MP announces back-room deal to fund 38% Rail Link cost overrun but still no split service for beleaguered Watford Met users

Watford MP Richard Harrington has written to constituents about his success in securing £50m of additional funding for the Croxley Rail Link from the Department of Transport. Great!  So there can be a split service for residents living around the existing Met Station and for the hundreds of students using the station each day (as recommended by London Travelwatch) despite being told it was unaffordable?

Cassiobridge StationRichard hasn’t said as much but I think he would have done if that were his intention. He says the money, part of the ‘Hertfordshire Growth Deal‘ is “to take the Croxley Rail Link to its next phase” and is “in addition to the £130million already committed to the project”.  We have written to Richard asking what exactly the extra money is for.  Hopefully he’ll tell us it will include a permanent split service of at least 3 trains per hour continuing to serve Watford Met – maybe?  I’m not banking on that just yet.

More likely I suspect he will tell us there has been some kind of budget omission or overrun. Maybe the original budget of £120m just wasn’t enough – there were many sceptics at the time and it sounds like they might have ben right.  The original funding was originally approved in 2013 from the Department for Transport’s ‘Local Major Scheme Process’ and the additional funding is subject to its final approval.  Interestingly the FAQ in the original guidance to bidders stated:

Q23: If you will not be increasing DfT’s funding contribution post Programme Entry, do we need to include optimism bias in our bids?

A23: The previous system for funding cost overruns (the risk layer) no longer applies; the BAFB must include a capped funding bid. However, optimism bias forms an important part of our value for money assessment and it is important that you set out clearly the value of optimism bias you are using in your bids.

Also, the Croxley rail Link was by far the largest scheme approved in the original development pool of 41 projects, accounting for £120m out of £650m available (18.5%). Had the budget been honestly declared at £180m ( 27.7%) you have to wonder if the scheme would have been approved at all, especially in view of it’s shaky business case.

We will also be writing to DfT objecting to this approval without the inclusion of a split service to Watford Met.  If you think

Please write direct to Richard Harrington and to the Secretary of State for Transport asking them to ensure a split service to Watford Met is included in any further funding proposals.

 

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Health Campus? The missing Link…

On Friday 2nd May, Save Watford Met’s Lester Wagman and Sara-Jane Trebar of Save Farm Terrace appeared on the Link4Growth Community TV show, hosted by Chris Ogle & Alex Murray…

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Another good reason not to build 700 homes on land south of Watford hospital

Watford Flood Plain

Excerpt from the Environment Agency’s flood risk map (‘Health Campus’ highlighted in green) published on the same day Watford’s ‘elected Mayor’ vowed to “do what she had to” to get 700 new homes built here!

Yes folks, that’s why no housing was built there before.  The ‘health campus’ development team say a flood relief channel beside the river Colne will be constructed as part of the proposals.  That’s like building a house in the middle of the M1 and saying it’s OK because crash barriers will be built round it!  Sustainable development – hmmm….

You’ll also notice that the proposed new road passes right through the worst flooding next to the river Colne.  Hopefully Hertfordshire has some amphibious ambulances!

Meanwhile, according to the Watford Observer, Watford’s elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill was in a belligerent mood about the beleaguered Farm Terrace allotments, a thorn in her side: “Legal challenge will not hold up health campus”, she says .  The readers’ comments make interesting reading!

Find out what’s wrong with the Health Campus proposals (apart from the fact Watford people have been lied to about in containing any healthcare) and have your say through the official channel.

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Health Campus: Watford’s Political Bulldozer Back in Action

Having cited the needs of the so-called ‘Health Campus’ in the business case for re-routing the Met line away from the established Watford station, with its 1.5+ million users a year, toward the already overcrowded Watford Junction via ‘Cassiobridge’ & ‘Vicarage Road’, the Watford political machine swang back into action this week.

With great fanfare in official channels and social media, the master plan for the much-heralded ‘Health Campus’ was unveiled at Watford Football Club on Friday for public consultation. Taking a leaf out of TfL’s book on public engagement, the way into the event was not entirely obvious!

       Watford-20140117-01389 Watford-20140117-01390 Watford-20140117-01391 Watford-20140117-01392

Nonetheless, having successfully navigated the way through darkened entrances and dimly lit tunnels beneath the stands at Vicarage Road football ground to the subterranean conference room, as some others also did while I was there, an army of suited professionals from planners to transport engineers was on hand to explain the proposals and take questions.  The Master plan itself was laid on wall displays and a large printed mat on the floor, complete with model cars and trucks for younger visitors to play with – nice touch since if the Council gets its way they’d better get used to indoor play!

