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of the projects’ cancellation, the project was deemed unaffordable and the Transport for London funding for the project was revoked in 2018.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 Option 1 – Rail Shuttle (c) Hertfordshire Council

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.

Rail Option 2 – Watford Junction to London via Croxley Branch line (c) Hertfordshire Council

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.

Rail Option 3 – Ebury Way (c) Hertfordshire Council

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.

Tram / Train-Train Option – former Croxley Branch Line to St. Albans via Abbey Line (c) Hertfordshire Council

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.

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19 comments
  1. diamond geezer says:

    Former local resident says…

    hahahaha, no

  2. Brian Butterworth says:

    Well, having walked all over the area whilst looking at the original plan, I have to say that the “Abbey line conversion to tram and extension” actually looks like the most obviously doable one because it doesn’t try and mix rail technologies types.

    As I went on about before at great length before, I personally don’t see why the Met couldn’t be branched off just before it goes under Baldwins Lane because there are structures that would make the connection to the old trackbed only 355 meters in length.

  3. Andrew says:

    There’s also the Hertfordshire Essex Rapid Transit, proposed to run from ‘West Watford’ and Hemel to Stansted via St. Albans and Harlow. (From the sound of it a tram would be more likely than heavy rail, so unless they use tram-trains I think the Harlow – Stansted part’s the least realistic.)

  4. Dianne Simmons says:

    for me it would have to be Options 1 2 and 4 because i don’t see a point in Option 3 and would just add more time on journeys for people who use the metropolitan line from there they would either have to travel to Moor Park or go into watford to be able to get into London and an hourly bus service doesn’t help that idea either if it’s infrequent or not so really it’s either a connection or don’t bother at all in my opinion

  5. Jonny H says:

    A tram-train type solution would work. Tie it to the Watford-St Albans line to create a St Albans-Amersham route. You wouldn’t need a viaduct at Croxley. A short stretch of street-running would do. There would then be scope for future extensions if desired, for example eastwards to Hatfield etc. It would be nice to have a vision where public transport doesn’t just die beyond the M25.

  6. Peter G says:

    Option 2 is such an original idea, isn’t it just rebuild what was there before (but slightly move the stations) and was cut due to lack of use? (almost like it should have had investment then and not been ripped apart…)
    Admittedly, the areas it goes to have seen a lot of change since then, mostly lots of new housing.

    The tram with link to the Abbey line is entertaining, but I doubt a seperate alignment with the Overground would be affordable. It would make a line from a not quite connection to another not quite connection, which feels a little ridiculus.

    With option 2, maybe we can have some of the Overground trains run from it into London, instead of from Watford Junction?

    All of course completely unrealistic, I’m far more likely to win the lottery (despite never buying a ticket).

    @Brian: the major issue with that alignment would be getting the bridge over the canal and river back to standard for use, plus building a brand new bridge over the dual carridgeway the cut through the track alignment. It may well be cheaper to build an all new bridge bypassing both problems, and the land it requires is probably cheaper to obtain, I think most of the pillars landed in the edges of places and cunningly in the middle of the road. I think the major losers from that would have been the Sea Cadets who have land connected to the canal, but no business would have been displaced.

    Yeah, I’m a former resident, I went to school overlooking the line, seeing very occasional trains on it from the playground. I’m told I even once or twice rode a train on it, but too young to recall those journeys. I’d love to see rail transport back on it in some form, but I suspect it may never be – unless I win the EuroMillions, buy it and build the railway myself.

  7. Nick K says:

    It’s a pity that the option of using a tram at street level across the Two Bridges was not included in the study.
    There’s enough central reservation (if the eastbound carriageway pinches the pavement – build a new pedestrian canal bridge) to provide a single trackway. It could then climb to the Met line elevation across the Cinnamond site (needing a new Baldwins Lane bridge), or even street-run as far as the Croxley Met car-park entrance. Sharing the station, maybe with a low platform section, it would then use the North Curve to the bay platform at Rickmansworth.

    Timing could be to just precede London-bound Met trains westwards, or follow Watford-bound trains eastwards.

  8. Ailsa J says:

    None of the proposals look very useful to me, a Croxley Green resident. To get to the old CG station (where they intend to terminate the tram way) is a 30 minute walk for me. The people most likely to use any line are west Watford residents who will be living in the (appalling new high rise, completely out of character) development close to Morrisons.
    The beauty of the expensive and cancelled MLX was that CG residents would be able to get to Watford town centre and to main line trains at Watford Junction quickly and easily. As would people from Rickmansworth and all points north to Amersham.
    But as we all know Watford is a shopping town in decline with the loss of John Lewis (Trewins) and Debenhams. I have not been there since December 2019…
    It would be slightly more appealing if we could get to St Albans. I would use that.

