Croxley Rail Link – My Thoughts

A concise description of the Croxley Rail Link project is outlined on Wikipedia: “The project would divert Metropolitan line Watford branch services east of Croxley station away from Watford station to Watford Junction via intermediate stations using a reopened section of presently disused track.

New stations would be built at Ascot Road, which provides access to the Watford and Croxley business parks, and near the Hospital with trains continuing via Watford High Street to Watford Junction station. The plans would also result in the closure of the existing Watford Metropolitan line station located in a housing estate.

The project has been in the proposal stages for the last 20 years or so but only now is it being considered for the £80 million of central Government funding that will be required to help fund the remainder of the project (decision due December 2011). A recent Watford Observer article about Lester Wagman’s 850-signature petition to keep the existing station open, which I signed a couple of months back, ignited discussion of the project on the newspaper website and Twitter.

History

When the Metropolitan line railway was initially extended to Watford in 1925 it was intended to link the line up to the High Street, and indeed a ticket booking office was even constructed on the road which is currently a Wetherspoon’s pub. The construction of the link to the High Street would have required large sections of Cassiobury Park to have been dug up so that a cut-and-cover tunnel and ventilation shafts could be installed. The owner of the land at the time, The Earl of Essex, refused permission for this to be done. Therefore the Metropolitan line terminates at its existing station on Cassiobury Park Avenue.

Watford Junction already has trains to London Euston operated by London Midland and Virgin Trains as well as a London Overground service. Previously the Bakerloo Line of the London Underground was routed to Watford Junction via the Watford DC Line now used by the Overground services.

Proposed Route

Tube trains currently cross this bridge over the Grand Union Canal to access the Watford Metropolitan line station. Turn 180 degrees and you will see a disused bridge that used to carry the Croxley Green Branch line until it was closed in 1996.



A 400 metre viaduct is to link the two tracks at around this point. I haven’t seen a detailed plan with the exact viaduct location marked on but this diagram below, taken from the Business Case report for the project, shows the new viaduct as starting immediately after the Tube line crosses Baldwin’s Lane.

Croxley Rail Link Viaduct Location

Before the dual-carriageway Ascot Road was built the track of the Croxley Branch Line used to cross approximately here (below) but the embankment was demolished so the road could be built.

The proposed Ascot Road station would be located between the two Ascot Roads. A plan of the station can be found here (pdf). The Old Ascot road is still crossed by a bridge but this section was singled tracked, the Croxley Rail Link would require it to be double tracked.

The next station on the line was originally intended to be a rebuilt Watford West station on its current site off Tolpits Lane (pdf), however this has now been scrapped in favour of a proposed Watford Hospital station which will be closer to the site of the Watford Health Campus.

Below: Closed and overgrown Watford West station (not much to see!)

Are there alternatives?

If it is so desired to have a Tube service to Watford Junction it would be significantly cheaper to reinstate the previously operated Bakerloo Line service which would not require new viaducts or stations to be built. However the rail link proposal additionally includes 2 new stations and these are obviously key parts of the plan. Both will be located in sensible areas – one alongside a business park and the other near to the major Health Campus redevelopment. In addition, the provision of an “alternative route” into London from Watford Junction (away from the DC line) is listed as one of the “key benefits” of the scheme in a report outlining the business proposals for the Rail Link and this would not be achieved by re-extending the Bakerloo Line.

The Croxley Rail Link Business Case document puts forward and then scraps a Croxley Busway alternative. Buses would travel by road from Watford Junction before entering the disused Croxley Branch Line at Wiggenhall Road. Stops would be made at the hospital and at Ascot Road before the bus returned to the public road linking up with the business parks and Croxley Station.

Lester Wagman’s petition is not against the whole idea of the Croxley Rail Link asks for the consideration of “other options for the scheme” which would not involve the closure of the existing station. An extension of the St Albans Abbey Line, which is to be converted into a tram, along the Croxley branch line with to a re-opened Croxley Green station is suggested as an alternative to the Rail Link by Lester. This would link North, Central and West Watford however would not fulfil the criteria of providing an alternative route in to London.

MP and supporter of the the Rail Link Richard Harrington apparently doesn’t see the closure of Watford Met as a done deal if the project is to go ahead, after unsurprisingly finding that there was “overwhelming support” from people living the near station to keep it open. The paper quotes him as saying “There’s a possibility it will continue as an extension of the Metropolitan line as it is now, particularly because the case for London Underground is they need somewhere to store trains at night anyway and that’s an ideal place for it, which would help to facilitate the station staying open.

