Location of Watford Junction in Hertfordshire
|Local authority||Borough of Watford|
|Managed by||London Northwestern Railway|
|Number of platforms||10|
|National Rail annual entry and exit|
|– interchange||0.568 million|
|– interchange||0.592 million|
|– interchange||0.584 million|
|– interchange||0.550 million|
|– interchange||0.550 million|
|20 July 1837||Original station - Watford - opened.|
|5 May 1858||Station relocated and renamed as Watford Junction|
Watford Junction is a railway station that serves Watford, Hertfordshire. The station is on the West Coast Main Line (WCML), 17 miles 34 chains from London Euston and the Abbey Line, a branch line to St Albans. Journeys to London take between 16 and 52 minutes depending on the service used: shorter times on fast non-stop trains and slower on the stopping Watford DC line services. Trains also run to Clapham Junction and East Croydon via the West London Line. The station is a major hub for local bus services and the connecting station for buses to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. The station is located north of a viaduct over the Colne valley and immediately south of Watford Tunnel.
Key to symbols
The first railway station to open in Watford was situated on the north side of St Albans Road, approximately 200 metres (220 yd) further up the line from the present-day station. This small, single-storey red-brick building was built 1836-7 when the first section of the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) was opened between London and Boxmoor. The station provided first and second-class waiting rooms, a departure yard, a carriage shed and engine house. The platforms were situated in a deep cutting which was accessed via a staircase. In its 21 years of operation it also served as a station for royalty; in the short period when the Dowager Queen Adelaide was resident at Cassiobury House (c.1846-49), this station was remodelled to provide her with a royal waiting room, and it was also reportedly used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on a trip to visit Sir Robert Peel in November 1843, when they travelled by road from Windsor Castle to take a train from Watford to Tamworth. The old station closed when it was replaced by a new, larger station, which opened on 5 May 1858. The new Watford Junction station was located south of St Albans Road in order to accommodate the newly constructed branch line to St Albans. The junction station was rebuilt in 1909, and was extensively redeveloped in the 1980s. The Grade-II-listed Old Station House still stands at 147A St Albans Road, a rare surviving example of architecture from the beginning of the railway age, and today the building is occupied by a second-hand car dealership.
In 1862, the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway opened a route from Watford to Rickmansworth (Church Street). Now mostly closed, this route began by running south and west to a more central station on Watford's High Street, which remains in use.
From 1846, the L&BR was absorbed into the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and Watford Junction was now run by this large, ambitious company. Seeking to compete with local buses and trams, the LNWR built an additional suburban line from Euston to Watford in the early years of the 20th century, now known as the Watford DC Line. This veered away from the main line at Bushey to loop around Watford to pass through the High Street station. A second suburban branch line was also built from High Street west towards Croxley Green to serve new housing developments in that area. Both branches were later electrified as part of this improvement plan, on the same DC three-rail system. The Rickmansworth branch was connected to the Main Line via two through platforms with a junction to the north; these platforms have since been partly built over and their remaining southern sections form part of the present DC lines terminus. At one time tube-style trains were used on the branches to counter the low voltage caused by the lack of a sub-station near Rickmansworth.
The Bakerloo line was extended to Watford Junction in 1917, giving a shared service north of Willesden Junction with the main line electric trains which served Euston and Broad Street stations. However, since 1982 the line north of Harrow & Wealdstone has only been served by what is now the London Overground service from Euston station; this service uses these DC lines for its "all stations" local service.
Oyster Card capability was extended to this station on 11 November 2007 on both the London Overground and Southern. It was extended to London Midland services on 18 November 2007. However, the station is outside London fare zones 1–9 and special fares apply.
With the electrification of the entire West London Line in the 1990s, it became practical to run services from Watford Junction to Clapham Junction, allowing passengers to cross London without changing trains. Southern rail now operate an hourly service from Milton Keynes through Watford to East Croydon with connections to Brighton and Gatwick.
There is a well known expression "North of Watford" which is used to mean the north of England, especially a place remote from London. The alternative variant phrase "North of Watford Junction" was used with similar meaning in the past, referring to Watford Junction railway station. The expression reflects the station's position as the last urban stop on the main railway line out of London to the north of England. In more recent years it has been suggested that the phrase references Watford Gap services on the M1, however the original saying was in existence well before its opening in 1959.
