St Albans Civic Society criticises Herts County Council ‘promotion’ of busway

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 12 December 2016

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

Archant

Objectors to proposals for a bus service to replace tracks on a St Albans railway line have questioned why the unpopular scheme is being consulted upon again when it was thrown out last year.

St Albans Civic Society has responded to the proposals for the St Albans Abbey to Watford line - known as the Abbey Flyer - in the county council’s Transport Vision 2050.

But they question why consultation is being held again into the proposal to tear up the tracks and replace the line with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) scheme when it was rejected in November 2015 after a huge number of objections were received.

Writing on behalf of the Civic Society, Eric Roberts said that it seemed as though County Hall was determined to promote the busway, ignore previous surveys and wear any opposition down.

He reiterated the civic watchdogs’ original objections - cost and value for money, adverse impact on the environment, suspect usage and upheaval to the existing service and local neighbourhood.

But he raised other issues such as the need to install a passing loop at Bricket Wood which would be an ‘obvious and simple improvement’ to the effectiveness of the line, adding: “Everyone knows this, yet procrastination prevails.”

Mr Roberts pointed out that such a loop would enable a 30-minute interval off-peak service with the potential for a 20-minute interval in the peak periods.

The Civic Society also believes that a reliable and frequent inter-urban rail link on the Abbey Flyer should come with more efficient ticketing and revenue collection. Mr Roberts said: “There is some evidence that this is not happening and some passengers try and avoid payment, particularly in the peaks into Watford, by evading the conductor.”

The Civic Society would also like to see the line promoted more instead of being denigrated by words like ‘tatty’ trains and maintain that the current electric units are perfectly accceptable for a 16-minute journey.

And they say that in the longer term, the only alternative to the current rail provision might be to revisit an earlier light rail/tram option which would use the existing track and overhead lines.

The Abbey Flyer is part of the London Midland franchise and the Civic Society question whether it would be better provided outside that operation - for instance as part of the overground network or the current Southern franchise which operates a service from Milton Keynes to Clapham Junction.

The county council has defended its decision to consult on the Abbey Flyer BRT scheme saying that with the recognition that east/west links across the county have to be a priority in the future, it has to consider how the Abbey line can be integrated into the wider transport needs of the county.

Details of the Transport Vision can be found at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/transportvision2050 and the deadline for responses is next Wednesday, December 14.


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