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.
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.
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.