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Trains between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone

We're keeping trains running between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone until May 2019

We will continue running trains between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone until May 2019 and not December 2018 as previously advertised.

From May 2019, rail replacement buses will replace train services between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone. In addition, to provide faster journeys, we will also operate a bus in both directions between Stevenage and Hertford North. Train services between Hertford North / Watton-at-Stone and London will be unaffected.

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 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.

In summary:

May 2018 - May 2019

  • As part of our improvements to the timetable, services betweenWatton-at-Stone / Hertford North and Moorgate will have doubled to two trains per hour in the off-peak – previously only one train per hour
  • There is an hourly peak service all day between Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage

From 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 Sundays. Rail services from Watton-at-Stone and Hertford North to Moorgate will continue
  • 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. Watton-at-Stone is an unstaffed station with few facilities for those with accessibility needs; Hertford North has lifts and is staffed. When the bus service is introduced, passengers travelling between Hertford North and Stevenage will be advised to transfer onto the rail replacement bus at Hertford North, not Watton-at Stone because the overall travel time is shorter

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, when a second per hour all-day Brighton to Cambridge Thameslink service is introduced in May 2019, it will no longer be possible to run empty Hertford Loop trains onto the main line to turn around.

How long will the bus journey take?

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.

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 GTR are working closely together to complete this work as soon as possible. Completion of the infrastructure is currently expected in 2020 with a completion date to be defined by Network Rail.

We will reintroduce a train service as soon as the infrastructure is ready and in line with the current standard industry timetabling process.

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.

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.

I use a wheelchair, how should I travel?


Both bus services are fully wheelchair accessible. However for journeys that are not starting or finishing in Watton-at-Stone, we are advising all passengers to use the bus service between Stevenage and Hertford North. This is because it is a faster overall journey and Hertford North is a bigger station with more facilities including lifts.