May (144).

Meanwhile data from London Northwestern Railway, which operates services on the line, reported 532 cancellations in January to November 2023 – which the report said was “not dissimilar” to the figures from the local rail user groups.

Of the 532 cancellations reported by London Northwestern, 386 were said to be the responsibility of London Northwestern and 146 the responsibility of Network Rail.

The report also focusses on the impact of industrial action on the Abbey Line.

Earlier this year – between January 29 and February 6 – there was ‘action short of a strike’ across the national rail network.

On the Abbey Line, it was reported to councillors that London Northwestern took the decision to replace train services with a bus operation for the entire nine-day period.

But it was also reported that the company ran approximately 82 per cent of their normal services across the rest of the network during this period.