         Watford-20140117-01396 WHCcons1

Despite the glossy images and artist impressions, the most glaringly obvious ‘revelation’ is, as tactfully observed & explained by chief reporter Mike Wright of the Watford Observer: “Health’ part of ‘health campus’ remains curiously elusive”!

I believe the plans represent a gross and unsustainable over-development of the site and constitute a recipe for exacerbation of the traffic problems around West Watford.  Also calling the development a Health Campus when there is at the current time no plan or even declared intention by the hospital Trust to increase its service provision there is simply misleading and dishonest.  It is far from clear how the two small land parcels in the master plan forming the ‘possible future hospital development zone’ have been identified or sized, or for what purpose?

In their current form I am far from convinced the proposals are in the best interests of the people of West Watford. They represent:

  • The over-development of a back land site in an already densely populated area with
  • Loss of a rare ‘green lung’ and valuable community facility in Farm Terrace allotments
  • Poor sustainability in healthcare, public transport & heavy impact on local roads
  • No improvement and worsening of safety for cyclists travelling north/south
  • The Creation of business floor space for which there is no evidenced demand
  • Loss of rare floor space in borough for ‘bad neighbour’ industrial uses
  • No committed improvement to healthcare facilities despite being called a ‘health campus’

You can read the full text of my objections here – feel free to plagiarise!

But don’t take my word for it.  Read the consultation yourself and don’t miss the opportunity to register your views for the benefit of Watford – takes a few minutes.

This is not to say there couldn’t be some beneficial development on the land behind the hospital – certainly earmarking land for real healthcare proposals must take priority but calling this a ‘health campus’ is disingenuous.  It’s no different from any other development. Arguably, in it’s current form, it’s an unsustainable  gross over-development of back land so let’s hope Watford Council’s role as planning authority is kept respectably separate and impartial from its role as project sponsor and landowner.

Finally, if the development capacity is markedly less than currently proposed, surely this undermines still further the already shaky case for closing Watford Met station based on comparative projected passenger numbers and this case should be reopened!

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Less than 9% of Watford Met Users would prefer to use Cassiobridge/Ascot Rd

If you’re one of the 2000+ people who will tap into or out of Watford Met today as you return to work or school after the summer and don’t yet know, you’ve been sacrificed for Watford’s greater travelling good.

Despite the claims made by TfL and lapped up by the Transport Secretary’s TWA inspector, the online user poll below (conducted over the past 10 days) confirms that 72% of you would rather a reduced service shuttle to Moor Park or Croxley than use the proposed new station at Cassiobridge/Ascot Rd and only 23% will prefer the new Croxley Rail Link options.  There are still a sad minority with a big chip on their shoulders about Cassiobury residents “let the rich folk walk, it’ll do them good” but at least 50% of ordinary people we asked had no idea about the proposed closure!130831 Met users survey

However the Secretary of State for Transport, your Mayor (Dorothy Thornhill), MP Richard Harrington and now the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have confirmed that on account of the £millions of extra revenue the Croxley Rail Link will [allegedly] bring Watford over the next 20+ years, you won’t mind walking an extra 1.2km to and from the station and crossing two major roads, every morning, rain or shine, light or dark.  Fair?

London Travelwatch tried to fight your corner but in the end the huge political gains at stake for local politicians, their slick PR machinery and the need to spend £118m ‘doing something’ we can all ill-afford appear to have won over.  time to dust down your walking boots!

Ditched by Dotty, deserted by Dicky and shafted by Boris. Case closed?

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CRL public relations – dirty tricks and STiki WikiTs?

Every large project project needs PR handlers. They make sure that correct information is released through the most appropriate media, giving the right message in a way it will best be understood by the public. Often they will give a project some positive spin, you know, talk up the benefits and play down any disadvantages.  Up to a point that’s to be expected. But it looks like the Croxley rail Link PR may have been open to a far more sinister form of manipulation.

CRL consultation process

When dealing with businesses you would expect them to try and use PR to their commercial advantage. But when the message is for public information/consultation and is coming from a public authority like Hertfordshire County Council or publicly-owned concern like London Underground Ltd most of us would expect a higher degree of integrity.

I have set out previously how heinously scant the original publicity to station users was about the proposals and the consultation process.

