Today, we are left with the most basic of ‘basic railways’. It hasn’t all been bad news though; since 1965, new stations have been opened at Garston and How Wood, and in 1987-88 the branch was electrified. In the late 90’s, after a fierce battle to block the conversion of the line to a proposed ‘guided-busway’ system, a public consultation exercise resulted in resounding support for keeping the Abbey Line as a railway and a strategy that builds on its strengths as a local transport link.
With that in mind, July 2005 marked the designation of the branch as a ‘Community Railway’ under the government’s ‘Community Rail Development Strategy’, launched in 2004. Integral to designation was the inauguration of a Community Rail Partnership (CRP), set up by Herts County Council. Since this, various improvements have taken place to the fabric of the line, including the installation of a real-time passenger information system, the replacement of the level crossing at Watford North, and king of them all – the total refurbishment of St Albans Abbey station, such that it is now a tidy, modern, fully accessible station as befitting the 21st railway.
Long may the Abbey Line prosper!
St Albans Abbey station today. The station was given a new lease of life between 2008-10 when significant improvements were undertaken, in a joint venture between London Midland, the train operator, and the Community Rail Partnership. Improvements included a new passenger shelter, bicycle shelter, ticket machine, CCTV, signage, fencing, resurfacing and remarking of the car park, a new footpath, and finally a special ‘hump’ was installed at one end of the platform to reduce the stepping distance between the train and the platform. All of these improvements make for a much safer, friendlier and more welcoming station than the one pictured in 1983!
I am strongly indebted to S.C. Jenkins (author) and the Oakwood Press (publisher) for information and photographs taken from their book, “The Watford to St Albans Branch”, the only comprehensive history of the branch ever written.
May 5th 2008 marked the 150th anniversary of the line, and a number of commemorative events took place on the bank holiday weekend. As part of these celebrations, the book was reprinted and updated. See our Oakwood Press page for more details.
Other photos credited here include (numbered from the top of this page):
1) Watford Junction, Ben Collins.
3) Bricket Wood, Ben Brooksbank.
4) Watford North, Oakwood Press.
5) St Albans Abbey, H.C. Casserley.
6) St Albans Abbey, Rudi Newman.