Other suggestions that have been made on the Watford Observer article include building the link but retaining the existing Watford station and alternating trains between the two branches. Whilst that may seem like a good idea I can envisage just a token service to the existing station and doubt that both Ascot Road and Watford Met stations would survive long-term.

Effects of Station Closure

The Business Case report states that “closure of Watford Met station will result in some worsening of access to rail for a small number of households in the Cassiobury Park area though this is significantly outweighed by improvements in access to those in south, west and central Watford, where significantly more residents (of poorer areas) gain benefit.” I can’t really criticise that though I imagine those who chose to live at the recent Cassio Metro development, which is directly alongside the current station, or in the houses built on the back of the school playing fields (because that was a good idea…) might not be too pleased!

Watford Met Tube Station Houses

New Housing Developments near existing Watford Met Station

As my local station I obviously wouldn’t ordinarily be in favour of it closing but this scheme provides an alternative in the Ascot Road station. I used the Watford Met station to travel to school in Rickmansworth (whilst hundreds travelled from further in the opposite direction to a school just up my road, but that is another story…), and to work London over the summer. My dad has used the tube to get to work for many years. According to Google Maps it currently takes 4 minutes to walk from my house to the current Watford Met Line Station, if the Rail Link goes ahead it will be 13 minutes to the Ascot Road station. Yes, not as convenient but not too much of a difference and the project also clearly benefits a greater area as one station will be replaced with two.

Those living on the Cassiobury Estate will in addition be able to chose between catching the tube at Watford Junction if it is quicker than adding what will probably be about 10-15 minutes to their existing crossing of the park.

In the Watford Observer article Lester cites his main concern as being for the “families of children who attend Watford Grammar School for Boys” as well as those heading from Cassiobury to Rickmasworth. “If the replacement station is in Ascot Road, they will have to walk along Rickmansworth Road and cross it at some point, which is going to take them 20 minutes. It’s going to be a road safety nightmare.” I find “road safety nightmare” a ridiculous reasoning, if children aged 12 and above cannot cross a road safely when there are pelican crossings at the junctions with Hagden Lane/Station Approach and also outside the Kia garage then something is wrong. Those travelling to Croxley Station to go to Rickmansworth School already have to cross this road.

No word is given as to what would happen when the existing station closes though I think chances are it would lay abandoned until it and the track are demolished and replaced with flats.

If price was not an issue the Croxley Rail Link would certainly improve the availability of public transport across West Watford, however I don’t think that it should be a priority especially when there is already access to the London transport system from Watford Met and Watford Junction stations. Given the massive costs involved with the scheme, the fact that the proposal has already been drawn out over such a long period of time and, the inevitable opposition from some of those living alongside the currently disused rail line and that there is already opposition to the closure of Watford Met station I don’t think the Croxley Rail Link will be built in its current proposed form anytime soon.

14 Replies to “Croxley Rail Link – My Thoughts”

  1. The other point not considered here is the increased frequency of train services over the shared section of line which runs behind hundreds of homes on Woodford Rd, Queens Road and Gladstone Road. This plan, as proposed, puts a train along the line every three minutes, as well as the existing WCML noise. A long part of this section is elevated and runs at first floor level.

  2. THE COUNTRY IS STRUGGLING WITH DEBT

    WATFORD ALREADY HAS GREAT ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORT

    NEXT WE WILL BE ASKING FOR THE TRAIN TO STOP OUTSIDE EVERYONES FRONT DOOR

    WHAT A WASTE ..WE CANNOT AFFORD AND DO NOT NEED THE RAIL – LINK

    WAKE UP EVERYONE NO NO NO

  3. If the closure of Watford met line station goes ahead what effect will that have on Cassio metro house prices

  4. Croxley Rail Link is a vanity project dreamed up by people who seemingly have no clue as to the dynamics of people movement in the surrounding area. Practically no one used the line from Croxley Green to Watford Junction and all this does is effectively reopen it with fewer stations…whilst severing a perfectly fine old station that people always HAVE used. Ultimately Croxley Met will become an off-peak outpost that can only be accessed via Watford Junction, as future cost reductions will examine the pointless need of linking Harrow town centre with Harrow Weald, just half a mile away – so it is inevitable that Northwood will become the most common terminus for northbound services on the slow line.

    Careful what you wish for people. Even the plans aren’t sinister they will be inherited by people focused on COST and PROFIT, so please sign the Save Watford Met petition and help preserve Croxley’s excellent service into Baker Street.

