Croxley Rail Link

Croxley Rail Link

The Croxley Rail Link is a railway engineering proposal to re-route part of a London Underground line in Hertfordshire, outside London, UK. The project would divert Metropolitan Line Watford branch services east of Croxley station away from Watford station to Watford Junction via intermediate stations using a reopened section of presently disused track.

The driving force behind the scheme is Hertfordshire County Council, although it has the active support of Transport for London (TfL), the public body which owns the current Watford branch. The scheme might see the first appearance at the station in revenue service of LU surface stock, operating from Baker Street. The Proposed route was featured in a Transport for London network map for 2016

If the Croxley Rail Link is implemented, direct services into Watford Junction from Aylesbury would also be possible, linking the Chilterns to the commercial centre at Watford and providing transport connections at the Junction to the North and other destinations.

History

Despite its name, the present London Underground Watford station is in a somewhat peripheral location within the town of Watford, close to Cassiobury Park. Historically it was the Metropolitan Railway's intention to extend its Watford branch onwards into central Watford via a tunnel under Cassiobury Park. Watford Metropolitan Line station was constructed at a lower level in preparation for a cut-and-cover tunnel across the park. This plan was vetoed by the Earl of Essex, who objected to the ventilation shafts necessary for the steam trains of that era. The planned Watford Central station building on Watford High Street, opposite Clarendon Road, still exists as The Moon under Water Public House; this building was intended to be the booking hall for the station.

Also in the Watford area was a single-track British Rail branch line, which originally opened in 1912 as part of the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, ran from Watford Junction to Croxley Green. The line closed in 1996 due to low usage.

The two lines, though at their closest only about 200 metres apart, were never linked.

Funding

In 2005 Transport for London (TfL) tentatively committed to providing up to £18m of the total estimated costs of £65m for the project, predicting that the link would be operational by 2010. However, difficulties subsequently 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, citing revised costs of £95m. This was rejected in March on the basis that no guarantee of financial backing had been received from TfL.

The scheme took a major step forward in July 2008 when the East of England Regional Assembly declared it a "priority" among transport policies in the region and agreed to contribute £119.5m towards the estimated costs which were said to have risen to £150m. Hertfordshire County Council has also agreed to allocate £25.8m which it hopes to recover through ticket sales and other London Underground revenue. It is predicted that the link could be operational within seven years.

Proposed services

If the Croxley Rail Link goes ahead, it would require the construction of the "missing link" between the existing Metropolitan Line and the former British Rail branch line to Watford Junction at their closest point.

Route

Under current (2008) proposals, the link would begin at a new junction near Baldwins Lane, about a kilometre north-east of Croxley station, and be carried via a new viaduct and bridge over the Watford Road dual carriageway and the Grand Union Canal. This would then join onto the former British Rail line; new track would be laid on the disused trackbed and the line would be widened from single track to double track up to Watford High Street station.

Stations

The proposals also detail the addition of two intermediate stations to the line - one reopened station and one new construction. The existing but closed Croxley Green station would be replaced by a new Ascot Road station close by. Watford West station would be rebuilt and refurbished as a London Underground station and reopened.

Watford Stadium Halt station would remain closed, and presumably partly demolished to facilitate the track doubling.

A London Underground terminus at Watford Junction would provide an alternative Metropolitan Line route from Watford Junction and Watford High Street into Central London and direct services from other stations in southern Watford. Among other benefits this would facilitate interchange at Watford Junction with London Overground services into Euston and with direct National Rail services to the Midlands, North West England and Gatwick Airport.

It is likely that the present Watford Metropolitan line station would close as a result of the diversion of the line.

Proposals have been put forward for the disused Watford Stadium Halt to be re-opened, either in addition to or as an alternative to re-opening Watford West station. The station is close to Watford Stadium, the home of Watford F.C., and the future site of the Watford Health Campus, a major new development of Watford General Hospital.

The Watford Friends of the Earth have claimed:

"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:

Station Status notes
Watford Junction existing
Watford High Street existing
Watford West refurbished and re-opened
Watford Stadium remaining closed Area to be served by new exit from Watford West Station
Ascot Road new construction
Croxley Green remaining closed Area to be served by new Ascot Road tube station
Croxley existing

Aylesbury link

A further proposal is to use an existing but seldom-used chord towards Aylesbury via Rickmansworth and Amersham which would allow direct services from central Watford, thus improving local public transport in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Under this proposal, Aylesbury trains would run along an existing viaduct which connects Rickmansworth to the Watford branch of the Metropolitan Line south of Croxley; from there, services would continue along the proposed new viaduct to the Croxley Branch Line and on to Watford Junction.

This proposal has no official public support, but it was included in a tube map designed for internal planning purposes by London Regional Transport in 1994.

Redevelopment

The proposed route of the Croxley Rail Link runs close to the Watford Health Campus, a major new development of Watford General Hospital which will also include a hotel, retail, business and residential developments. It is believed that this development will increase the need for public transport and will provide potential custom for Croxley Rail Link services.

Watford Health Campus

The new Health Campus, when built, will bring new services for the local area. The benefit of these services would be boosted by the re-opening of the Croxley Green Branch Line. According to the Health Campus Website:
"A new acute hospital for West Herts with 510 beds costing around £320 million to replace the existing Watford General Hospital, New housing for key workers, A greener, cleaner environment for west Watford, New opportunities for businesses and employment, Establishment of a new value-added knowledge based industry in West Watford, An improved and enhanced stadium for Watford FC, New public realm and community facilities, 300 new homes, including homes for health and key workers, New business, leisure and recreation premises, An enhanced stadium for Watford FC, Space for new and expanding businesses, especially those linked to healthcare delivery, Hotel, leisure and hospitality services linked to a redeveloped stadium, A new combined heat and power plant."
This would benefit West Hertfordshire, as well as the residents of West Watford. The Croxley Rail Link would compliment the Health Campus as it would allow people to travel to and from the campus without a car. The Health Campus would help the case for the Rail Link as it will mean increased support and potential custom for the Croxley Rail Link.

Currently there are no plans for a station at the Health Campus as it will be served by an exit from Watford West, However there is scope for a station in the Health Campus as the line passes very closely to the area set for redevelopment.

In a planning brief for the Health Campus, It is stated:

"We also believe the granting of this permission will further support the case for the Croxley Rail Link which would enable many of our staff, and visitors to come to the hospital by rail

Watford Junction

Watford Junction is set for huge redevelopment over the next few years. The land, which is behind the station and in between the industrial estates on Imperial Way, Reeds Crescent and the main railway tracks, currently houses a concrete batching plant. The architects charged with developing the area promised a "high quality design" and said the land could accommodate up to 1,400 flats and houses, as well as shops and offices, restaurants and a hotel. Another central feature of the development could include a "landmark tower" and a new road, linking St Albans Road and Colonial Way. The road would cross the tracks and then run through the Homebase and TK Maxx shopping centre. The developments include a new link road from Colonial Way, over the branch line to St Albans Abbey, to St Albans Road, new access to allow people to reach the station its eastern side with a major expansion of car parking capacity to the east of the main line. There would also be improved bus and taxi facilities at both station entrances.

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