The LNWR built a locomotive depot at the station in 1856, which was replaced by a larger building in 1872, and further enlarged in 1890. It was closed by British Railways in March 1965.
In 1984 the Victorian station buildings were demolished and the station was rebuilt in a modern architectural style with a travel centre and a large office block above the station which is occupied by the lorry and bus manufacturing company Iveco. Some 19th-century waiting rooms survived, but were finally demolished in 1987. To enlarge the car park and provide more space, the St. Albans branch line was realigned northwards, with the original St. Albans platforms becoming a single terminating bay now mostly used by Southern services.
The station forecourt was extensively remodelled in 2013; the horseshoe-shaped taxi rank was moved to the side of the building, creating a larger pedestrian area in front of the station entrance, and the bus station enlarged. Due to problems with the road layout, buses were unable to gain access to the bus station, and there were problems with access to the relocated car park. London Northwestern Railway are considering revising the design.
Further redevelopment of the station and its surroundings is planned for the next 10 years. They may be delayed because the redevelopment of Watford Junction has been placed within the Pre-Qualification pool of proposed schemes by the Department for Transport.
|1954 Watford Junction derailment|
On 3 February 1954, an express passenger train became derailed in Watford Tunnel due to a broken rail. The last three carriages became divided from the train as it entered the station. One of them ended up on the platform. A passing express passenger train grazed the wreckage but only received minor damage. Fifteen people were injured.
|1975 Watford Junction rail crash|
On 23 January 1975, an express train from Manchester to Euston derailed just south of Watford Junction after striking some stillages that had fallen on to the track. It then collided with a sleeper service from Euston to Glasgow. The driver of the Manchester train was killed, and eight passengers and three railway staff injured. The stillages had fallen from a Ford company goods train that had passed the station a few minutes earlier, conveying car parts from Dagenham to Halewood. Although the wagons of the goods train were sealed on departure from Dagenham, three were found to have open doors when the train was inspected after the accident. The official enquiry ruled that the doors had been forced by thieves or vandals, probably when the train was standing at Gospel Oak.
Main article: Watford rail crash
In August 1996, a Class 321 passenger train operated by Network SouthEast passed a signal at danger. An empty Class 321 coaching stock train collided with the stationary passenger train approximately 700 m south of Watford Junction.
On 26 October 2014, a Class 350 electric multiple unit on the 06:42 service from Milton Keynes Central to London Euston, operated by London Midland struck the door of a lineside equipment cabinet and suffered damage to a set of doors; however, no one was killed or injured. The RAIB investigated the incident, and concluded that the lineside cabinet door had not been properly secured during maintenance work the previous night. The investigation also noted that the maintenance crew were likely suffering from fatigue due to a pattern of consistent night-shift work, regular overtime, and short-term sleep deprivation.
On 16 September 2016, Class 350 electric multiple unit 350 264 collided with a landslide, caused by heavy rain the previous night, at the entrance of the Watford Tunnel and derailed. Class 350 unit 350 233 then collided with the derailed train. Two injuries were reported, and trains were disrupted for three days.
The station is staffed by dispatch staff for London Northwestern Railway; London Overground also maintain a traincrew depot here. London Overground use only platforms 1-4 but also have a link onto platform 6 to be used for stock movements via the WCML to/from London Euston.
Off peak weekday service in trains per hour is:
|Preceding station||London Overground||Following station|
|Terminus||Watford DC Line||
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
Lowland Caledonian Sleeper
|Milton Keynes Central||London Northwestern Railway
London - Crewe/Birmingham
|Kings Langley or
|London Northwestern Railway
London-Tring/Milton Keynes Central/Northampton/Birmingham
|Bushey or |
Harrow & Wealdstone or
|Watford North||London Northwestern Railway
West London Route
|Harrow & Wealdstone|
|Milton Keynes Central
|Avanti West Coast
|Milton Keynes Central or
|Avanti West Coast
West Coast Main Line
|Avanti West Coast
|Preceding station||London Underground||Following station|
towards Elephant & Castle
|Abandoned Croxley Rail Link plan|
|Preceding station||London Underground||Following station|
Croxley Rail link
|Watford High Street|
Croxley Green Branch
|Watford High Street|
Network Rail's July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. This would provide a direct service from the WCML to the Shenfield, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail's capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north. Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph) and stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph).
