A new Watford Junction to Aylesbury rail service, along with a new link between Stevenage and Luton are two of the proposals being put forward by Hertfordshire Council.
Although the council doesn’t have any direct powers over rail services, having a public policy document helps when they respond to wider issues, such as franchise awards.
The current rail strategy was written in 2016, when the Metropolitan line extension was still going ahead, but in light of that cancellation and other developments, the council has decided to review the document. A key aim is to improve the speed and regularity of the services, with an aspiration for at least four trains per hour in each direction from all stations on all routes serving London.
However, the biggest transformation is focused on Watford Junction station, which is already straining to cope with the 8.7 million passengers per year that it handles.
The council suggests taking advantage of the opening of HS2, which will release substantial amounts of regional capacity by diverting the intercity traffic onto the HS2 line.
Apart from service improvements, in terms of infrastructure, they want a new rail link to the Chiltern Line to provide direct services to Rickmansworth and Aylesbury. That largely replicates the cancelled Metropolitan line extension route, but uses mainline railway services instead of London Underground.
The station would also be an interchange with the council’s proposed Mass Rapid Transit service, which is still in the development phase, and could be anything from increased bus services to a light-rail or tram line. That line would also help to overcome a major weakness in the area, in that the rail network is radial – namely in and out of the city, with little for people wanting to go sideways around the city.
One of the other proposals calls for a new rail link between Stevenage and Luton, which would provide a connection between the East Coast and Midland Main Lines. Fortunately, the railways are also next to undeveloped land just to the south of the two towns, making the connection technically viable, if the costs can be justified.
As well as providing new rail opportunities across the two main lines, it would directly link the two towns with a combined population of over 300,000 and Luton Airport.
The draft document is here.
The draft rail study will be part of a public consultation on 6th January 2020.