For the last two years, since Watford Metropolitan Line station was proposed to be shut as part of plans for the Croxley Rail Link, Lester Wagman has been the driving force behind the campaign to retain it. On 24 July the plans were signed off by the Transport Secretary, but Lester has not given up and now has a new supporter in the form of Adham Fisher.
Adham, who has ridden transit systems round the world attempting the Guinness World Record for visiting every station as quickly as possible (Tube Challenger) and had visited Watford Met many times, is incredulous of plans to close a well-used station such as this (1.57 million entry/exits in 2011 compared to only half this amount at Croxley and a few more at Moor Park, both of which are to be retained).
He and Lester will be at Watford Met on Wednesday 21 August to publicise their poll of Watford Met users about the possibility of shuttle services and launch new attempts to save the station. They will also visit the proposed sites of the new Croxley Rail Link stations. “We are delighted to have Adham on board with us,” says Lester. “He’s not local to Watford so has no axe to grind but he can see no earthly point in closing the station.”
Local residents and others, including many school children, who use the station (any of whom already walk 10-15 mins to get there) are mostly in support of the benefits the Link will bring. However what they are against is the closure of Watford Met, their local station. Its ‘replacement’ at Cassiobridge will be 1.2km away and getting there will necessitate crossing two major roads.
They are up in arms that more options for a split or shuttle service serving Watford Met weren’t considered by London Underground or the Government’s Transport Works Act Inspector. “We do not believe justice was done to exploring alternatives for keeping Watford Met open,” says Lester, “there is no reason why a reduced service cannot be introduced without impacting the Rail Link. So many people are dependent on that station they would even consider a service cut and the Station being unstaffed to keep it open.”
The public consultation on this has left questions unanswered. London TravelWatch, which advises the Mayor, proposed a split service, and this was ignored. The inspector’s report was not balanced. What we now want is a shuttle between Watford and Moor Park, or Watford and Croxley which is possible without building a third platform. Watford has about 1.5million users per year; by no means the least used station even on the Met Line. Mill Hill East on the Northern Line has a dedicated shuttle and with fewer journeys than that. Chesham has had a half-hourly one for years and has less than half the amount of Watford’s journeys.
“The Rail Link will benefit many in Watford, but the current plan will inconvenience many of the 14,000 or so residents around Cassiobury Park who already have access to a station,” said Adham. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a false economy. The new line is proposed to go nowhere near Watford Met. Nothing there will have to be demolished, so why can’t it stay open. We have met with transport professionals and others who have a detailed understanding of the Met Line and they agree with us.”
Watford Station is scheduled to close in 2016. Lester and his supporters will fight until then to make sure that does not happen. Having been been forsaken by local MP Richard Harrington & Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill they are lobbying Mayor of London Boris Johnson to reopen a new independent inquiry info finding ways to keep Watford Met open.
Lester Wagman and Adham Fisher will be at Watford station from 7:00am on Wednesday 21 August. They will poll passengers, make sure they are aware of the alternatives for keeping the station open and do a photo shoot. They will then walk close to the proposed rail and station sites before returning to Watford for the evening rush hour. They are available for interviews at any time.