Croxley Rail Link
|Croxley Rail Link|
The disused line at Watford West railway station.
|Status||Approved for re-opening|
|Operator(s)||Transport for London|
|Line length||3.4 mi (5.47 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Railways of Watford and Rickmansworth|
The Croxley Rail Link is a railway engineering project in the Watford and Three Rivers districts of Hertfordshire, England. When complete, Watford branch services on the London Underground's Metropolitan line will be diverted at Croxley Green from the current terminus at Watford tube station onto the alignment of the disused Watford and Rickmansworth Railway between Croxley Green and Watford High Street stations before continuing to Watford Junction. The diversion requires the construction of a viaduct over the Grand Union Canal, River Gade and A412 road at Croxley Green, and Watford tube station will close to passengers.
The main proponent of the scheme is Hertfordshire County Council, supported by Transport for London (TfL) which owns the Watford branch. The proposed route was featured in a Transport for London network map for 2016 and the Transport for London Indicative 2025 Transport Map on which Watford tube station does not appear. When the link is built, direct services between Watford Junction and Amersham would also be possible, but these are not included in the business case for the scheme.
The project was approved by the Government on 14 December 2011. Work began with clearing vegetation and construction was expected to begin in June 2014. Final approval was given on 24 July 2013. In January 2014, the proposed completion date of 2016 was extended to 2017.
The present-day London Underground Watford station is situated close to Cassiobury Park, somewhat peripheral to Watford town centre. The Metropolitan Railway had originally intended to extend the branch into central Watford via a tunnel under Cassiobury Park to a terminus on the High Street. Watford station was constructed at a low level to allow for the construction of a cut-and-cover tunnel across the park, and in 1927 the MR purchased 44 High Street, opposite Clarendon Road, with the intention of converting it into the booking hall of Watford Central tube station. Watford Urban District Council, who had bought parts of the Cassiobury Estate from the Earl of Essex to create Cassiobury Park, objected to the proposal to drive a railway across the park. The project was cancelled and the terminus of the Watford branch remained on the southern side of the park, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from the town centre and 44 Watford High Street is now The Moon Under Water public house.
Another railway in the Watford area was the single-track Watford and Rickmansworth Railway (WRR), a branch of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) which opened in 1862 between Watford Junction and Rickmansworth (Church Street). In 1912 the LNWR opened a second branch to Croxley Green and although part of the route ran close to the Metropolitan line (about 200 metres), the lines were not linked. The LNWR line came under the ownership of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923 and British Rail in 1948. Throughout this time, passenger numbers were low and the former WRR lines were run down; British Rail withdrew passenger services from the Rickmansworth branch in 1952 and ran a skeleton service on the Croxley Green branch until 1996, when both branches were closed.
The London Transport Executive (LTE), part of the British Transport Commission, considered options for the Metropolitan line in 1948, including what to do with the Watford property which had been acquired for the abandoned tunnel scheme and proposed linking the Metropolitan to the BR Croxley Green branch line. A similar proposal was put forward by London Regional Transport (LRT) around 1994; an adapted version of the tube map for internal planning purposes printed that year shows a projected route via Watford West and Watford High Street to Watford Junction. Because the line lay entirely within Hertfordshire, it was championed by the county council who lobbied for funding from LRT (later TfL) and the Department for Transport for 16 years.
In 2005 Transport for London (TfL) tentatively committed to providing up to £18m of the estimated cost of £65m, predicting that the link would be operational by 2010. Difficulties arose in securing the remaining funding from the Department for Transport and a revised project submission, under new guidelines, was prepared, with a view to obtaining Programme Entry status. A business case was submitted to the DfT in February 2008, with revised costs of £95m. The proposal was rejected in March on the basis that no guarantee of financial backing had been received from TfL.
In July 2008 the East of England Regional Assembly declared the scheme a "priority" and agreed to contribute £119.5m towards the estimated cost, now £150m. Hertfordshire County Council agreed to allocate £25.8m which it hoped to recover through ticket sales and other London Underground revenue. It was predicted that the link could be operational within seven years.
A revised business case was produced in autumn 2009 and the costs and scope reviewed. Following the coalition's Comprehensive Spending Review the project was placed in the pre-qualification pool and a further submission made to the Department for Transport in January 2011. In February 2011 the Department for Transport placed the project into a qualification pool of works that would be subjected to further assessments in order to bid for funding. A Best and Final Funding Bid was submitted to the Department in September 2011. On 14 December 2011, the Department for Transport agreed to fund £76.2m of the £115.9m cost, with the remainder from the local authorities (£33.7m) and third parties (£6.86m).
