Article date 20 January 2010
Revised 14 January 2015
This article provides a generic discussion of possible new lines in the vicinity of St Albans. It was written prior to our proposal for a railway line via Watford, St Albans and Hatfield to Welwyn. This article originated as a review of local options in the St Albans area as regards a London Rail Orbital (article : London Orbital Services ). Therefore some of this article is of historical interest only.
The plan shows the route of a possible new east west Orbital railway line north of Watford and south of St Albans to the line between Gordon Hill and Hertford North. Also shown is a possible new extension to the Abbey line (that is, the line from Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey) in the immediate area of St Albans, with a new station St Albans Camp Road. New lines are coloured in orange. Existing lines are coloured in brown.
We are (or were) wishing to propose that this new east west Orbital railway line could form a High Speed 2 to High Speed 1 east west link line to the vicinity of Stratford or further east.
There are a number of distinct possibilities regarding the physical location of this proposed east west Orbital railway line.
(Option 1) A southerly option could cross the Abbey line north of Garston station, run eastwards south of the M25, joining the Hertford loop (that is, the loop through Hertford North off the East Coast Main Line) in the vicinity of Gordon Hill.
(Option 2) A slightly more northerly option might cross the Abbey line north of Bricket Wood, crossing the Midland Main Line at London Colney then run eastwards north of the M25.
(Option 3) A third, yet more northerly, option might make use of the line marked as a Local Line Extension on the above plan, i.e. a possible new extension to the Abbey line, pass through a new station St Albans Camp Road, then continue (not shown) via Hatfield, then join the Hertford loop in the vicinity of Hertford North.
If the Orbital railway line were to be used for an HS2 HS1 east west link line to the vicinity of Stratford or further east, the available options are restricted. The third option above would not be appropriate since it runs through the southern extremity of St Albans, whereas we would be expecting such a line to be as suitable as possible for reasonable speeds.
Since writing this article, we have introduced our proposal for a railway line via Watford, St Albans and Hatfield to Welwyn (article : Watford and St Albans to Welwyn and Hertford ), which is effectively the third of these options. Any HS2 HS1 east west link line to the vicinity of Stratford or further east would be a separate line. We have now proposed a shorter HS2 HS1 link line by means of St Pancras (note 12) and which represents our latest thinking, an east-west line continuing further eastwards from this point being considered by ourselves as a future possibility.
Some of the notes below are purely historical.
Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 166 Luton & Hertford covers the entire area of our plan and is useful when planning possible routes.
- MM-I is a passenger interchange station between the Orbital and the Midland Main Line. Potentially, this might be at
London Colney, where an additional stop on the Midland Main Line is considered to be a possibility. The exact location
of MM-I depends on the route selected for the Orbital.
ECML-I is a passenger interchange station between the Orbital and the East Coast Main Line. The exact location of ECML-I depends on the route selected for the Orbital.
If the Orbital line is in fact utilised purely as a link between the High Speed 2 and High Speed 1 lines, neither of these interchange stations would be constructed.
- The Orbital may connect west-to-north to the East Coast Main Line also to the Hertford loop.
- The Orbital may connect west-to-south to Gordon Hill. This gives access to Kings Cross.
- St Albans Camp Road is a hypothesised new station potentially acting as a station for a local stopping service
St Albans Camp Road is in reasonably convenient walking distance of St Albans City centre without having to climb Holywell Hill and is probably located to the east of Camp Road.
Our proposal for a railway line via Watford, St Albans and Hatfield to Welwyn replaces the proposed railway station at St Albans Camp Road with a railway station St Albans London Road. This is because there used to be a railway station at St Albans London Road, also because it dovetails in with the Euston to St Albans shuttle service incorporated as part of the proposed line to Welwyn.
- City station link between the local railway line and the Midland Main Line. The land for this link has been sold for housing. The link could (have) provide(d) limited access between Watford and the Midland Main Line by means of a change of direction at St Albans Camp Road, where sufficient platforms would (have) be(en) required. Effectively replaced by note 10 below.
- Link between the local railway line and the Midland Main Line, providing limited access to and from the
Midland Main Line. The link would run to/from the nominally fast lines of the Midland Main Line, being a pair of lines on
the west of the slow lines, although these lines are demonstrably not necessarily fast-running in the vicinity of St
This link is incorporated into our proposal for a railway line via Watford, St Albans and Hatfield to Welwyn, to be now known as the "Saints link" in our article Options for railway lines in the St Albans area .
- The facility to by-pass St Albans Abbey station would require replacement of the nearby Cotton Mill Road bridge (not shown - the alignment of the replacement bridge could also be better suited to road users.) We currently assume that the radius of the curve on the by-pass line would be too small, that is, that the by-pass would not be operationally feasible, until such time as proven otherwise. However it might be of use for light rail.
- Apsley link, a link from the West Coast Main Line onto an east-west line. Such a link would form part of a link line from High Speed 2 to High Speed 1, in which case it might cross the West Coast Main Line rather than join it. Further details are to be found in the article : Introduction to an HS2 HS1 link via east west rail.
