St Albans MP Anne Main held a meeting with local campaign group AbFly and rail minister Andrew Jones about the proposed passing loop for the Abbey Line between St Albans and Watford.
The current Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey line is a single-track railway with one train in operation that runs at a 45-minute frequency on Mondays to Saturdays and hourly on Sundays.
Mrs Main had requested the meeting after sending the rail minister a copy of the ‘Passing Loop Feasibility Study’ produced by the respected rail specialists, The Railway Consultancy.
The study – which was originally crowdfunded by Abbey Line users - has found a workable and cost- effective way to improve the service on the Abbey Line with a passing loop at Bricket Wood Station which would significantly increase the frequency of trains on the line.
Rail minister Andrew Jones praised the initiative of Abfly and local people in raising the money and commissioning such a valuable study. He recognised that leadership was required from the relevant authorities, particularly Hertfordshire County Council as local transport authority, and offered to help bring people together to push the project forward.
Further work was needed to make the business case and he hoped that early discussions could be held with Hertfordshire County Council, Network Rail and the train operator London Northwestern to take the project forward.
During the meeting, Mrs Main again raised concerns with the rail minister about the proposed Park Street Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).
An option included in the draft local plan for the site earmarked for the SRFI would instead build a new garden village which would include funds to build the passing loop on the Abbey Line.Following the meeting, Mrs Main said:
“I hope we are now making real progress with this. The rail minister was very supportive and his offer to help bring people together was encouraging. Local people have been pushing for this passing loop for years and the work that has gone into putting this study together is very impressive.
“As we look to the future, more homes are going to be built and that means more people. Improving connectivity between St Albans and Watford is going to be even more important and will be a major positive for the local economy. There are still some hurdles to jump but hopefully getting the minister’s support will open some doors for AbFly.
“A proposal for the Park Street Garden Village under the current draft local plan would deliver this passing loop and would build much-needed housing rather than the deeply unpopular and disruptive rail freight interchange. There is no doubt in my mind that the Park Street garden village is the best use of land for local people.”