New rapid transit link could connect St Albans, Welwyn and Hatfield with Stansted Airport
- Credit: Herts County Council
A sustainable new transport link could provide an east-west corridor connecting Hertfordshire with Essex.
The Hertfordshire-Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) is an ambitious scheme to provide an alternative means of transport between the counties which is green, modern, affordable and reliable.
It will run from Hemel Hempstead and west Watford, with those routes joining just south of St Albans, before travelling to Harlow in Essex and onwards to Stansted Airport.
The project, which is the first Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in Herts, is part of the A414 Corridor Strategy devised by HCC alongside district and borough councils, which aims to tackle traffic congestion and poor journey time reliability due to a reliance on cars.
Over the next 15 years, HCC is planning for more than 100,000 new jobs and more than 100,000 new homes to meet local needs, and the HERT is one response to this.
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HCC says it will be able to carry people in much bigger numbers than a private car, and will provide greater convenience, reliability and frequency than buses. The scheme will incorporate transport hubs, connecting planned cycling and walking routes.
HCC leader Cllr Richard Roberts, who is also chair of the Hertfordshire Growth Board, said: “Sustainable travel is one of the most important aspects of our plans to create a cleaner, greener Hertfordshire, and investment in this new transport initiative to connect west Hertfordshire to west Essex marks a clear step forward in achieving our aims.
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"The new public transport system will provide a fast, reliable and convenient way to travel across the county, and support our ambitions to enable all residents to live healthy, fulfilling lives in thriving, prosperous communities.”
But Cllr Chris White, leader of St Albans district council and chair of the policy committee, wants to know more: "Any investment in public transport is welcome but we need to have a lot more detail about how this will impact on the district.
“The potential costs are huge and we hope that the Government realises that investment in Hertfordshire infrastructure is going to be essential if it expects us all to build thousands of new homes.”
Cllr Tony Kingsbury, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, welcomed the scheme: “This is an exciting development for our borough given our central position in Hertfordshire. We know residents and businesses want to see future growth supported by new infrastructure, particularly investment in our transport networks.
"Welwyn Hatfield enjoys a favourable trend of inward commuting and the HERT will enable everyone to travel to and from work more comfortably and sustainably. I am proud to support the county’s proposals and look forward to working closely with our communities as they evolve.”
Paul Spelzini of PBSAUG (Potters Bar and St Albans Transport User Group) was less positive about the proposals: "We think HCC may have missed an opportunity here, as the four-mile long A5183 cycle route which we would support and is well used by Verulam Cycling Club was turned down. These new proposals will cost the taxpayer some £6M in all, whilst buses get a derisory £1.4M a year by comparison.
"We are negotiating with National Express for a coach stop at Colney Fields retail park on their 727 service which runs right past J22 of the M25. This could be done at minimal cost and not affect their Brighton-Norwich schedule.
"This would turn it into a hub, with 30-45 minute links to Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick Airports, as some of the UK's most frequent flyers live in nearby Radlett and St Albans. The MRT could not match those timings that people want."
A public engagement programme about the HERT will take place in the autumn, ahead of which the county council will engage with local communities, civic groups, businesses and other organisations to ensure the process is both diverse and inclusive .
For more information on the proposals, visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/HERT