Welcome to AbbeyRail, the St Albans Abbey line passengers' association

AbbeyRail, the St Albans Abbey line passengers' association, exists to secure the future of the Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey branch line. Illustrated below, the line has five intermediate stations. The service from Watford Junction calls at Watford North, Garston, Bricket Wood, How Wood, Park Street and St Albans Abbey where service terminates in order to provide the return service to Watford Junction again calling at all five intermediate stations. Watford Junction is served by services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) provided by London Northwestern Railway, Southern, Avanti West Coast also London Overground (Lioness line).

Abbey line existing infrastructure

An online map of the Abbey line is available here The Abbey line (opens in new window or tab) Source : openstreetmap.org © OpenStreetMap contributors

The service between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey is provided by a single train running from Watford to St Albans and back, repeatedly. There is no other train on the line. This used to be one of the most reliable services in Britain and there is no valid reason for that to have changed.

Currently the service operates, at its most frequent, every 45 minutes. Unfortunately, as from 11 December 2022, this has been reduced to hourly off-peak. Here and now, we need a more frequent service on the Abbey line : a service every 30 minutes would be more attractive to passengers.

Press release : plan to close the Abbey line

There is a plan to convert the Abbey line into a busway, published in March 2024, to which we are opposed. Press release 18 June 2024 Plan to close St Albans Abbey branch railway (opens in new window or tab).

Notes for users of the train service

The train service on the Abbey line is supposed to be provided by London Northwestern Railway (LNwR) London Northwestern Railway known as the train operating company (TOC) with a LNwR twitter feed (both open in new window or tab). Fewer service cancellations would be appreciated.

For completeness, West Midlands Trains ( corporate website https://news.wmtrains.co.uk/ ) operates trains under two trade names, West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway : for the Abbey line, it is London Northwestern Railway (LNwR).

Train times are also available from National Rail Enquiries with a NRE twitter feed (both open in new window or tab).

The press is also useful for news concerning the Abbey line : the Watford Observer https://www.watfordobserver.co.uk
the St Albans and Harpenden review https://www.stalbansreview.co.uk/
and the Herts Advertiser https://www.hertsad.co.uk/

For walking from St Albans Abbey station to the City Centre, there are alternatives to Holywell Hill, which is steep. A route can be planned via minor roads. A pleasant route is beside Westminster Lodge sports and leisure centre in Verulamium Park then turning northwards on to Abbey Mill Lane passing the Cathedral.

For walking between St Albans City and St Albans Abbey stations : Walking from St Albans City to St Albans Abbey station (opens in new window or tab).

Passenger transport information in Hertfordshire : intalink.org.uk

PlusBus, adding urban bus travel to your train ticket, at St Albans Abbey station : plusbus.info/stalbans

Real time train information

Departure boards are intended to provide real time train information. Unfortunately, departure from Watford Junction or from St Albans Abbey is often not indicated until long after departure and arrival is often not indicated until significantly in arrears. If GPS transmission is on, times at intermediate stations should be indicated in a timely manner.

Because the service is provided by a single vehicle, it is worthwhile to know where the vehicle is, no matter which direction it is travelling in.

Trains to and from St Albans Abbey Realtime Trains : Trains to and from St Albans Abbey (opens in new window or tab). This includes planned cancellations.

Trains to and from St Albans Abbey OpenTrainTimes: Trains to and from St Albans Abbey (opens in new window or tab).

The situation on the Abbey line and at Watford Junction can be monitored by use of departure boards. There are departure boards at Realtime Trains and at OpenTrainTimes.

The Recent Train Times website is designed for statistics, notably service reliability. It is also useful for additional information, for example the time of any cancellation and of any reinstatement. Sadly train cancellation can be in arrears. This website makes data available for a longer period of time than the previous two. Under "Show Advanced Options" and selecting "Exclude interpolated station timings" it becomes clearer whether trains ran with GPS transmission on or off.

For the OpenTrainTimes signalling diagram, showing where the train is on the Abbey line, visit OpenTrainTimes: Watford to St Albans . Lower down the page, this tells us that the train may not be suitably equipped to provide the required information, although when GPS transmission is on the signalling diagram still does not function. For the Traksy diagram visit Traksy : Watford to St Albans although this also is not currently functioning (both open in new window or tab).

Stations on the Abbey line : Watford Junction WFJ, Watford North WFN, Garston (Herts) GSN, Bricket Wood BWO, How Wood HWW, Park Street PKT, St Albans Abbey SAA.

List of excuses for cancelling trains : Delay Attribution Guide (opens in new window or tab).

Service reliability

The service is provided by a single train running from Watford to St Albans and back, repeatedly. There is no other train on the line. This used to be one of the most reliable services in Britain and there is no valid reason for that to have changed.

