Much of the rail infrastructure in the UK dates back a good century or more. This leaves us with a mixed legacy of inspiring architecture but also slow journeys, limited capacity and antiquated practices.
Rickmansworth station and the line it is built on are no exception. It seems unlikely that the tight curves of the line and the short platform wedged between two bridges would have been considered if the station and line were built today. However this the legacy with which we have to live.
The whole line to Aylesbury is itself something of a peculiarity of history. Built by the Metropolitan Railway deep into rural Buckinghamshire, the quite separate Grand Central Railway arranged the share the line for its trains to travel into London. Although both companies are long gone, the relative successors of both, TfL’s Metropolitan Line and Chiltern Railways, continue to play somewhat similar roles.
We need to understand the history of the line, not just to appreciate the limits imposed on the service today but also to show that the train service Rickmansworth receives has not always been as it is today.
How Rickmansworth used to be served
Old timetables aren’t easy to come by, but those available online indicate that in the past some elements of Ricky’s train service were better than it is today:
- 1938: Rickmansworth has a full-peak time service from Marylebone.
(Source: Metroland website, 1938 timetable)
- 1947: Trains run to Watford Junction taking just 10 minutes.
(Source: Timetable World, LMS timetable 1947)
- 1960: 3 services from Ricky to Marylebone between 8-9am. Today there’s just one.
(Source: Metroland website, 1960 timetable.)
- 1967: Only from the schedule in this year does the current situation of Marylebone peak services seem to come into effect.
(Source: Metroland website, 1967 schedule)
- 1977: 6 Met Line trains between 7-8am that takes 30 minutes to Baker Street. Today there are just 4 and they take 34 minutes.
(Source: Metroland website, 1977 schedule)
There are fewer Marylebone trains, fewer Metropolitan Line trains and longer journey times today compared to past timetables. And of course we’ve lost the link to Watford Junction.
There’s historical precedent for a better service than we receive today. As rail usage continues to rise we should be demanding more trains, more capacity and faster journeys. Not only should service match that of the past, it needs to better it.
According to Wikipedia Metropolitan Line trains ran at 70mph until the 1990s when they were reduced to 50mph to help maintain the ageing trains. The line speed was also dropped, affecting Chiltern services also. As new Metropolitan Line trains are introduced we need to push for a train and line speed increase as quickly as possible. The new trains are initially set to have a top speed of 62mph, however we should push for 70mph to be reinstated at the earliest opportunity.
Chiltern Railways services need to call at Rickmansworth station during peak periods. Without these Rickmansworth remains underserved compared to all other stations on the line, most being much smaller in size and far less used than Rickmansworth station. Chiltern don’t seem to be required to serve Rickmansworth during the peak, so an argument needs to be put to the regulatory bodies for this to be required in the future.
Still not convinced?
In part 3 we’ll be looking at how the service compares with others today and highlight some stats that will show that there’s little to inspire in the service we receive.