Although the planned extension of the Metropolitan line in Watford was cancelled in 2018, the local council has continued working on alternative plans that could see something built to improve local transport.
That link would have seen the Met line spur to Watford station cut back and diverted along the route of an older defunct railway to Watford Junction station, with new stations at Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road. However, with an estimated final capital cost of £358 million at the time of the projects’ cancellation, the project was deemed unaffordable and the Transport for London funding for the project was revoked in 2018.
The defunct Metropolitan Line Extension (MLX) has now been rebranded the Watford To Croxley Link (W2CL), and Hertfordshire Council is investigating options that could improve the local travel links.
A review of alternative options included:
Rail Shuttle – An extension of the London Overground along the Croxley Branch line with new stations at Watford Hospital and Ascot Road. Services would operate as a ‘shuttle’, terminating at Cassiobridge, with no onward connection to the Metropolitan line at Croxley. That proposal avoids the expense of the viaduct linking the restored railway with the existing Met line.
Rail link – Pretty much the same as the rail shuttle, but adding an extra junction would allow trains to run both to Watford Junction and to London.
Ebury Way rail link – This is a new proposal and a much longer route for a Met line diversion using another disused rail alignment, but is seen as less appealing as it skirts around the centre of Watford so offers less connectivity improvements for residents.
Abbey line conversion to tram and extension – This would see the existing St Albans Abbey to Watford railway converted into a tram line, and then extended over Watford Junction station and onto the same disused rail alignment proposed in the rail shuttle. Although the engineering challenges at Watford Junction would be considerable, there is already some funding available to upgrade the Abbey line itself, reducing that element of the cost.
Mass Rapid Transit Options – essentially an upgraded bus link running between Watford Junction towards the Met line railway at Croxley.
Hertfordshire County Council has been holding meetings with potential partners and recently published a notice calling for conceptual design services for the proposed alternatives. Conceptual designs will need to propose solutions for each aspect of the W2CL, from the type of mobility solution to the way in which the network / route will be operated.
At the moment, it’s just conceptual designs, so no final decisions on what or even if, anything would be built.
The numbers vary, but as much as £130 million had been spent on the cancelled Met line extension, mainly on enabling works to make way for the main construction phase. That would not be sunk costs though, as most of the alternative proposals would involve using the alignment that’s since been prepared for it.
That would substantially reduce the cost of completing the works on an alternative proposal, making it easier to secure funding in the future.