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Travel between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

From 20 May 2019 buses replace trains from Monday-Friday between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

This is while Network Rail complete a major upgrade to Stevenage station.

To assist you on your journey and to provide the fastest possible journey, we are operating two direct bus routes:

  • Between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone
  • Between Stevenage and Hertford North

Buses are timed to connect with train services, please make sure you plan ahead and check your journey at www.nationalrail.co.uk. Rail services from Watton-at-Stone and Hertford North towards London will be unaffected.

We also have ticket acceptance in place if you would prefer to travel completely by rail, changing trains at either Alexandra Palace or Finsbury Park. More information on ticket acceptance is available at the bottom of this page.

Major upgrades at Stevenage station

We are providing rail replacement bus services while Network Rail complete a major upgrade to Stevenage station and the track that connects Stevenage with Watton-at-Stone and destinations further south on the Hertford Loop. This upgrade involves the construction of a new fifth platform at Stevenage and the track, signalling and other infrastructure required to connect it to Watton-at-Stone.

This major upgrade will mean that Great Northern can run more trains per hour between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone. This will mean better links with other destinations on the East Coast Main Line such as Cambridge and it will help to make train services more reliable. Completion of the infrastructure is currently expected in 2020 and Great Northern expects to resume weekday train services in the Summer 2020 timetable.

In summary:

From 20 May 2019

  • A rail replacement bus service will begin between Stevenage, Watton-at-Stone and Hertford North from Monday – Friday. There will be one train per hour along this section on Saturdays and Sundays. Rail services between Watton-at-Stone and Hertford North and onwards towards Moorgate will continue as normal
  • There will be a bus service between Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage to replace the rail service between those two points and another bus service between Stevenage and Hertford North, to connect with trains to and from Moorgate, in London. Passengers travelling between Hertford North and Stevenage are advised to transfer onto the rail replacement bus at Hertford North, not Watton-at Stone because the overall travel time is shorter

Where are the buses picking up and dropping off passengers?

At Stevenage, buses pick up and drop off passengers from Stevenage Leisure Park car park.

At Watton-at-Stone, buses pick up and drop off passengers directly outside the station on Station Road.

At Hertford North, buses pick up and drop off passengers outside the station on North Road.

Why do we need a new platform at Stevenage?

The new platform and track will mean that train services on the Hertford Loop (Stevenage to London via Hertford North) can turn around at Stevenage. This will mean that we can introduce two trains per hour all day in each direction.

These trains will provide better connections at Stevenage. These connections include direct train services serving destinations connected to the East Coast Main Line including Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Cambridge, Peterborough and across the North of England.

Prior to May 2018, Hertford Loop trains could not turn around at Stevenage. To turn around, these services needed to run empty north to turn around at Letchworth Garden City on the East Coast main line and could cause delays to, or be delayed by other train services on the main line. The new platform and track, once complete will remove this issue, improving the reliability of all services.

In addition, the new timetables introduced from May 2018 as part of the Thameslink Programme use the timetable slots on the East Coast main line that were previously used to run empty Hertford Loop trains to run trains operating between Brighton and Cambridge.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of a second per hour all-day Brighton to Cambridge Thameslink service in the summer 2019 timetable, it is no longer possible to run empty Hertford Loop trains onto the main line to turn around.

How long will the bus journey take?

The bus timetable from the 20th of May 2019 is available in journey planners including at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

We will operate two buses per hour in each direction between Hertford North and Stevenage. In off-peak periods when the roads are quieter, we expect a journey time of approximately 25 minutes. In peak periods, we expect a journey time of 35 minutes.

In addition, we will operate one bus per hour in each direction between Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage. We expect a journey time of approximately 20 minutes in off-peak periods and 25 minutes when roads are busier.

Bus journey times have been tested and set at times that connect with onwards rail services. You can download a copy of the bus timetable here:

 Bus timetable

I am a wheelchair user, what should I do?

We will support you to get where you need to go. Both bus services are fully wheelchair accessible.

Where possible, please consider using the service from Hertford North as the station has lifts. Where possible, please try to book ahead.

You can book assistance online or by calling 0800 058 2844 or textphone 0800 138 1018.

Can I take a full-sized bicycle on the rail replacement bus service?

Non- folding bicycles are not allowed on rail replacement bus services at any time. Folding bicycles are allowed if fully folded. However, this is subject to space being available and this cannot be guaranteed.

I am travelling from Watton-at-Stone or Hertford North towards London, what will happen to my journey?

Trains will continue to operate between Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North and Moorgate as usual.

I am travelling further than Stevenage or Hertford North on a Hertford loop service, which bus service should I use?

Passengers travelling longer distance such as from Alexandra Palace to Stevenage or Stevenage to Alexandra Palace are advised to use the bus service from Hertford North. While further south than Watton-at-Stone, leaving or joining the train at Hertford North will offer a shorter overall journey time and benefits from more station facilities.

We anticipate that the bus service from Watton-at-Stone will only be used by residents of Watton-at-Stone or passengers that are ending their journey at Watton-at-Stone.

When will the new platform and track be built?

Network Rail is already working on site to build the new infrastructure which will enable full train services to resume. Network Rail and Great Northern are working closely together to complete this work as soon as possible. Completion of the infrastructure is currently expected in 2020. Great Northern expects to resume a weekday train service in the Summer 2020 timetable.

Why can’t the new platform be built without disrupting our services from Watton-at-stone?

Extensive engineering works are required to build the new platform, integrate it to the current Stevenage station and connect the new surrounding track and signals. This includes works to the track between Langley Junction and Stevenage to take Great Northern trains to the new platform without using the existing East Coast main line which is required for all other services. Connecting the new track to both the East Coast main line and the Hertford Loop can only be completed by agreeing to close entire sections for scheduled engineering work.

I am a season ticket holder and no longer wish to travel, can I get a refund?

We hope that existing ticket holders will give the replacement bus service a try. However if you no longer wish to travel with Great Northern more details on refunds can be found here.

Can this work be carried out overnight when trains aren’t running?

Unfortunately not. Apart from the complex infrastructure mentioned above, there is on average a gap of only four hours between the last train on one day and the start of service the next day. This is not long enough to get all of the required heavy machinery and man power in place, and off site again for long enough to carry out all of the required work. The only option is to do the work all at once and try to reduce the period of disruption to the shortest possible.

Network Rail have started to carry out detailed planning to include the latest technology and engineering techniques to make the platform and track build time as short as possible to minimise disruption for passengers. And they will be making maximum use of so-called “white” periods – Bank Holidays etc – to get as much done as quickly as possible.

Is ticket acceptance in place on other services?

Yes, on weekdays only.

While we hope that passengers travelling between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North will try the replacement bus service, we also have limited ticket acceptance in place should you prefer to travel to Stevenage on rail services operated via Finsbury Park or Alexandra Palace. This may be particularly suitable for passengers at the southern end of the Hertford Loop such as Bowes Park who would like to travel to Stevenage or further north.

Tickets with an origin/destination of the following stations for journeys to/from Stevenage or further north will be able to travel via Alexandra Palace or Finsbury Park without having to pay an additional fare:

  • Bowes Park
  • Palmers Green
  • Winchmore Hill
  • Grange Park
  • Enfield Chase
  • Gordon Hill
  • Crews Hill
  • Cuffley
  • Bayford
  • Hertford North
  • Watton-at-Stone

Please note that this ticket acceptance is only in place for journeys that are impacted by the weekday rail replacement bus service. In particular, ticket acceptance is subject to the following restrictions:

  • Weekdays only
  • No breaks in journey including at Finsbury Park
  • No travel further south than Finsbury Park including to change trains