Watford Junction railway station

Watford Junction National Rail London Overground
Watford Junction
Location of Watford Junction in Hertfordshire
Location Watford
Local authority Borough of Watford
Managed by London Midland
Owner Network Rail
Station code WFJ
DfT category B
Number of platforms 10
Accessible Yes [1]
Fare zone W
National Rail annual entry and exit
2010–11 Increase 4.822 million[2]
– interchange  Increase 0.411 million[2]
2011–12 Increase 5.184 million[2]
– interchange  Increase 0.539 million[2]
2012–13 Increase 6.092 million[2]
– interchange  Increase 0.545 million[2]
2013–14 Increase 6.413 million[2]
– interchange  Increase 0.562 million[2]
2014–15 Increase 6.884 million[2]
– interchange  Decrease 0.537 million[2]
Key dates
20 July 1837 Original station - Watford - opened.[3]
5 May 1858 Station relocated and renamed as Watford Junction[3]
1909 Rebuilt
1980s Refurbished throughout
Other information
Lists of stations
External links
WGS84 51°39′49″N 0°23′45″W / 51.6635°N 0.3958°W / 51.6635; -0.3958Coordinates: 51°39′49″N 0°23′45″W / 51.6635°N 0.3958°W / 51.6635; -0.3958
London Transport portal
UK Railways portal

Watford Junction is a railway station that serves Watford, Hertfordshire. The station is on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to 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 East Croydon and Clapham Junction via the West London Line. The station is a major hub for local bus services and the connecting station for buses to the Harry Potter studio tour.


The original 1837 Watford railway station
The new railway line opened in 1837 approached Watford over the River Colne on a viaduct (Thomas Roscoe, 1839)

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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[7] 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.

Watford Locomotive Depot 27 January 1951.

Motive power depot

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.[8]


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.[9] 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 Midland are considering revising the design.[10]

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.

Accidents and incidents

1954 accident

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.[11]

1975 accident

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.[12]

1996 accident

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.

2014 incident

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 is currently investigating the incident.[13]

2016 accident

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.[14][15]


Map of railways around Watford town centre

The station is staffed by dispatch staff for London Midland; London Overground also maintain a traincrew depot here. 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:[16]

Virgin Trains also operate at this station with one train per hour picking-up only northbound to Birmingham New Street with peak services extended to Wolverhampton. These services also stop on returning southbound but for set-down only. Morning peak and evening peak Virgin services also run to/from Liverpool Lime St, Glasgow Central, Preston and Manchester Piccadilly, and one service Saturday morning to/from Holyhead.

Preceding station   London Overground   Following station
TerminusWatford DC Line
towards Euston
National Rail
London Euston   Caledonian Sleeper
Highland Caledonian Sleeper
(northbound only)
Carlisle   Caledonian Sleeper
Lowland Caledonian Sleeper
  London Euston
Milton Keynes Central   London Midland
London - Crewe/Birmingham
  London Euston
Kings Langley or
Hemel Hempstead
  London Midland
London-Tring/Milton Keynes Central/Northampton/Birmingham
  Bushey or
Harrow & Wealdstone or
London Euston
Watford North   London Midland
Abbey Line
Hemel Hempstead or
Milton Keynes-South Croydon
  Harrow & Wealdstone
Milton Keynes Central
  Virgin Trains
London-West Midlands
  London Euston
Crewe   Virgin Trains
  London Euston
Milton Keynes Central or
  Virgin Trains
West Coast Main Line
  London Euston
Rugby or
  Virgin Trains
London Euston-Shrewsbury
  London Euston
Historical railways
Preceding station   London Underground   Following station
TerminusBakerloo line
National Rail
Terminus   British Rail
Rickmansworth Branch
  Watford High Street
Terminus   Network SouthEast
Croxley Green Branch
  Watford High Street
  Future Route  
Preceding station   London Underground   Following station
TerminusMetropolitan line
towards Baker Street or Aldgate


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.[18] 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).[19]

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, Berkhamsted and Tring. 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.[20][21]


Fast and slow lines at Watford Junction: a Virgin Trains Euston-Wolverhampton service & a London Midland stopping service
The terminus of the Watford DC Line at Watford Junction

Platform Usage:

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 routes 8, 10, 320, 321 and 324 as well as other Intalink routes 41, 306B, 311, 352, 501, 622, W1, W19, W20 and W30.

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.