There is much to suggest that London Northwestern Railway is under marching orders from officials to deliberately undermine the service and render it unreliable. For example, LNwR encourages London commuters from St Albans to use Thameslink, not the Abbey line. The Abbey line is being undermined.

We would suggest that, given that the service is being undermined, there is little purpose in complaining to the train operator, since the train operator takes orders from officials. It is probably best if Westminster MPs are provided with information, since at least in theory this can result in officials conducting themselves in a manner compatible with the impression being given in public. Cases where it would be appropriate to contact the train operator would include operational matters, safety and claiming refunds.

AbbeyRail has a vacancy, on a voluntary basis, for a Train Service Monitoring Officer. You will need plenty of enthusiasm and a willingness to handle enquiries on behalf of AbbeyRail. Customer service skills are desireable but not essential for this role, on the assumption that this role is separate from the first point of contact communications officer role described later.

In the meantime, should you wish to direct a complaint about the train service to an elected representative, your Westminster MP or councillor, we would suggest the best option is to prepare a dossier over a period of time, then write after careful consideration.

Hertsrail : a joined-up rail network in Hertfordshire

There is a plan to convert the Abbey line into a busway, published in March 2024, to which we are opposed. This takes no account of the potential for the Abbey line to support the regional economy as part of a joined-up rail network.

Drawings (diagrammatic maps) are displayed full size for clarity.


Options for conventional rail in the Rickmansworth, Watford and St Albans area

AbbeyRail is co-ordinated with the Hertsrail project, proposing a joined-up rail network in Hertfordshire. Further information on the Hertsrail project : hertsrail.org.uk (opens in new window or tab).

Service frequency

The timetable from 11 December 2022 reduced service frequency off-peak. We are opposed this Opposing the reduction in service frequency on the Abbey line (opens in new window or tab).

A service every 30 minutes would be more attractive to passengers, requiring two trains and an upgrade to the infrastructure enabling the two trains to pass, known as a passing loop. One possibility is that trains might pass at How Wood station or vicinity. This is further north than the midpoint, giving more time for the train driver to change ends at St Albans Abbey than at Watford Junction. The Abbey station is unstaffed, so the train crew could use the time available to do ticketing, i.e. revenue protection, which helps to ensure a better case for keeping the line open.

In June 2022 it was announced that the bid for a passing loop at Bricket Wood, enabling a more frequent service than currently operates, was rejected by the Department for Transport (DfT). However we are proposing trains passing at How Wood or vicinity and which awaits evaluation.

Further information : A more frequent service on the Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey line (opens in new window or tab)

St Albans local plan

A draft St Albans local plan consultation took place in 2023. All links open in a new window or tab. The key documents were:
Reg 18 Local Plan (Chapter 8 - Transport)
Appendix 1 - Reg 18

This was the AbbeyRail response AbbeyRail response to St Albans local plan consultation 2023 (opens in new window or tab).

AbbeyRail and rail user group Abfly

Further information : AbbeyRail and rail user group Abfly (opens in new window or tab).

AbbeyRail organisation and contact

AbbeyRail is provided by RailAble (opens in new window or tab). RailAble, also known as RailEnable, researches an improved rail network.

We have a vacancy, on a voluntary basis, for a first point of contact communications officer. Customer service skills are essential for this role. As an avid supporter of the Abbey line, you will have or need to acquire a working knowledge of all aspects of the line also of the Hertsrail proposals.

In the meantime, until such time as this vacancy has been filled, any customer service we provide will be limited. Despite the following paragraph, we may not be able to respond to all emails.

Email is not always reliable. At some stage we may arrange meetings for supporters of the Abbey line. We will then aim to provide an opportunity to check that any email sent to us was indeed received. In the meantime supporters of the line are encouraged to keep, or print e.g. to pdf, emails sent to us and received from us. All contact is governed by our Terms & Conditions and privacy policy (opens in new window or tab).

Information on this page may change. Please click once on your browser Refresh or Reload button to ensure the information displayed is up to date.

To contact AbbeyRail please use geoffreception@aol.co.uk (Geoff). AbbeyRail, the St Albans Abbey line passengers' association, came into being in July 2022.

Let us work together to ensure a future for the Abbey line.

AbbeyRail newsletter

Currently AbbeyRail and the Hertsrail project are closely aligned and therefore they share a newsletter. We actively encourage supporters of the Abbey line to sign up to the shared newsletter by following the link earlier to Hertsrail. If and when AbbeyRail produces a separate newsletter, this will be notified to subscribers to the shared newsletter.

We conclude our home page with a view of St Albans Abbey station on a sunny day in 2017. The links at the top of the page are for further information.



St Albans Abbey station on a sunny day in 2017
St Albans Abbey station on a sunny day in 2017

St Albans Abbey station on a sunny day in 2017. PeterSkuce, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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The Abbey line

Last revised 20 June 2024