The public inquiry into the Croxley Rail Link was due to publish its findings in the Autumn of 2012.  The TWA inspector’s report following the inquiry was actually issued  on 30th January (click here to find out why we think it was inadequate and flawed). Presumably the Transport Secretary would have taken a week or two, let’s be generous and say 4 weeks, to consider the findings before publishing the report – isn’t that the point of a public inquiry?  Instead the inspector’s report was published together with the Transport Secretary’s approval to the project.  So the findings of the inquiry, conducted in public, were not subject to further scrutiny by the public.

What’s more the publication of the report was delayed until 24th July, the day before Hertfordshire schools broke-up for the summer holidays. Significantly, of the 2,000+ people who use Watford Met daily, at least 500 of these will be Watford Boys Grammar School students.  The inspector’s report mentioned how (surprisingly) the school had not objected to the proposal but, given the school is run by Hertfordshire County Council which sponsors the CRL project, perhaps some influence was exercised!  Conveniently for the Council, the period for judicial review of the inspector’s decision is 6 weeks which ties in beautifully with the end of the school holidays.  Case closed?

But there are more dark happenings to report on.  Now most people rely on Wikipedia in their internet surfing and, given that it’s open to public contribution and editing, many regard it as neutral and unbiased.  It appears the Wikipedia page for Watford Tube station has been heavily doctored with statements like “Watford Met station remains as the terminus of the line, somewhat remote from the town centre” and “On 2010 data it is the 25th most lightly-used station on the London Underground” (no mention is made that the numbers of entry/exits are twice as numerous as Croxley Tube which would remain open under CRL).

On 26th July, two days after the publication of the inspector’s report and Transport Secretary’s decision announcement, the entry was updated  to read: “As a result of the Croxley Rail Link project, Watford Met tube station will close to passenger services, but may remain operational as a siding”.  I made a fairly innocuous alteration (bold) to read:

As a result of the Croxley Rail Link project, Watford Met tube station would close to passenger services, but may remain operational as a siding. However this is being contested by the Save Watford Met Campaignwhich is lobbying on behalf of local residents for alternative services to be considered to keep the station open.

Within minutes my non-contentious alteration had been undone.  I re-made it and within minutes more it had been undone again by a contributor called Gareth Griffith-Jones. Looking at his contributions history he seems to do nothing but alter and modify a wide range of posts using a tool called STiki.  It’s an automated programme that monitors whether certain Wikipedia pages are being “vandalised” – whether or not this is in ‘good faith’ is down to trusted users who need to have an account.  It is unlikely that the general public has access or know-how to set up and use this technology so it must be deduced that this editing is being done professionally.  Now who would commission such editing?

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What Watford Met Users are Saying

These are quotes from people who completed our user survey:

Ditto-66The station is good in a pleasant area. Immediate residents will be cut off. I cannot see the point of completely ending the service; surely some shuttle could be introduced, albeit with a lower frequency.

Watford metropolitan line station is a necessity for my family and I, it would be disaster for it to close

I like the idea of bringing the Met line into Watford Junction but not at the expense of Watford Met station. Why can’t we have both- at least for a one year trial.

 

I think they should build the Croxley Rail Link but have a shuttle from Croxley to Watford Met.

One member of our household is disabled (the Met station is close enough to walk to) and would be unable to walk to the new Two Bridges Station or other proposed stations so would have to use a car to get to the new station, therefore adding to the increased environmental impact – and the need to use and park a car for each journey as there are no suitable buses.

Closing the station means hundreds of school children who use the line needing to cross two major roads during rush-hour to get to school,. Commuters will have their average journey to the station increased. Access to the park, already restricted by permit-parking, will be even more difficult for families with children. Closing the station will increase the number of car journeys.

I do not actually live close to the station as I live in Kings Langley. However I have found Watford Underground Station very handy. Especially when I have needed stations like Liverpool Street, Baker Street and Euston Square. It has also been very useful when London Midland services are disrupted from Watford Junction.

Both my husband and I suffer thyroid problems and walking longer distances is just not an option for us. Use of cycle is very difficult with our condition and work clothes. Use of car means extra payments out ie parking & petrol. We often host foreign students and it is easier to show them to Watford Met for their trips into London. Watford Met is a short doable pleasant trip to where we need to get to but, if moved would affect my husband most who needs to travel into London everyday for work.