In August 2014, a statement by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring, with potential Crossrail stops at Harrow & Wealdstone, Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted. The extension would relieve some pressure from London Underground and London Euston station while also increasing connectivity. Conditions to the extension are that any extra services would not affect the planned service pattern for confirmed routes, as well as affordability.
(Platform 5 was used by the Bakerloo line services of the London Underground until 1982, and removed as part of the subsequent major rebuild)
Local buses run to destinations including Heathrow Airport, Stanmore, Uxbridge and Brent Cross in London, Amersham, Chesham and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, Hatfield, Harpenden and Hertford in Hertfordshire, Luton Airport in Bedfordshire and Harlow in Essex.
Specific routes include London bus routes 142, 258 and non-London Arriva Shires & Essex routes 8, 10, 320, 321 and 520 as well as other Intalink routes 306 (school journeys), 352, 501, 635, W1, W2, W3, W4, W20 and W30.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter shuttle bus route 311 also leaves from the station forecourt.
Green Line route 724 stops in the station forecourt. It runs directly to St Albans and Harlow from stop 5 and to Heathrow Terminal 5 via Heathrow Central and Rickmansworth station from stop 2.
There are plans to upgrade the station and its access points. The scheme includes a new multi-storey car park and a new access road to the station, connecting the A412 to Colonial Way and thus to the A4008 M1 link road.
This scheme is currently in the Pre-Qualification pool, where to achieve funding a case for selection must be submitted and if successful the Watford Station redevelopments will be moved into the Development Pool where more than 24 transport projects will compete for about £600 million.
Main article: Croxley Rail Link
A proposal called the Croxley Rail Link - later the Metropolitan Line Extension - would have diverted the Metropolitan line's Watford branch via the disused Croxley Green branch to terminate at Watford Junction. It was expected to open to passenger service in 2020, but due to funding issues, the project has been halted.
The London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy document published by Network Rail in July 2011 makes several suggestions for improving services to and from Watford Junction, to link the West London Line more effectively with the WCML and to 'free up' platform space at London Euston with the anticipation of High Speed 2.
Assuming the ongoing increase in demand on the orbital route between Watford Junction and the West London Line, a significant increase of peak capacity services is needed, as the current service forms the only link between the Watford Junction and Kensington Olympia corridors. This proposal suggests increasing West London Line – Watford Junction/Milton Keynes Central peak service to three tph and increasing present off peak services from an hour to every 30 minutes as well as suggesting extending Southern trains from 4 car to 8 car to help ease overcrowding further.
The 2011 London & South East Rail Utilisation Strategy also made recommendations for the Crossrail lines now under construction in central London to be extended northwards into Hertfordshire via Watford Junction, with Tring and Milton Keynes identified as potential termini. The report recommends the addition of a tunnel in the vicinity of a proposed station at Old Oak Common connecting the Crossrail route to the West Coast Main line. The diversion of rail services through central London would enable a direct link from stations such as Watford Junction to West End stations such as Tottenham Court Road and would alleviate congestion at Euston station; Crossrail services currently planned to terminate at Paddington due to capacity constraints would also be able to continue further east, allowing for a more efficient use of the line. This proposal has not been officially confirmed or funded, although an announcement made in August 2014 by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the possibility of extending Crossrail as far as Tring and Milton Keynes Central.
The rail operator Chiltern Railways proposed in 2008 that a new east–west direct rail route from Watford Junction to Aylesbury could be operated via the new Croxley Rail Link and the northern section of the London to Aylesbury Line. The proposal, or a connection from Aylesbury to London Euston, has been supported by the transport advocacy group Greengauge 21. A 2006 report by Hertfordshire County Council mentioned the possibility of a link running as far as Amersham.
A Draft Rail Strategy consultation published by Hertfordshire County Council in June 2015 again considered light rail proposals for the Abbey Line but also recommended that the railway track be removed and replaced with a guided busway.
If the Croxley Rail link gets the go ahead from Tfl and Hertfordshire County Council, direct services into Watford junction from Aylesbury will be likely...