St Albans MP and council leader to keep pushing for improvements on Abbey Flyer line

21 Jun 2022

The St Albans MP said that the Government’s rejection of the application for funding to create the passing loop – which would increase the number of trains per hour – is a move that shows the Conservative government is continuing to overlook Hertfordshire.

Currently, the Abbey Line has only one track, meaning that services can be infrequent and unreliable, leading it to be under-used.

In March 2021, Hertfordshire County Council, supported by Daisy Cooper MP and Watford MP Dean Russell, applied to the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme. The programme has pledged £500 million to reopening lines and stations across the country.

Since the bid was submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT), Daisy tabled three Parliamentary questions to chase the progress of the application. After the third, tabled on 14 June, a letter from the DfT on 17 June stated that the Abbey Line scheme had not been approved to move to the next stage in the programme.

Reasons given for the application being rejected, include that the application didn’t contain sufficient evidence of passenger demand to warrant the proposed increase in frequency, and that the location of the existing stations are considered to be on the "peripheries" of St Albans and Watford respectively.

Daisy has now written to the county council asking what further steps it will be taking to address the issues identified by the DfT, and to request a meeting with the council to discuss the next stage in progressing these improvements.

“I’ve been fighting for improvements to the Abbey Flyer Line since becoming elected, so this decision to reject what could be a critical piece of rail infrastructure is deeply disappointing. Once again, this Conservative Government is ignoring Hertfordshire’s needs,” said Daisy.

“However, if Herts County Council can gather more evidence to further define and clarify the issues, I’ll press for a meeting with the minister from the Department for Transport – to put our case forward again.

“I know that local residents in the villages that use the line, and the Abbey Flyer Users’ Group will be bitterly disappointed by the decision and the absurd suggestion that our villages “on the periphery” of the City don’t deserve a good rail service.  It was the Users Group that originally carried out a feasibility study that showed that it was viable to be able to reinstate the loop, which formed the basis of the bid. However, I’m sure they’ll keep pressing for action on this matter, as will I.”

Council leader Chris White added: “Hertfordshire suffers from a lack of sustainable transport links on east-west routes – and this improvement to the Abbey Line would go a long way in addressing this shortfall.

“The line is currently underused – which is understandable as now more than ever, commuters want and need flexibility. London commuters travelling back from Euston don’t want to worry having to wait at Watford Junction for around three quarters of an hour for the next Abbey Flyer train if their train into Watford was delayed by more than 10 minutes. A lack of uptake should be a reason for upgrading this line, not a reason against upgrading it.

“What’s more, the line provides a service to the villages and settlements that live along the line. For the DfT’s report to say that the Abbey Station is on the ‘periphery’ of the city does a great disservice to the people and businesses that reside in places such as Park Street and Bricket Wood. They need and deserve a regular, reliable line.”

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