  5. If the Watford Cassio station were used to serve Amersham/Chesham trains via the Western Curve, there would be plenty of capacity to run a full met service to WFJ from London. There’s certainly spare capacity on the Amersham stretch. I’m sure Cassio service users could happily change at Croxley if it meant keeping the service. Alternating services would lead to two under-served branches.

    Currently Cassio serves the people of Cassio well, but Watford is not served well by local transport – try getting there from Rickmansworth!

  6. If Watford Met station is not sold off for development, then the money for its sale will have to be found by TfL. One option could be for there to be Bond Issues for infrastructure investment as occurs in Boston and New York. However TfL looked at that a few years ago and thought that teh rate of return would mean investors might not invest in them. However with inflation now rising the rate of interest in Government bonds may go up and that could change that position.

  7. Have you tried getting to Watford Met station from North Watford? It’s practically impossible by bus so the only option is a lenghty walk. I would make good use of the service if it ran from Watford Junction. It would be in a better place for more of Watford’s people than the current Met station.

  8. I am strongly in favour of this scheme – although retaining Watford as a peak time station. Many people in West Watford would be closer to a station – I accept a handful near the current station would lose out. Watford General Health Campus and Vicarage Rd Stadium would be better served. Although not part of the main plan – this link would facilitate a Chiltern Rail service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury. As for the cost – one of the best uses of money in straightened times is in strategic infrastructure projects. The country (and Watford) needs economic growth and jobs . The cost of this project is miniscule compared to HS2 or widening the M1 all the way to Milton Keynes .

  9. I am full in favour of the project and can not see a rational objection to the project except understandably from those who live very close to Watford Met.

    I have lived in North Watford, Rickmansworth and now Croxley. In addition, many family members and friends live in Harrow and Hillingdon. From all these locations I can see significant benefits of the proposal.

    First safety: Wat ford met is not in central Watford it is in a housing estate. I am uncomfortable letting my fiancé walk there from Watford at night.

    Accessibility: When I lived in North Watford I had no way of getting to the met line except from walking or getting two buses – it consistently proved impractical . To meet friends in Northwood for example would require two buses and a train (or a 40 min walk) for a 15-20 min journey by car.
    Value for money: project provides good value for money for a rail project as it runs down an existing lines. No compulsory purchase, no green field construction and residents will be used to trains at they ran down the Croxley green line well into the 1990’s. – To respond to the question that “in a recession…” I would simply say that this sort of infrastructure development is exactly the sort that will help stimulate economic growth. Creating Jobs in the short term and supporting Watford’s micro economy in the long term.

    There are so many other benefits – not least access fo the west coast main line (to Liverpool and Manchester) for those currently on the Met line (without travelling into London)

  10. This is a great step-forward for Watford and I hope it happens. If residents of Cassio Metro feel that they weren’t awae of the scheme when they bought their flats, perhaps they should take it up with the developers?

    I remember an idea from many years ago to have a Hertfordshire Metro – possibly Rickmansworth to St Albans via the Croxley west curve, the new Link and on to the Abbey line. I’d like to see a dual use line with trams from Rickmansworth to St Albans alternating with Met Line trains to Baker Street. Car use in Watford is ridiculous – give people decent alternatives and they will use them.

  11. I think the proposed plans would be good for Watford in the future. It will take some getting used to however progress is necessary as the transport services are not very good especially if you do not drive. This will make getting around Watford much more efficient. I do understand the upset for people living close to the station, hopefully there will be some concession to their requests. I live at the junction of Hagden Lane and Wippendale road and regularly use the Watford met to get into work in London, therefore I would be using the Ascot road station under the proposed plans. There is no doubt that it is a very important service, but the proposed plans seem to benefit Watford overall. I tend to walk around Watford as it is much easier than waiting for buses for 30mins, the bus services also need to be upgraded. Watford is growing economically and we need transport services to support this growth.

  12. As with other comments, I think the true benefit of such a scheme would be the possibility of future Chiltern services from Watford out to Aylesbury and beyond. With regards the current plan, I can only really see benefits. Access to Ascot Rd is a short train ride from the town centre instead of a gridlocked crawl down the Ricky Road, which would increase access to the business parks for those who don’t drive (and indeed those who do), plus West Watford would see some much needed investment. Access to Rickmansworth would become much more realistic, even if it DID involve a change at Moor Park. Would also help the case for the Watford Junction redevelopment, as it would become a pretty serious hub.

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