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Old October 9th, 2010, 12:33 PM   #41
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Overall, I find this a good idea. Although I don't live in the area, I have family in this region so visit quite a lot and I can certainly see advantages in improving this link. For a branch line like this, converting to trams would offer many advantages.

The advantages though, besides a small increase in frequency, will not amount to much unless street extensions on both sides are added. In St Albans, this may run a route through the town center and maybe to St Albans station and in Watford I would imagine at the very least to the town center.

Without this, it is nowhere near as practical.

Likewise, any public transport with a service less than four an hour is rather pointless in my opinion. If you miss a service, waiting anything longer than 15minutes distracts so many potential passengers.

Still, it's a start in the right direction.
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Old October 9th, 2010, 01:27 PM   #42
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Hopefully this is just a start, if they look at light weight tram construction hopefully extensions could be added to each end. Then with more double tracking frequency can be increased.

An extension to Watford Town centre could be tricky as they would have get over the mainline tracks. The quicker route is direct over the station and down to Clarendon road, but that would be expensive and quite intrusive. The slower route would be divert via St Albans Road and then back to Station road and then Clarendon road, slower but much cheaper!

A few more stations would also improve the catchment.

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Old October 9th, 2010, 01:56 PM   #43
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I live in the area, and I still think this is a foolish step. There is ample bus provision between the top end of the town centre and the station, not to mention the existing line to Watford High Street down to the bottom end of town. An increase of the frequency of that, coupled with a direct through rail link would be far preferable to a on-road extension of the tram, if for no other reason than the road network into town is all one-way...so how you would fit a bidirectional tram route on there without ballsing it and the ring road all up is a bit of a mystery. Additionally, if you were to bridge the mainline rather than run down St Albans Road you may as well do so for the existing heavy rail service and integrate it with LO, removing the stock burden from the mainline franchise and probably making the investment of improved track justifiable. As Watford Junction is such a major interchange, the switchover back to OHLE from DC wouldn't even be too much of a problem as the LO units are all dual-voltage, meaning you wouldn't even have to worry about converting it to 3rd rail. Enabling Chiltern to access St. Albans via the Croxley link is a significant enough benefit to be considered as well.

Anyway.

All the line needs is a more frequent, regular service. A 15-minute frequency, and running as late as the tubes to get people back from Watford/St. Albans from a night out. That means all it needs is a couple of loops (+signalling), and a couple more trains. As long as the trams don't prevent the reversion to heavy rail once the patronage inevitably picks up once those are achieved by the interim tram solution, it needs to go back to heavy rail. I suspect the powers that be will see it as the success of the tram though, and not the improved service levels....and will probably want to decimate more of the country's surviving network by converting it to trams to save a few pennies.
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Old October 9th, 2010, 02:40 PM   #44
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But if the tram is significantly cheaper than a train service then why not run it as a tram and have a better service for the same money. Looking a google maps Clarendon road in Watford is two way and is not a main road.You could have a stop right next to the Pedestrianised high street. Any extensions will be for the future an will depend on traffic levels.

With the pressure on the mainline it is extremely unlikely there would be through running on Branch lines, besides running short trains on the mainline is a waste of a pathway.
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Old October 10th, 2010, 11:49 PM   #45
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But if the tram is significantly cheaper than a train service then why not run it as a tram and have a better service for the same money. Looking a google maps Clarendon road in Watford is two way and is not a main road.You could have a stop right next to the Pedestrianised high street. Any extensions will be for the future an will depend on traffic levels.
Sorry, yes, Clarendon Road is normal, but the ring road and actual bit through town is one way (on a tangent, that bit of town is where the extension of the tramway from Edgware was going to terminate before the residents of Stanmore kicked up enough of a fuss to keep those nasty Londoners confined to Edgware...until the Met built a branch to Stanmore directly )

The problem with running it as a tramway means no interoperating with normal trains. Trams also tends to have slower services as the stops are more frequent...(I suspect once the tram starts running the pressure will begin to add more stops, slowing the service down more and more). The current end-to-end timings are competitive...slowing it down will just kill it's appeal off. If anything, I think an occasional fast service might be attractive; I suspect a train could get end to end in about 10 minutes.

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With the pressure on the mainline it is extremely unlikely there would be through running on Branch lines, besides running short trains on the mainline is a waste of a pathway.
...but there's no pressure on the DC lines/Croxley Link, which I advocate linking it to (though I acknowledge that I can see some limited merit in extending the existing Watford AC shuttles to it).There's nothing stopping a 8 car train splitting/joining at Watford Junction....or throwing some cheap wooden platform extensions along the abbey line.
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Old October 16th, 2010, 05:46 PM   #46
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A few points.