  9. Nathan says:

    I just wonder how many hundreds of thousands pounds were wasted by Herts County on the previous scheme. What is the point of wasting more good money after bad.

    This needs to be killed and starved of oxygen as it will never happen. Watford council really needs to stop wasting time and money on this ludicrous proposal.

  10. Nick says:

    The London Overground option is probably the best as long as it offers an option of London bound trains although I think they should extend the Bakerloo Line from Harrow & Wealdstone and then run it along the disused line to Croxley Green and also operate a shuttle National Rail service between Croxley Green and Watford Junction by either London Northwestern railway or London Overground(Arriva Rail London)

  11. Adrien says:

    All these proposals are ridiculous. Would say just do the original scheme but as Ailsa J mentioned Watford has seen quite a decline since the pandemic. I don’t live in Watford anymore but I must say that the original MLX scheme is still the best idea.

    Although, a good tram system in Hertfordshire would definitely be great to see as well

  12. Jeremy Nathan says:

    The only solution that will work & get people out of their cars & on to public transport is to connect the Met Line to Watford High Street & Watford Junction in the original MLX scheme as it was always the intention that the railway should serve the town centre since it was built nearly 100 years ago.You’ve only got to look & see how popular & busy Uxbridge Station is throughout the day as direct trains go right into the centre of the town & it’s next to the bus station as well.People won’t use the Watford Met Line in sufficient numbers if they don’t have a direct service & have to change on to a bus or tram to reach the shopping centre.

  13. Roger ROWLEY says:

    Why doesn’t the powers that be run underground trains beyond Amersham from Aldgate and Baker Street to Aylesbury which I believe was done many years ago and with out the hassle of changing trains at Amersham to get the existing Main line services

    • Andrww says:

      The line’s unelectrified past Amersham and I doubt electrifying Amersham – Aylesbury would be massively popular before promised and cancelled routes (Market Harborough to Nottingham and Sheffield, Cardiff to Swansea, Didcot to Oxford) are electrified. Unless off-peak semi-fast and fast services are brought back it would also mean journey times past Amersham to central London being around twenty minutes longer. It would be easier to just have Chiltern services call at Moor Park again.

  14. Laurence Maykels says:

    Why not restore the Bakerloo line north of Harrow and Wealdstone to Watford Junction ?

    As a Bricket Wood resident, keep the Abbey to Watford link as a heavy railway extending the route to Euston as this will increase passenger use significantly and possibly add a link to Watford hospital

  15. David Thomas says:

    The existing Watford Met station has parkland to its north and east. Why not have a long-term plan to extend it in tunnel (the parkland bit by cut & cover) to Watford Jctn (Low Level), with an intermediate station to serve the town centre and maybe another between the existing terminus and Croxley not that far from what other plans show as a terminus on the one-time Croxley Green line?
    Extension on to the St Albans line – if technicalities of whether to convert that to third rail are resolved – would free up land at Watford Jctn.

  16. George says:

    If the Met extension to Watford Junction had been installed as proposed (and not blocked by Sadiq Khan) it could have been a useful alternate route into London during the periods when Euston is completely blocked for work on HS2. Local and long-distance passenger trains could have been turned round at Watford Junction and passengers use the Met Extension. Mainline trains have been terminated at Milton Keynes and the Overground between Watford and Euston has also been totally closed.

  17. Tony Houghton says:

    I think that the time for using CRL as anything other than a pedestrian/ access way/ greenway like the Ebury Trail and St Albans Greenway has passed. The wasted costs are phenomenal ; more and more people are working from home and there are more urgent priorities eg trying to improve Watford General Hospital now that the Health campus ( other than a garish car parking on what was a very popular allotments site used by locals) has also been abandoned. Planning permission was given for the Infamous tower on the basis that public transport links would improve. The flats have gone ahead as has the development in Sidney Street so there is extra housing density ; more cars; fewer car parking spaces and even more pressure on parks etc when we’re supposed to be looking at reducing carbon because of Net Zero Climate Emergency. Really piecemeal steps are not good enough : there needs to be a cohesive Green Logistics plan. For 130 million you could have bought a lot of ev which would at least improve air quality. Should have asked local residents for their “ concepts”!!

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