Thursday 2 May 2013

Not Bored at Watford [4]

We have a Cunning Plan
Thanks to the many Baldricks that make up local authorities, there is a much bigger plan for Watford Junction Station that would go some way to removing the problems that the current "refresh" scheme may have created. This would alter the "front entrance" yet again.
We now have a bigger bus station with eight stands; a self contained taxi rank with U-turn on the station side of the car park tunnel and, to add richness and delight to the commuting experience, we have a notable yellow blob outside the doors to the booking hall. This, according to the legend, is to be a piece of "public art" or a fountain. Deep joy!

Closer examination of the cunning plan reveals some red dotted lines which form a "pedestrian spine" which, being interpreted, means a "walking route" which leads through the car park tunnel ...
... which, if fbb has read the plans aright, will be bereft of cars.

Which brings us neatly to the main feature of the cunning plan. This is Penn Road which leads off St Albans Road just to the north of the road bridge over the main lines. It provides access to the Staples and Homebase stores, but ...
... just beyond the fence behind the red and blue recycling bins is Watford Junction station car park. The proposal is to smash a brand new road through here, over the track of the St Albans branch line, then to the left of the concrete plant and eventually joining up with the mega-road that links the town with the M1.

Off this new road will be vehicular access to the station.
There will be two multi-story car parks [A and B], beautiful to behold according to the planners ...
... short stay parking [C] and the much improved bus station [D].

Certainly, if this were ever to happen, it would solve most of the problems of the old Watford Junction, and, indeed, the newer revised version referred to in earlier blogs.

Reading the Buchanan plan, there are a number of unanswered questions. Will people be happy to get from their cars to the station via the creepy former car tunnel? How do things like "footbridge to platform 4" (shown from the revised bus station) tie up with ticket barriers and the increasingly overbearing supposed need for "security".

And how does all this fit in with the tram?
Well, despite the enthusiasm of the local rag, nothing tram-like trundled to St Albans in 2012! But the proposal is still, as they say, on the table.

The Proposals

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and The Department for Transport (DfT) want to increase the frequency of services on the local rail line between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey stations (the ‘Abbey Line’). The organisations are currently working together with Network Rail to develop a scheme to enable this to happen.

The proposal is to convert the Abbey Line to light rail, which means that the line will run a tram-like service rather than traditional heavy rail. This will bring significant benefits to the travelling public; in particular a more frequent service and a timetable that is easier to remember.

How It Will Work

Under the proposals, responsibility for the line would transfer to HCC, so it would become locally operated and accountable. The DfT would transfer to HCC the money that would otherwise have been paid to London Midland, who currently operates the service.

The new services will use the same railway track and overhead power lines as the existing service. It will need different vehicles, which will have to be procured, and potentially some modifications to the line’s infrastructure and power supply.

The basic requirement of the scheme is that services between Watford Junction and St Albans should run at least half-hourly. However, it may be possible to run them even more frequently than that, and/or with extended operating hours.
Hmmm? As the current service is run every 45 minutes as a self contained single track  "siding", considerable infrastructure alterations will be needed for a half hourly service, like passing loops and significant signalling provision. Likewise "using the existing overhead wires" may sound OK, but trams don't usually work on 25,000 volts!

There are further more speculative proposals to extend the line into Watford Town Centre which would make a huge difference to the plans for the Junction station, possibly removing the need for a massive overbridge on the new road. At the St Albans end, an extension via the cityy centre and on to the City station on the Midland Main Line would be a sensible option. fbb quotes from a County report:-

One approach is for the DfT or HCC to review the options and evaluate the best in terms of voltage, type of tram, position of the passing loop etc. This would allow the specifying authority to give a clear specification to potential bidders and potentially optimise for future expansion for limited on-street running. The preferred alternative approach is to ask the bidders to work out their preferred options.

Dear readers, don't hold your breath!

St Albans Branch 1912 : Bricket Wood station

 Next Bus Blog : Friday 3rd May 


  1. I can't think of any 25kV trams either, but there are plenty of examples of 15kV light rail vehicles in Germany and Switzerland.

    Karlsruhe has had dual-voltage vehicles, using 750v dc on the tramway sections, and the ac feed on the mainline DB sections. Karlsruhe's tram-trains have seen massive increases in patronage, against the heavy rail DB services that they replaced.

    Others can be found in Kassel and Saarbrucken, while in Switzerland, the line between tram and train has often been blurred; even more so with modern articulated low-floor rolling stock.

  2. There are also tram-trains in France (they're actually called that) - for example, from Mulhouse to the Vallee de la Thur. France uses 25kV electrification, for some parts of the country, so there may actually be some 25kV trams!