My son commutes to Rickmansworth School on the Met line. He is already walking 10 mins to Watford Met and then 15mins from Croxley met to school. Closing Watford Met would make him more reliant on parents driving him to school. It would be difficult and more dangerous with heavy books to cycle to school.

There has been very little news about the closure & with the recent Council Elections, I cannot recall that this this has been one of the issues any of the literature has been keen to highlight, or mention the benefits of the changes. This suggests that the parties know this would be something to cause disquiet. I feel cheated & regret not using my votes more wisely.

I am a single lady living on the Cassio metro estate and i can not drive to to medical condition,and i use Watford st every day to get to work and also to see family and friends in and around the Hertfordshire area,PLEASE do not close the st.

Whilst I understand the need to provide better transport links for West Watford this should be done in addition to serving Watford Met Line & not to sacrifice our train service in the casual way they seem to be doing. They have not delivered a argument to justify the closure of Watford Met Line Station.

I use Watford Met every day to travel to work. Both my children use Watford Met everyday to travel to school. It’s closure would be disastrous for us as we would have no alternative. It would mean many more extra car journey’s for all sorts of people. Also with the new West Herts College which has just been built with absolutely no parking facilities, many, many students use Watford Met for transport. The reason why the college was built without parking facilities was to encourage the use of public transport and now there is a proposal to shut the nearest train station!? How does that make any sense?

This is a decision must not be made. Too many people would be inconvenienced. If services were increased giving the residents of Watford a better service and people who visit Watford would find it more convenient, then I could see why the other link is being considered but the Watford Met Station is a vital part of this increase in services, surely. It is NOT going to help the people of Watford only cause more inconvenience and strain in you trying to deter people using their cars. In turn causing more detriment to all that is what you are trying to do in encouraging the public to do in the first place, which is to use public transport instead.

It’s absolutely ridiculous! Any political figure ignorant enough to carry this out would be swiftly removed from office by the voters.

The closing of Watford Met Line station will lead to increased traffic congestion, accidents and is totally impractical for many of the students who currently attend WGBS. On some days, boys are so heavily laden with kit required for school that parents will need to take them by car. This is a badly thought out scheme and one where the so called consultation process has tried to disguise the fact that they are planning on closing the station at Watford.

The business case is flawed. The impact on journey time would be signficant. Not only this I do not believe it will bring faster journey times from London or the North (by the time have waited for a connecting train and spent 10 mins on tube going through Watford). It will also improve congestion on Ricky Rd with people driving to Watford junction rather than adding an extra 20 to 30 mins to their journey time to London (walk, wait for a tube etc etc). It has been proven there is not the demand as that is why the old West Watford rail shut. The economic benefit is not proven and if anything I think it will be to the detriment of the local economy and causing a decline in house prices overall. Additionally, as I think people will end up using Watford Junction (drive there and try to make up the lost time using the fast train), the station will not be able to cope with the extra capacity and will need significant investment. Moreover, it is not good use of tax payer money spending over £100 million to link a distance of a mile or 2.

IF this UTTER waste of money is given the green light, then why not leave Watford open as a one stop extension like Amersham/Chesham. THE OBVIOUS ANSWER TO LINK WATFORD JUNCTION IS TO LET THE BAKERLOO LINE GO FURTHER THAN HARROW & WEALDSTONE. This multi million pound waste of tax payers money is sheer madness.

I am registered disabled and find difficult to walk far, I would really want the station not to be close, because this station is very useful for me and my members of my household, it only takes me 2 minutes walk to get there. Also my brother always uses this station everyday for travelling to get to his school in Rickmansworth

The map covering 97% catchment area for the Met is almost ALL to the North. A better profile map with iso lines on it would help! The frequency of trains over the shared track bed would rocket from 1 every 10 minutes to 1 every 3 – 3.5 minutes. If people are driving to the Met, where do they come from? Will they ADD to the congestion on St. Albans Road?

Why is the Croxley Rail Link Necessary? Watford town centre is served by mainline rail and London Overground already. How will this be funded? If Local/National Govt. have available funds they should improve health/police/roads etc in priority to this. If the rail companies have available funds they should use it to get their network/rolling stock up to an acceptable standard. If the Croxley Rail Link is necessary can Watford Met be kept open as a spur like Chesham?

I am extremely concerned about the closure of the met line, i am willing to do anything possible to prevent the Watford met station from closing down.

I think the proposal needs to be thought out very carefully. With so many using the Watford station every day any change made is going to impact a great number of people. The Cassio Metro estate was built with the next door tube station used as a major selling point. We moved to Watford to be next to the tube station as did many of our friends in the estate so closing the station would now leave a very bitter taste in the mouth.

