A PASSING loop at Bricket Wood has been recommended to improve the frequency of services on the Abbey line between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey. A study undertaken by The Railway Consultancy for ABFLY, the Abbey Line Users’ Group, suggests the platform at Bricket Wood be lengthened such that trains stop at different ends of a single platform, similar to the solution adopted at Penryn on the branch line from Truro to Falmouth, which would help to minimise costs. Infrastructure costs of a loop have been estimated at up to £10 million, with the additional operating costs of running more services adding up to a further £1 million.
Services on the single-track line currently operate at a 45-minute frequency on Mondays to Saturdays using one train, which the user group believe represents a barrier to increased usage. The study considered five options for a passing loop, with the Bricket Wood solution thought to be most economically advantageous; other options considered included a conventional passing loop at Bricket Wood with two platforms, a loop just outside the station or a loop elsewhere on the line. The study suggests the increased revenue resulting from improving frequency to half-hourly is likely to cover the capital cost of the work to provide a passing loop, but casts doubt over whether the operating costs of using a second train and additional traincrew would be covered.
The user group says the study has now been submitted to the Abbey Line Community Rail Partnership, which brings together the main agencies responsible for improving services (the Department for Transport, Network Rail, operator West Midlands Trains and local councils). The first part of the study was financed by ABFLY with a crowd funding campaign, and the second part with financial support from the Abbey Line Community Rail Partnership and the Association of Community Railway Partnerships.