Route and proposed services
A key part of the Croxley Rail Link project will be the construction of the "missing link", a short line of track connecting the existing Metropolitan line to the former British Rail Croxley Green branch line at their closest point. This will involve installing a new junction near Baldwins Lane, about 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) north-east of Croxley station, and building a new viaduct and bridge to carry the Metropolitan line over the A412 Watford Road dual carriageway and the Grand Union Canal to the former BR line. Double track will be laid along the disused trackbed, reinstating the line as far as Watford High Street; from this point, underground trains will share track with London Overground trains along the Watford DC Line to the Watford Junction terminus.
None of the former BR stations that closed in 1996 will reopen. Two new stations will be built: Croxley Green station will be replaced by Cassiobridge (previously intended to be called "Ascot Road") and a second station, Watford Vicarage Road, will be built to replace Watford West and the football specials halt, Watford Stadium. The stations will have Underground facilities with the exception of a staffed ticket office; ticket machines are to be available instead.
Watford Friends of the Earth commented on the siting of the stations:
"The Croxley Rail Link has a valuable role to play in access to the football ground and hospital. A new station on the Croxley Rail Link to serve the football ground and hospital is a better option than refurbishing the station on Tolpits Lane, which is currently the preferred choice of Watford Council's consultants."
Summary of stations on the route:
|Watford High Street||existing|
|Watford Stadium||remaining closed||Area to be served by Watford Vicarage Road|
|Watford Vicarage Road||new station|
|Watford West||remaining closed||Area to be served by Watford Vicarage Road|
|Croxley Green||remaining closed||Area to be served by Cassiobridge|
Closure of Watford tube station
Transport for London have stated that passenger services on the Metropolitan line from Croxley to Watford will cease when the Croxley Rail Link opens in 2017; Watford Met station will close, although the short branch may remain in operation as a reversing siding. Following closure, the nearest station to Watford Met will be Cassiobridge, about 1.3 kilometres (0.8 mi) away. The plan to close the station has been the subject of some local opposition, and campaigners have argued for a reduced shuttle service to be operated on the branch.
Ending services on part of the line and closing a station require a formal closure process involving London TravelWatch. The London TravelWatch Board set up a Watford Station Closure Panel. The panel held a public meeting in Watford on 14 June 2012 to present arguments to TfL against the station closure.
A further proposal is to use the existing but seldom-used Metropolitan line chord which allows trains to run from Watford towards Amersham via Rickmansworth. In conjunction with the Croxley Rail Link, this route would allow direct services between Watford Junction and Amersham, thus improving local public transport in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
The proposal was included in a Greengauge 21 report 'Capturing the Benefits of HS2 on Existing Lines'. The report proposes that High Speed Two would increase capacity on the West Coast Mainline, increasing the benefits of an "Amersham Link" to the Croxley Link. These benefits would be further increased by the planned substantial increase in service to Watford Junction. It is claimed that this could support a new service from Aylesbury and other London to Aylesbury Line destinations to Watford Junction."
Although the name "Ascot Road" was initially chosen by consultants, many local people and councillors have said that the name does not reflect the area, and also that the name may get confused with Ascot in Berkshire. The name Cassiobridge has been suggested due to historical connections with the area and because of a bridge over the Grand Union Canal.
The proposed route runs close to the Watford Health Campus, a major new development of Watford General Hospital that will include a hotel and retail, business and residential developments. Promoters of this development believe that the new rail link will increase the need for public transport and will provide potential custom for new services, and the Health Campus project expresses support for the project on its website.
Watford High Street station
The route at Croxley Green station
An outside view of Watford tube station
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If the Croxley Rail link gets the go ahead from TfL and Hertfordshire County Council, direct services into Watford Junction from Amersham will be likely ...
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- "Transport Improvements". Watford Health Campus website. Archived from the original on 2009-12-16.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Croxley Rail Link.|
- "Croxley Rail Link Public Consultation website". Croxley Rail Link.
- "Croxley Rail Link". Transport for London. Retrieved 2014-10-19.
- "Croxley Link". Always Touch Out. 2006-08-29.
- "Google Maps". Google. diagram of the proposed link
- Carto.Metro map of the Croxley Rail Link
- "Disused Stations: Croxley Green". Subterranea Britannica. 2004-11-05. - photos of the disused line
- "London's Abandoned Stations - Croxley Green branch". Abandoned Stations.
- "An insight into the history of the branch line and its demise as well as photographs of the derelict line today". Underground History.
- "A Blog Containing up to date details on the progress of the Line". London Reconnections.