Major milestone in bid for improvements to St Albans to Watford Abbey Line railway

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

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

Long-overdue improvements to the Abbey Line railway have moved one step closer to fruition.

Herts county council has this week received the go-ahead to work up proposals for a passing loop on the route.

The government will now fund a study to produce designs for the scheme which, if delivered, would provide significant transport benefits to the Watford and St Albans areas.

The Abbey Line is a single-track railway between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey stations. The service is limited to one train every 45 minutes, but a passing loop would allow trains to run every 30 or even 20 minutes. Improving the service would encourage more people to use the line once coronavirus restrictions are eased, and it would make the railway an attractive alternative to the car.

The bid was written and submitted by the county council, and was supported by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, Watford MP Dean Russell and other local organisations. Government officials will now work with the county council to develop the study. Once completed, it is hoped that funding will be secured to deliver the scheme.

Daisy said: “Creating a passing loop on the Abbey Line is an absolute no-brainer so it’s really encouraging news that the funding application to government that would deliver this has moved to the next stage. “It’s a huge testament to the Abbey Flyer Users’ Group, the numerous residents’ associations along the line and politicians of all parties who have kept banging the drum for this much overdue investment.

“Investing in this vital link will help local residents travel for work and pleasure and, crucially, it will help us tackle the climate crisis by getting cars off the road. As the MP for St Albans I was delighted to back this application alongside the MP for Watford, and I urge the Government to give the passing loop the green light in the final round.”

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Sandy Walkington, county councillor for St Albans South, also welcomed the announcement: “We’ve been pushing for this at County Hall for years,” he said. “The Abbey Line is a key component in the A414 corridor transport strategy. A passing loop would enable more frequent trains between Watford and St Albans and link in with the proposed east-west mass transit scheme.”

Derrick Ashley, the county council’s cabinet member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy and chair of the Abbey Line Community Rail Partnership, added: “The county council has been pushing for a passing loop for many years to improve transport, reduce congestion and support the local economy. This announcement is a significant step towards achieving our goal.

“On a national scale, this is an inexpensive scheme but one that has major benefits for the economy and the environment. I am hopeful that I will see a passing loop built on this line within the next few years.”