There is no current update on the Metropolitan Line Extension.
If the rail link is built, it will be a fast way into and out of Watford town centre, and to the major rail routes to Birmingham and the Midlands. It will also stick an unsightly concrete viaduct across the eastern entrance to the village.
The issues – money
So far it is stalled through lack of money. The issue is the viaduct intended to be built across the bottom of Baldwins Lane, Watford Road, the playground and the canal to join up with the disused branch line. The budget agreed in previous years included provision for the viaduct, and the viaduct was designed in detail, but no contractor has been found who is able to built it properly for the budgeted price.
Ominously, Transport for London appear to have scrubbed their web pages for the Metropolitan Line Extension.
The initial work that was done at the bottom of Baldwins Lane was not wasted: this was work to move the pipes and cables that ran beneath where the pillars of the viaduct will stand if it is built. Therefore if a contractor is found, and the money is found for building the viaduct, then it can go in on the ground cleared for it and all will follow.
There is not enough money though. We are awaiting word from ‘the Great Khan’ in London. Unfortunately he seems determined to use the opportunity for playing political games, instead of doing his job. Croxley Green and Watford are not (thank goodness) under the sway of the Mayor of London so he might hope to ignore us – we don’t vote for him, after all, and he has no responsibilities towards us. However our residents commute into London and ensure its economy thrives, so neglecting the commuting public hurts the London economy.
In the meantime the new mayor of Watford has some bizarre schemes in mind: he says the route exists already and could accommodate light rail or a guided bus. Erm, no: unless the light rail train is so light that it cam leap across two roads and a canal, the route is not there.
Viaducts and bridges
There are of course two railway bridges in place already, across the bottom of Baldwin’s Lane and across the canal. However they are in the wrong place. If the trains were to use the existing Baldwins Lane bridge, they would have to make a very sharp turn to get over the Watford Road, and even the modern trains are not designed to do a handbrake-turn! It is a pity, but there we are. The decaying bridge on the canal behind the playground is also on the wrong alignment. I asked if it can be removed as part of the process but was told ‘no’. I will ask again.
Opportunities on the North Curve
The fast way to Watford Junction is the main issue, but there are other opportunities too. What of travellers from the other branch of the Met Line; from Chorleywood, Little Chalfont and beyond? Can this benefit them, and in that way take traffic off the road?
There is a little-used track at the end of Laverock Lane. Known as the North Curve, it links the Amersham and Watford branches, so that on some rare occasions a train will run from Rickmansworth directly to Croxley around te north curve. When the line runs all the way into Watford’s shopping streets, then trains could be scheduled to take passengers from Amersham to Watford directly without changing.
When I spoke to TfL about this, they admitted that no such service had been contemplated in their costings. They could think about it later when the service is up and running, but it is not in the plan. I will press for this too, if the line goes ahead.
The result, if the extension line it built, will be a huge concrete viaduct over two roads, and will not be pretty. It will also mean disruption for the residents of Sansom Close: if it revives, I am keeping a close eye to ensure that assurances I was given that noise, dust and vibration testing will be carried out thoroughly so as to minimise the impact. That is a matter that the contractor will take on, when there is a contractor.