Attaining a 10-minute service frequency on the Abbey Branch will be far cheaper with light rail than heavy rail, because (provided the Act is suitably sorted out) the LRVs can run line of sight with spring points and simple points indicators (virtually zero signalling costs) whereas heavy rail will need TPWS, points machines, etc. at every loop (you'll need two to run a robust 10-minute interval service.

Changing the service frequency for heavy rail will also trigger issues at one or more of the four level crossings (due to increased rail traffic = increased risk) whereas for light rail 90% of level crossing issues just aren't relevant.

LRVs accelerate faster and tend to have more doors than whatever secondhand shed is currently in use down there, so more frequent stops doesn't necessarily mean worsened end to end journey times. The theoretical running time now (with 30s station dwells) is about 18 minutes 20s for 6.5 miles: hardly screaming along.

And you can interoperate light and heavy rail, but the result tends to look suspiciosly like a heavy rail line with trams on it...

Lastly, how do you propose to get an Abbey Line train across Watford South Junction to the DC lines? Across the raging crocodile-infested torrent that is the southern end of the WCML? Somehow I don't think you'll get a path to set back into platform 6 ...
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Old October 16th, 2010, 11:18 PM   #47
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A few points.
Always happy to get a conversation going

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Attaining a 10-minute service frequency on the Abbey Branch will be far cheaper with light rail than heavy rail, because (provided the Act is suitably sorted out) the LRVs can run line of sight with spring points and simple points indicators (virtually zero signalling costs) whereas heavy rail will need TPWS, points machines, etc. at every loop (you'll need two to run a robust 10-minute interval service.
Indeed, but I think the benefit of a through service mitigates the potential penny-pinching possible.

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Changing the service frequency for heavy rail will also trigger issues at one or more of the four level crossings (due to increased rail traffic = increased risk) whereas for light rail 90% of level crossing issues just aren't relevant.
First up, there's only one level crossing, next to Watford North station. In an ideal world, I'd prefer to see it removed and a bridge build in it's place (either way around), but realistically, unless the whole line was to get doubled it isn't going to happen. Even then the station master's house will have to be demolished and I imagine they'd just stick the new platform on the other side of the crossing to maximise the time it can spend open.

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LRVs accelerate faster and tend to have more doors than whatever secondhand shed is currently in use down there, so more frequent stops doesn't necessarily mean worsened end to end journey times. The theoretical running time now (with 30s station dwells) is about 18 minutes 20s for 6.5 miles: hardly screaming along.
Potentially, maybe. I take the time as 16 minutes, (first train from Watford leaves at 5:57 and gets in at 6:13). It's about 18 minutes to go a comparable number of stations on the DC lines and no-one's suggesting they be converted to trams. The branch used to have a Silverlink Metro unit operate the service before the franchise split between London Midland and LO. A pair of LO units would be just the ticket for a more frequent service.

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And you can interoperate light and heavy rail, but the result tends to look suspiciosly like a heavy rail line with trams on it...
Quite. My concern is as you say, that they use cheaper pointwork and signalling that precludes heavy rail operation. In the grander scheme of things I want to see the line diverted from the Abbey Station and linked to the Midland slows, giving a freight route to the WCML slows from the Midland lines without having to run via West Hampstead onto the Goblin, then reversing and running via the NLL to Willesden before getting onto the slow lines. Watford yard would be able to offer the loops the freights would need before taking up their paths south on the WCML. I also want to move St. Albans Station south to London road with an interchange between the two lines, but that's something else entirely.

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Lastly, how do you propose to get an Abbey Line train across Watford South Junction to the DC lines? Across the raging crocodile-infested torrent that is the southern end of the WCML? Somehow I don't think you'll get a path to set back into platform 6 ...
Well, the plan has always been either a flyover or flyunder. :p Never an at-grade crossing (which already exists, btw).

A flyover was dismissed years ago as too visually intrusive, and a flyunder has the problem of orphanage road running just under the lines just south of the station to deal with. I propose a flyunder starting immediately south of said road, diving under the WCML (using some of the telephone exchange car park as needed), then rising between/alongside the DC lines just south of the former DC stabling point between the DC lines and the WCML proper to make it over Radlett Road.

Alternatively, you leave the line in tunnel and go under Orphanage Road, and have underground platforms at Watford Junction. This has the added benefit of releasing the land occupied by platform 11 (and potentially the entire yard if you're not concerned about maintaining a link to the slow lines at all)) and can then run closer to (or underneath) the main platforms (as platform 10 is and the original platform 11 did). Lifts and stairs down from the existing subway would be in order, I imagine.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 12:21 AM   #48
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According to Wikipedia, the St Albans Abbey service was previously run by Silverlink County, not Metro.