Future developments

Outline map of the changes to be brought about by the Croxley Rail Link

Watford Junction station area improvements

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.[22]

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.[23]

Main article: Croxley Rail Link

The planned Croxley Rail Link, currently under construction, will divert the Metropolitan line's Watford branch via the disused Croxley Green branch to terminate at Watford Junction. It is expected to open to passenger service in 2018.[24]

Proposed developments

Outline map of the possible future Crossrail extensions as recommended in the 2011 RUS[25]

West London Line improvement

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.[26]

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.[26]


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.[25] 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.[21]

London Euston/Watford-Aylesbury services

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.[27] The proposal, or a connection from Aylesbury to London Euston, has been supported by the transport advocacy group Greengauge 21.[28] A 2006 report by Hertfordshire County Council mentioned the possibility of a link running as far as Amersham.[29]

Abbey Line tram

On 30 October 2009 the then Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis) announced a plan for Hertfordshire County Council to lease the Abbey Line from Network Rail and for the line to be operated using tram-train vehicles.[30] If the plan had proceeded, light rail services would have run from Watford Junction to St Albans Abbey from 2011 with possible extensions into St Albans city centre with on-street running, possibly as far as St Albans City railway station, and the possible re-instatement of the line to Hatfield.[31] The plans were formally dropped in 2013 [32]

Watford to St Albans Busway (Abbey Busway)

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.[33][34]

See also



  1. "London and South East" (PDF). National Rail Enquiries. National Rail. September 2006. Archived from the original (pdf) on 6 March 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Station usage estimates". Rail statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Please note: Some methodology may vary year on year.
  3. 1 2 Butt (1995), page 242
  4. Roscoe, Thomas; Lecount, Peter (1839). The London and Birmingham railway, with the home and country scenes on each side of the line. Charles Tilt. pp. 53–54. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  5. "The original Watford station". North Watford History Group. Archived from the original on 13 April 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  6. "Nationally Listed Buildings in Watford". Watford Borough Council. p. 103. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  7. "Bakerloo Line Facts". Transport for London. Archived from the original on 2 May 2007.
  8. Griffiths, Roger; Smith, Paul (1999). The directory of British engine Sheds and Principal Locomotive Servicing Points: 1. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Co. p. 106. ISBN 0-86093-542-6.
  9. "Railway". Watford Junction community website. Watford Museum. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  10. Wright, Mike (27 January 2014). "London Midland to rethink Watford Junction revamp after drop-off zone complaints". Watford Observer. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  11. Earnshaw, Alan (1991). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 7. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 34. ISBN 0-906899-50-8.
  12. McNaughton, Lt Col I K A (16 July 1975). "Report on the Derailment near Watford Junction" (PDF). HMSO.
  13. "Train struck lineside equipment in Watford tunnel, 26 October 2014". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  14. "Train derailed in 'landslide' near Watford Junction". BBC News Online. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  15. Ikonen, Charlotte. "Hundreds rescued after train derails at Hunton Bridge, near Watford Junction". Watford Observer. Newsquest. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  16. GB eNRT December 2015 Edition, Tables 60, 65, 66 & 176 (Network Rail)
  17. GB eNRT December 2015 Edition, Table 61 (Network Rail)
  18. Rail Utilisation Strategy, 2011, pp. 150.
  19. "'Emerging scenario' suggests Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line". Rail. Peterborough. 10 August 2011. p. 8.
  20. "Crossrail extension to Hertfordshire being considered". BBC News. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  21. 1 2 Topham, Gwyn (7 August 2014). "New Crossrail route mooted from Hertfordshire into London". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  22. "4.3 Watford Junction Area". Watford Borough Council. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  23. Local Transport Today, Issue 557, Page 7
  24. "Croxley Rail Link update". 17 December 2014.
  25. 1 2 "London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation" (PDF). Network Rail. December 2010 – July 2011. p. 140. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2011.
  26. 1 2 "London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation" (PDF). Network Rail. December 2010 – July 2011. p. 140. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 November 2011.
  27. "Chiltern Railways". Rail Saver. Archived from the original on 8 February 2008. 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...
  28. "Capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines" (PDF). Greengauge21. 17 February 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 March 2012.
  29. Wood, John (March 2006). "Hertfordshire's Local Transport Plan 2006/07 – 2010/1" (PDF). Hertfordshire County Council. p. 22.
  30. "DfT Press Release Watford and St Albans passengers on track for new tram service". 30 October 2009. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  31. "St Albans Abbey tram-train announced". Railway Gazette. 30 October 2009. Archived from the original on 3 November 2009.
  32. "St Albans light rail conversion plan dropped". Railway Gazette. 26 August 2013. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013.
  33. Ikonen, Charlotte. "Direct rail link between Watford and St Albans could be ripped up and converted into busway". Watford Observer. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  34. "Hertfordshire Rail Strategy Draft Rail Strategy consultation". Hertfordshire County Council/Arup. 10 June 2015. pp. 65–67. Retrieved 12 July 2015.


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