A consultation will be opening later this year that could see plans for a new rail or tram service running across the counties to the north of London.

The proposal, put forward by Hertfordshire County Council is linked to plans for around 100,000 new homes to be built along the A414 Corridor. This main road runs from Harlow (to the east of Hertfordshire’s boundary with Essex) to the south of St Albans, where it separates with one leg running to Hemel Hempstead and the other running through to Watford.

The development corridor directly connects the primary centres of Harlow, Hatfield, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford, and provides connectivity across large parts of Hertfordshire including many smaller towns, as well as connecting Harlow with Chelmsford in Essex.

A414 corridor strategy map

At the moment, there is no east-west rail corridor with the exception of the Abbey Line which runs between Watford and St Albans. Therefore a journey from one part to the other by train would only be possible via London which increases journey times and cost.

What the County Council is proposing is a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, which by implication is something rail-based – whether tram, light rail, or something more substantial is not yet decided on.

(There are MRTs that are enhanced bus services, but it’s not the usually accepted definition)

The proposals are still at a very early stage, with initial consultations not due until this Autumn, but a document from 2018 shows an indicative map of the route, with suggested ideas for services.

Indicative map – from the A414 Corridor Strategy

If it goes ahead, then some MRT interchanges could be located at stations on major railway corridors including the West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line; at the edge of town locations; adjacent to major employment areas (including Maylands and Hatfield Business Park), and in town centres. Elsewhere, they expect that changes to local bus routes would allow them to feed passengers from between the MRT and residential areas.

As with many tram-like services, they expect a mix of road sharing, some tracks on roads that have been segregated and some dedicated permanent way tracks.

If the project gets developed into a fully costed plan, then funding needs to be found. It’s expected to be a mix of developer-led contributions and central government funding — potentially via the housing development fund which finances transport upgrades that support housing projects.

The council expects to open the first of several consultations later this year.

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19 comments
  1. Niall says:

    Looks like the first link in the article points to your file system!

  2. Albert says:

    Despite the name, this sounds a lot like a glorified bus service. The vehicle in the video looks like one, and in that 2018 report it says:
    “An MRT service could take the form of a high quality bus or articulated
    bus running along a conventional road, bus lanes and / or its own dedicated carriageway.”

    I wouldn’t get your hopes up!

    • Albert says:

      It even says later on:
      “It may not be necessary for an MRT to run along its own dedicated carriageway across the whole network. This would be costly and not necessarily provide journey times benefits.”

      Perhaps we should let the people at the council know what Mass Rapid Transit actually means!

    • ianVisits says:

      Trams don’t always run on their own dedicated network across their entire route, which is a major part of their appeal as they can move right into the heart of towns and cities — and they are still considered to be Mass Rapid Transit systems.

    • Antony Pace says:

      About time!

  3. Declan says:

    I’ve been saying we need this infrastructure for decades!

    100% it needs to be dedicated link out of the town centres as east to west via a414 is a road block.

    We badly need a connected Hertfordshire. Too much reliance on cars.

    Forget living in Herts if you don’t have a car, hopefully this would change the game.

    • ianVisits says:

      You must be delighted then to learn that your campaigning efforts are starting to show results.

      Do you have copies of your reports and lobbying documents online anywhere for the rest of us to read?

  4. Mike says:

    The Hatfield to St Albans route will be interesting. The ex railway line is a successful bike/pedestrian route and has some missing/narrowed bridges, overbuilding and narrowing.

  5. Roger Stone says:

    Whilst I would welcome the Hertford to St Albans/Watford part of this I can’t see the value in duplicating the current provision from Cheshunt to Hertford.

  6. Charles says:

    I’d like some cycling infrastructure too. Cycling is close to illegal in herts and Essex and cycle routes along the river Lee have gates that block access for bicycles.

  7. Ian M says:

    Bus MRT is a thing in Ontario. Even to the extent of these “Stations”……https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/RenforthStationBusDriveway.jpg

  8. John Usher says:

    So we’re back – in principle – to providing much of of the east-west connectivity (if not re-using the same infrastructure, and excluding Dunstable and Buntingford, but adding Harlow), as was lost under Beeching and before, but moving people this time, not goods.

    I’d like to see a parallel to this around the top of the M25, connecting the termini of the ‘TfL’, GTR and ECML stations, or intercepting the lines, and the towns (e.g. Potters Bar) and major road junctions (e.g. South Mimms)- linking the lines east of the Lea to the west would be good.

    Alas, if Hertfordshire and TfL couldn’t agree on the Croxley link funding, that seems unlikely.

  9. Andy McDougall says:

    Even if one accepts that the likelihood of this ever happening is greater than zero, I can’t see it going down well with the claimed intention of this government to ‘rebalance investment between the North and the Southeast’. Whatever the motorway sign might say, The North does not begin at Hatfield!

    • JohnC says:

      I don’t think ‘levelling up’ means a total stop to investment in the Southeast. If it does, the current dissatisfaction expressed by ‘Blue Wall’ Tory MPs will only increase.

  10. Adam Edwards says:

    Assuming some of this is segregated routes, there is a good opportunity to use any parallel maintenance track as a cycle way, as is the case with the Cambridge Busway.

    The hard bit will be finding space for this along existing routes and without more road building to free space up. For example, there is a plan for a Hertford bypass through the rural bits south of the town which then frees up the inner relief road (the A414) for the MRT. Is that actually what we need to see or could we have a go at congestion charging first to reduce traffic in Herts? It might be more cost effective.

  11. David Winter says:

    Well – it looks remarkably similar to rail lines that previously served some of the areas.

    Given Hertfordshire’s reluctance to fund the Croxley (east-west) link, I wonder who they expect to fund this little number? Clearly not THEIR ratepayers !!

    • ianVisits says:

      I appreciate that you’re Australian, but the UK abolished ratepayers as a tax a long time ago.

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