This would explain why it's part of London Midland.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 08:49 AM   #49
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I think the important question here is what can be got for the cost? By the looks of it, this has always been a branch line and has never had through services. There must be a reason for that. John Locke has given very good reasons why the tram will be cheaper. Mr JRT dismisses all objections on the grounds he'd prefer more money spent on through services no matter what the cost. The problem is cost benefit is always going to determine what happens here. Currently the line has had service just on 45 minutes intervals. That does not suggest that there is enough traffic for direct London services. If the low cost tram service allows 30 minutes or even 20 minute intervals for similar cost then that surely has to better. If traffic increases enough then there may be an extension into each town centre. But considering this is Britain the likely-hood of that is low.

There is never going to be any heavy spending on this line so any extensions will need to be cheap and be able to use existing infrastructure, so therefore trams it is.

If this proves a success then other branch lines maybe converted.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 01:56 PM   #50
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According to Wikipedia, the St Albans Abbey service was previously run by Silverlink County, not Metro.

This would explain why it's part of London Midland.
Yup, but as Silverlink ran both franchises, they used their metro stock from the DC lines on the branch most of the time.

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I think the important question here is what can be got for the cost? By the looks of it, this has always been a branch line and has never had through services. There must be a reason for that. John Locke has given very good reasons why the tram will be cheaper. Mr JRT dismisses all objections on the grounds he'd prefer more money spent on through services no matter what the cost. The problem is cost benefit is always going to determine what happens here. Currently the line has had service just on 45 minutes intervals. That does not suggest that there is enough traffic for direct London services. If the low cost tram service allows 30 minutes or even 20 minute intervals for similar cost then that surely has to better. If traffic increases enough then there may be an extension into each town centre. But considering this is Britain the likely-hood of that is low.

There is never going to be any heavy spending on this line so any extensions will need to be cheap and be able to use existing infrastructure, so therefore trams it is.

If this proves a success then other branch lines maybe converted.
I wouldn't say I dismissed them at all. His points are perfectly valid, and well-grounded in realism. The tram is unfortunately what's happening instead of more strategic thinking, so we'll have to make do.

I'm merely pointing out that once you have the diveunder, you can run through trains from Watford High St, be they LO 378s, Chiltern 165/168s, or with the electrification converted to 3rd rail, Bakerloo or Met trains. Removing the need for dedicated stock means reduced costs and increased operational flexibility, which could then be used to fund the higher-grade of infrastructure required for heavy rail operation.

I'm sure the objectors to some of the Beeching closures were told that if they were needed lines would be reinstated, shortly followed by housing estates being built on the trackbeds. Once the line is converted to trams in a way that precludes heavy rail, that will be it in almost certainty, it'll never go back.

It all just seems such a waste.

All the initial funding required for a depot, new stock, and then the actual infrastructure improvements, then any potential on-street extensions....when all you need to do is invest now in the points and signalling for heavy rail-grade loop(s) and you don't need *any* of those at all!

...and the branch did use to have through services, abet on the slow lines. The lines feeding platforms 10 and the old 11 (what is now the platform 10 bay) continued around through what is now the car park (and was once Watford's loco depot), and then ran along the branch line. Hence the suggestion to run the new shuttle services that terminate at Watford Junction through onto the branch from the new 11.

The 42 minute frequency is not because there isn't demand, far from it, it's because the branch is operated under the "one engine in steam" rule, which requires little to no signalling. 42 minutes is how long it takes the train to go both ways (16 + 16), with 5 minutes of recovery time at each end. The whole point of improving the service on the line is that more people would think it a viable option it if it ran to a regular clock face timetable, especially one that could be synchronised with the services calling at Watford Junction.

That requires a loop at Bricket Wood for a half hour frequency, and another train at the very least. This way, the frequency becomes 16+5 = potentially every 21 minutes, giving 9 minutes wiggle room (aka, a half hour frequency) for both aligning to mainline services and waiting at the loop for the other train to clear the line. A 15 or 20 minute frequency would need yet another train, with the loops at How Wood and Watford North instead of Bricket Wood. At which point the costs of the signalling for all those loop points makes me wonder if having plain double track from Watford North to How Wood mightn't be cheaper.
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Old October 17th, 2010, 03:25 PM   #51
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The name's Joseph, not John (bloody Lost has a lot to answer for).
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First up, there's only one level crossing, next to Watford North station.
Curse the Quail, the Sectional Appendix agrees with you.
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I take the time as 16 minutes, (first train from Watford leaves at 5:57 and gets in at 6:13). It's about 18 minutes to go a comparable number of stations on the DC lines and no-one's suggesting they be converted to trams.
My modelling sheet is set to a Class 150, so I can believe it. I think the driver is probably long term operating cost, not performance, with the added possiblity of a town centre extension and the St Albans end.
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In the grander scheme of things I want to see the line diverted from the Abbey Station and linked to the Midland slows, giving a freight route to the WCML slows from the Midland lines without having to run via West Hampstead onto the Goblin, then reversing and running via the NLL to Willesden before getting onto the slow lines. Watford yard would be able to offer the loops the freights would need before taking up their paths south on the WCML. I also want to move St. Albans Station south to London road with an interchange between the two lines, but that's something else entirely.
It's good to have a dream If someone would put 10,000V up East-West Rail then you could divert your WCML - Southampton containers that way instead and help their business case no end...
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Well, the plan has always been either a flyover or flyunder. :p Never an at-grade crossing (which already exists, btw)..
An at-grade route Abbey Line to DC lines at or near Watford isn't on the current Sectional Appendix (last updated 27 May 2009), and the set back move has gone too.