- Chord from an Apsley link towards Watford Junction. Not thought to be likely. Potentially useful for conventional rail services if a North West London Parkway station were to be located on the HS2 HS1 east west rail link on the north side of M25 junction 21A, although a station in such a location is an option we no longer wish to propose (our proposal being a rail interchange station in the vicinity of Aylesbury on the HS2 line and named Aylesbury Interchange). Related article : Relationship between North West London Parkway and Aylesbury Interchange .
- Connecting line from St Albans (City) on the Midland Main Line via the Abbey line to Watford.
- If the Orbital line is in fact utilised purely as a link between the High Speed 2 and High Speed 1 lines, there would be no anticipated need of a connection onto the line from the Abbey line.
- Chord for services from the proposed Aylesbury International (AI) on High Speed 2 to St Pancras International,
also potentially useful for domestic services.
In August 2011, it occurred to us that a connecting line from St Albans (City) on the Midland Main Line via the Abbey line to Watford offers the prospect of freeing up paths (space/time slots) on the Midland Main Line on approach to St Pancras i.e. by re-routing services on the Midland Main Line to Euston station (extended as part of HS2 proposals) in place of St Pancras. (There would be no direct effect on Thameslink services, which would continue to run via St Pancras). A route via the Abbey line would not be suitable for express services, alternatives including Bedford to Bletchley might be more suitable. By whatever means this might be achieved, we have the potential to enable international services from High Speed 2 via the Midland Main Line to St Pancras International for connection onto the High Speed 1 line to continental Europe. Hence the chord has changed colour to become red dashes.
- To provide a route to Stansted Airport and Cambridge, the Orbital may include a link line runnning eastwards to join the line from Seven Sisters to Cheshunt, probably in the vicinity of Waltham Cross. Such a link line running eastwards would certainly form part of any link line from High Speed 2 to High Speed 1 via Stratford or further east. An article with a plan showing this link line further to the east is available at Hertford to Stansted Airport and Barking (with plan).
Our proposal for Aylesbury Interchange (AI) radically changes our thinking and the proposal for a complete London Rail Orbital no longer forms part of our thinking.
However, this article outlines an Orbital route from Watford Junction to the line between Hertford North and Gordon Hill, being also an HS2 HS1 east west link. If this were to be implemented, we find that we have the potential for a complete Orbital railway around London.
In outline, the route is Guildford, Woking, Virginia Water, Staines to Heathrow by means of the BAA Airtrack proposal, then onto the spur northwards from Heathrow proposed as part of the High Speed 2 railway, making use of this to Aylesbury Interchange (AI), then, by change of direction, onto the proposed east west link from HS2 to HS1, to Gordon Hill then following a route to Guildford as originally proposed in our article London Orbital Services. Change of direction at AI could be avoided by using an Aylesbury by-pass to Rickmansworth then via the Croxley Rail link and, if a crossing of the WCML at Watford Junction were to be provided, onto the Abbey line towards St Albans and a chord (note 11) onto the HS2 HS1 east west link to Gordon Hill, thence to Guildford.
Another Orbital route is Guildford, Reading, AI, onto the HS2 to HS1 east west link then as above to Guildford.
The provision of an HS2 HS1 link line to St Pancras (note 12) also provides us with the potential for a complete Orbital railway around London. Instead of connecting onto HS1 to run via Ebbsfleet International, then turning off for Gravesend and onwards to Guildford, the route is St Pancras (change of direction), Stratford International, Ebbsfleet International then turning off for Gravesend and onwards to Guildford.
This section is included for completeness. We are no longer specifically advocating a complete Orbital railway around London.
The observant will note that some railway stations are omitted from the plan.
Rumours that missing railway stations are to be sold off to pay for a Christmas party are unfounded.
(Exercise for the reader : what sort of Christmas party would that be?)
Omitted railway stations reflect different possibilities concerning the physical location of the proposed Orbital railway in relation to existing railway stations.
Omitted railway stations are as follows:
Bricket Wood, How Wood, Park Street. On the Abbey line, that is, the line from Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey. It is unclear at what point the Orbital would cross the Abbey line. If Watford is to be connected to this Orbital, it should be noted that at least this part of the Abbey line from Watford Junction would become dual track.
Radlett. On the Midland Main Line. The location of the passenger interchange MM-I in relation to Radlett is unknown.
Hadley Wood, Potters Bar, Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Hatfield. On the East Coast Main Line. The location of the passenger interchange ECML-I in relation to these stations is unknown.
Crews Hill, Cuffley, Bayford. On the Hertford loop which is a loop through Hertford North off the East Coast Main Line. The location where the Orbital meets the Hertford loop is unknown, expected to be somewhere between Gordon Hill and Hertford North.
By way of reminder, some of this article is of historical interest. Other articles should be consulted for our latest thinking.