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Travel between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

From 18 May 2020 a rail replacement bus service is operating Monday-Saturday between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

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

Please help us keep public transport free for key workers who need it. In line with government advice, you should only be travelling if you are unable to work from home, and only on public transport if you cannot travel by other means. If you must travel, always practice social distancing.

If you have to use public transport, the guidance for passengers on how to travel safely recommends:

  • Keep two metres apart from others wherever possible
  • Wear a face covering if you can
  • Use contactless payment or a smartcard where possible
  • Avoid rush hour travel where feasible
  • Wash or sanitise your hands before and after travel
  • Follow advice from staff and being considerate to others

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

  • Between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone - served by a single deck bus
  • Between Stevenage and Hertford North - served by a double decker bus

Rail replacement services are designed to support social distancing and 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 are 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

Network Rail is currently completing 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.

While completion has been delayed because of the impact of coronavirus, 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 upgrade and the resumption of train services is expected later this summer.

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

At Watton-at-Stone, vehicles 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.

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 on Saturdays from 23 May 2020, it is no longer possible to run empty Hertford Loop trains onto the main line to turn around.

The rail replacement timetable from 18 May 2020 is available in journey planners including at www.nationalrail.co.uk.

We are operating 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 also operate two buses 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.

Journey times have been tested and set at times that connect with onwards rail services.

We will support you to get where you need to go. Both 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.

Non- folding bicycles are not allowed on rail replacement services at any time. Folding bicycles are allowed if fully folded. However, this is subject to space being available and this cannot be guaranteed.
Trains will continue to operate between Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North and Moorgate as usual.

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 a rail replacement 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.

Network Rail is working on site to build the new infrastructure which will enable full train services to resume. While delayed by the impact of coronavirus, 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 and Saturday train service later this summer.

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.
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.

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.

Yes, on Monday-Saturday only.

While we hope that passengers travelling between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North will try the replacement services, 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 Monday-Saturday rail replacement bus service. In particular, ticket acceptance is subject to the following restrictions:

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