Lines under threat: Will the ‘Flyer’ be grounded?

Opposition to converting the semi-rural Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey line into a guided busway is mounting. Peter Brown takes a look at the proposals.

The name of ‘The Abbey Flyer’ sounds rather like a title for a comedy film on the lines of something similar to The Titfield Thunderbolt.

Until the recent replacement by Class 319s, Class 321 EMUs ran on the Abbey Line. Here, No. 321417 pulls into Bricket Wood station with a London Midland service to Watford Junction.

However, in reality, this is no laughing matter as the future of a vital 6½-mile community branch line running through Hertfordshire could well be under threat, with a consultation currently taking place; one of the options is to rip up the tracks to convert the route into a guided busway.

This uncertainty hanging over the route of the 16-minute journey between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction is nothing new.

Many residents have seen similar stories in local newspapers for years, talking of the service being reduced or axed, which is certainly a long way from when it was opened by the London & North Western Railway as a bustling line on May 5, 1858.

These days, however, it is just a single track, and when the London Midland-operated
Class 319 EMU leaves Watford Junction it enters a world of bygone years in some places as it makes its way to the stations of Watford North, Garston, Bricket Wood and How Wood, before arriving at its destination.

The latest fears about the route stem from Hertfordshire County Council’s Transport Vision 2050, a public consultation on a new local transport plan, which ends on December 14.

Read more in December’s issue of The RM

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