Transport bosses were presented with an array of impassioned arguments as to why Watford Metropolitan Station should remain open to the public, this week.
At a packed public hearing held in Watford Colosseum yesterday (Thursday), residents, commuters and politicians got their chance to say why the station should not be shut to passengers as part of the Croxley Rail Link.
House prices, the safety of school children, bias against the people of Cassiobury and the fact it is there to be used, were all cited as reasons London Underground should maintain a service.
The hearing was the town’s chance to put its case forward for saving the station on the Cassiobury estate.
However the man who has the final say on its fate, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was not present, and will only hear from Watford residents in the form of a report.
The station has been earmarked for closure to passengers as part of the Croxley Rail Link scheme, which will see the Metropolitan Line linked with Watford Junction.
Under current plans Watford Met, which has been in service since 1925, will be kept but only used for train storage. The £116m rail link will see the Metropolitan Line routed from Croxley station, through two new ones in Ascot Road and Vicarage Road, then through Watford High Street Station, before terminating at Watford Junction.
Work is expected to start in 2014 and be finished in 2016. If Watford Met is closed it will remain operational until the rail link opens. Representatives from London Underground Limited started the hearing by making the case for why Watford Met has to close to passengers.
Keith Foley, London Underground’s head of transport planning, said the statio was the 25th least used on the tube network and had seen an approximately three per cent yearly decline in users between 2007 and 2011.
The audience was told that a 2010 survey of station passengers showed around half of those interviewed would live closer to a Metropolitan Line station after the Croxley Rail Link opens.
The London Underground representatives said their traffic forecasts showed a net drop of around 300 car journeys on Watford roads after the closure of Watford Met.
Mr Foley said that if Watford Met were to be retained in some form it could jeopardise the whole Croxley Rail Scheme.
This was because the Government only agreed the project on the basis that it would produce more than one and half times more in economic benefit and revenue than the money invested in it.
Politicians in the area have argued for some service to be retained at the station, either as a split with the new Watford Junction line or as a shuttle service between the station and one of the Metropolitan Line’s northern branches.
But Mr Foley said this was implausible as it would cost tens of millions in extra trains for the benefit of a small number of passengers.
The town’s Conservative MP, Richard Harrington, said he was strongly in favour of the link, but could see no reason why a service could not be retained at Watford Met.
“I don’t think compared to the millions (which will be spent on the rail link) it can be that much,” he said.
George Derbyshire, a Liberal Democrat councillor for the Cassiobury area, made an animated defence of Watford Met, saying the business case for the rail link had been biased against the station and those living near it.
He took exception to the fact the business case said Watford Met only catered for a “small” number of passengers and that the new Croxley Rail Link stations would benefit “poorer areas” of the town.
He said: “What this is saying is there is cause for providing access for people in poorer areas by taking it away from people in more well off areas. This is a totally unacceptable criterion for a business case.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Jeffree, added that with the infrastructure for a service already in place at Watford Met it should not cost tens of millions of pounds to keep it in operation after the rail link.
Residents from the estate also addressed the London TravelWatch panel, which will compile the final report.
Lester Wagman, from the Save Watford Met campaign, said the loss of the station could have dangerous ramifications for pupils at Watford Grammar School for Boys.
He said if Watford Met closed it would force many pupils to walk up Rickmansworth Road, which has narrow pavements and lots of traffic.
Resident Isobel Doherty said the loss of the station would affect house prices on the Cassiobury estate. Another resident, Helen Rice, said the final decision should not be in the hands of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
She said: “We are not in London and I am not comfortable with the office of someone we didn’t elect making decisions for us.”
Ms Rice was told the decision was the Mayor of London’s by law as part of his responsibilities for Transport for London.
Mr Leibling said the panel would take what they had heard and compile a report with recommendations which would go to the Mayor of London.
Mr Johnson is due to receive the report by September 2 and he will make a decision later this year.