I was delighted to attend today's announcement by my old friend Andrew Adonis at St Albans Abbey Station of plans to convert the existing Abbey Flyer rail service into a tram service instead. I know from my time working for Transport for London what the likely benefits will be. The long-awaited passing loops will be less expensive to instal because trams are lighter than trains. If we can get two passing loops rather than one, a twenty minute frequency could be on offer. Level crossings can be replaced quite safely with traffic lights, since trams are designed to share road space with cars. A ‘clock-face’ service where people know that a tram will arrive at their stop at set times after the hour will encourage passengers to turn up and go, thus increasing ridership.
In the longer term it is possible to imagine the lines being extended along existing streets into the centre of Watford and more challengingly up Holywell Hill into the centre of St Albans. In the short term, we must make sure that connecting bus services dovetail with the trams arriving at Abbey Station. Ensuring this development becomes part of an integrated public transport offer could have a dramatic payback in terms of reduced traffic congestion. PS I remember the squalor of St Albans Abbey Station back in the 1980s when there was a squalid graffiti-covered concrete shed for shelter. The new Abbey Station is a great improvement.