I never heard about a grade seperated crossing in my time down there and in these Enlightened Times, value for money is the Mistress we all have to bow before and be judged. A tunnel under Watford South to allow through running DC to Abbey Line does not strike me as having a benefit / cost ratio in excess of 2.0, though I do like surprises.

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A flyover was dismissed years ago as too visually intrusive, and a flyunder has the problem of orphanage road running just under the lines just south of the station to deal with.
Ditto.
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His points are perfectly valid, and well-grounded in realism.
I'd use that in a brochure if I could, ta!
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The tram is unfortunately what's happening instead of more strategic thinking, so we'll have to make do.
Do I infer correctly that the St. Albans Tram Train Plan has actually started to happen? I didn't think Network Rail had sorted all the issues with Rotherham yet?

I wholly agree about the B&Q effect (as we know it from work in the NW) where old track beds get built on. There are two very very good re-openings that would require a route through developments only 15 years old.
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At which point the costs of the signalling for all those loop points makes me wonder if having plain double track from Watford North to How Wood mightn't be cheaper.
Quite possibly, but that still leaves the end as OTW and you'll need two turnouts somewhere - still some signalling work to do.
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Old December 13th, 2010, 10:10 PM   #52
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Just a random thought. How about gmpte flogs the 6 t68a's to HCC!!! And then gmpte could tack on an extra 6 m5000 to the existing order.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 05:54 PM   #53
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Just a random thought. How about gmpte flogs the 6 t68a's to HCC!!! And then gmpte could tack on an extra 6 m5000 to the existing order.
"For auction, six high-mileage t68a trams, new floors, one owner from new, 100's of less than careful drivers, buyer collect"

I think you might get enouigh for one m5000 .... door.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 09:26 PM   #54
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I would say they could use Midlands T69's due to be retired but they are low floor. Will be interesting to see what they dig up from the continent on the cheap. Though two train manufacturers are bidding so they may intend to build their own at cost.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 10:21 PM   #55
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Will the scheme be high-floor (a la Metrolink) or low-floor (a la Tramlink) where the track was raised through ex-railway stops?

NS has some low-floor vehicles knocking about after the Gouda tram-train trial, IIRC.
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Old December 14th, 2010, 11:11 PM   #56
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High floor (So I guess this makes it only the second UK high floor tram system), like Metrolink minimal conversion of the rail line, just some resignalling and adding a passing loop. The original brief hinted heavily at cheap second hand continental vehicles. The contracts a design, build, operate concession for x years with the local council retaining ownership when the franchise ends. Dft will finance it by providing upfront the same funds they would have provided in subsidy to operate the rail line over x years. There is also scope in the contract for the operator to invest privately in expanding the network with street running, though this is unlikely in the short-mid term. Existing rail franchise doesnt mind as they have a loss making franchise service obligation removed.

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Old February 15th, 2011, 09:29 AM   #57
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Railway Herald are reporting that a £300,000 programme to upgrade electronic information screens and platformme announcement equipment is being installed along the Abbey Line. It is being funded by rail operator London Midland. The scheme is part of the Quality Rail Partnership with Hertfordshire CC.

So much for the tram-train proposed for this line. Or is it?
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Old February 15th, 2011, 10:49 AM   #58
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Railway Herald are reporting that a £300,000 programme to upgrade electronic information screens and platformme announcement equipment is being installed along the Abbey Line. It is being funded by rail operator London Midland. The scheme is part of the Quality Rail Partnership with Hertfordshire CC.

So much for the tram-train proposed for this line. Or is it?
I saw that article and was equally a bit baffled by it... Not even a mention of future conversion to tram/train.

The improvements could just as easily be of use if converted though, but it seems odd to invest in a branch line that might be about to leave the NR network.
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Old February 15th, 2011, 01:29 PM   #59
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I checked the Herts CC cabinet papers, a report in this month:
http://www.hertsdirect.org/mm/156475...tran080211.doc

£65,000 to be spent on St Albans line CRP in the 2011/12 budget and this explanatory note.

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5.4 Abbey Line
Ongoing funding is required to support the Community Rail Partnership and related activity, pending the proposed conversion to tram operation.
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Old September 27th, 2011, 09:41 PM   #60
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So is this still going ahead? All seems to have gone quiet! Any updates from any of you southerners? Or northerners??

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