I currently use Watford Met station as it is more cost effective than using Watford Junction (zone 1-7 plus £60 a month for parking still works out cheaper than using the overground from Watford Junction with no parking included). I’m surprised this survey is not covering the cost implication this change would have on literally hundreds of commuters. If Watford Met station were to close, the only real option I have would be to use Watford Junction which is a 25 min walk (one way) – parking is not an option at £8 per day!

I can not believe we are in this situation after spending so much money recently spent re-furbishing the Watford Met station and re-doing all the track etc (and the number of weekends the line has been down to do so). I though we were facing times of cuts rather than excessive expense on unrequired services. In addition, one of the key reason we purchased our home was because of ease of access to the met line station so we can go to work – the thought it may be taken away from us based on nothing more than a whim from the county council is a very scary prospect.

I and other members of my household use the watford met station for regular work commitments in london and surrounding areas. i find it very difficult to use any other station near by due to parking facillities.

Did live in Watford town centre and often used the station – it was always very busy – Watford needs more stations

This is just another way to make life difficult for people in Watford. Haven’t the council made our lives bad enough with all their stupid, pointless and very expensive ideas that no one wants or asked for in the first place without this added to it. The council keep building all these flats for all these people you want living here and making the place an eyesore so taking away one of our travel routes will create even more cars on our already congested roads in Watford. It’s funny as I thought the council like to go on about how green it is, this is hardly green is it. Why is this being allowed?

In my case it would increase the cost by as much as 30% which is ludicrous as this will force us to use the car more and congest the roads.

Closing Watford Met Line Station does not make any sense at all. Surveys should taken at peak times to see how many people rely on this station to go to and from work/school.Walking to other new proposed stations does not make any sense at all.

Don’t close it!!!! I’m a health care profession and this station has many links to hospitals on the line and to central London

Do not close Watford Tube. Thousands of commuters from all over Watford use it every day to travel to and from work in central London. Closing it would be a completely retrograde step.

I work in London and Watford tube is due to its location witch is 5 min away from my house the preferred and only transport link that i use. A closure of it would result in an unproportional enlongment of my journey time and in higher costs to travel. It would make it unaffordable to keep living where i live and i`d be forced to find a new home. What would equal a disaster since the place where i live is the best ever financially and socially.

It would be a big blow to my family, Watford and Cassiobury Park. I think it is ridiculous idea and i’m disappointed that the Mayor and the local MPs think this is a good idea.

CLOSING THE STATION WILL NEGATIVELY EFFECT MEMBERS OF OUR HOUSEHOLD. THE WATFORD GRAMMAR SCHOOL FOR BOYS WILL ALSO BE SERIOUSLY EFFECTED. IT IS VERY BUSY AROUND HERE IN COMMUTER HOURS WITH THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE USING THE WATFORD UNDERGROUND . THE IMPACT ON THE RICKMANSWORTH ROAD HAS TO BE CONSIDERED. IT ALREADY VERY CONGESTED IN COMMUTER TIMES. THE NEW BUILDING PROJECT AT THE OLD FIRE STATION WILL INCREASE TRAFFIC. KEEPING THE STATION OPEN WILL HELP ALLEVIATE TRAFFIC ON THE RICKMANSWORTH ROAD.

I live on the north side of Cassiobury Estate and the closure of Watford Met Station would be a disaster for my family. I take the train every day to Baker Street which is really convenient for me. My daughter goes to Rickmansworth School and takes the train every day with me to Croxley Station. There is no way she could walk all the way home from Rickmansworth School, its utterly ridiculous. My son goes to Watford Boys and takes the train every Friday after school to work at Waitrose in Rickmansworth. He would not be able to get to work if the station closes as the bus service is pitiful. The closure would mean there are substantially more cars on the road (exactly what the goverment say they don’t want!) as that would be the only way people could get to work/school. The knock-on effect on traffic congestion would be a disaster. Whoever thinks that the station is not widely used should be there at 8 o’clock in the morning when literally train-loads of boys arrive to go to school at watford boys. Similarly a large number of boys and girls get on the train to go to Ricky School. Why are these people trying to make our lives even more difficult than they already are??

Ditto-99I drive from Northamptonshire every day to Watford station. The effect on my journey time will be to increase some 15+ mins every day and add to the CO2 emissions.

 

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