‘Loop restoration better than Abbey Line busway’ - say campaigners

A London Midland class 321 pulls into Bricket Wood station with a service to Watford Junction

A London Midland class 321 pulls into Bricket Wood station with a service to Watford Junction - Credit: Archant

Restoring a passing loop would provide far more benefit to the Abbey Line than converting it to a busway according to objectors to the proposal contained in a county council rail strategy document.

With consultation now finished on a controversial proposal in the rail strategy to take up the tracks of the St Albans to Watford line, known as the Abbey Flyer, there is growing pressure for the option of restoring the passing loop at Bricket Wood to be re-examined instead of a bus replacement service.

Both St Albans Civic Society and a councillor on St Stephen parish council have called for the passing loop at Bricket Wood to be restored instead of what Cllr Nicholas Tyndale describes as ‘an environmentally destructive busway’.

And the Civic Society maintains that all that is really needed to improve the line is the passing loop which would enable a regular 30 minute interval service to operate.

The Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) scheme in the draft plan has been put out for consultation by the county council because of concern about the poor usage of the six branch stations between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction, the lack of through services and the poor service frequency.

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The Abbey Flyer Users’ Group (ABFLY) has consistently argued for a passing loop at Bricket Wood which would enable the service to run through to Euston if train companies are minded to support such a scheme.

Park Street parish councillor Tyndale said that restoring the passing loop ‘would improve the service frequency, making it easier for people to choose rail travel over road journeys’.

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He went on: “We should be investing in - rather than discarding - rail services, particularly now that Watford Junction has been reconfigured to allow Abbey Line trains direct access through to London Euston.”

In his response to the BRT proposal on behalf of the Civic Society, Eric Roberts suggests it is ‘impractical’ to expect the provision of a regular service to and from Euston with the train crews, train paths and associated access charges which would be required on an already busy route.

He points out that current electrified line is environmentally friendly, operates to a high level of punctuality and all that is really needed is the Bricket Wood passing loop to enable a regular 30 minute interval service to operate which could be reduced to a 20-minute peak hour service.

Calling for a previous proposal to use the existing infrastructure with a passing loop and light rail vehicles to be revisited, Mr Roberts said it was unclear why it had been abandoned and added: “The amount of of periodic procrastination for this route’s future is unacceptable.”

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