Can you cross Hertfordshire well by public transport?

If there’s one thing you learn quickly after moving to Hertfordshire, it’s that the county has excellent transport links, so long as it involves London.

Smaller towns, and even a handful of villages, are directly connected to London by train, and those in the south of the county can even hop straight on the Tube or Overground, but there is less talk of crossing Hertfordshire.

Estate agents and developers often boast that King’s Cross is less than half an hour away, which can send shivers down the spine of many born-and-bred locals.

I have attended many planning meetings where projects have been described as sustainable because they are located near stations or along a bus line, while questions from councilors about east-west connections remain often unanswered.

As someone who regularly drives across the county but would never consider doing it on public transit, I asked if it could really be that bad.

My travel tickets through Hertfordshire.
– Credit: LDRS

Hertfordshire County Council is currently in the early stages of planning a new rapid transit system for the area which will see Dacorum join Harlow along the A414 which seemed like a challenge well worth taking attempted.

It is not clear if the new system will be a train, bus or tram service but I wanted to put a marker down so decided to start at Berkhamsted and end at Hoddesdon to plot the nearest route possible.

Do you really still need a car to cross Hertfordshire, and can it really be worse than the M25?

Three buses, a train and a mile walk later, I got a pretty conclusive answer.

Bus 500 in Berkhamsted on a sunny day

I started the trip with the Berkhamsted 500.
– Credit: LDRS

Bus 1 – Berkhamsted to Hemel Hempstead

Berkhamsted is certainly a city that has benefited from its rail links, raising its status (and property prices) for those wishing to leave the capital for a bustling small town. From its station, commuters can get to Euston via Watford and Hemel Hempstead, but it remains well out of the way for anyone coming from further east.

I started with the train to Watford Junction and the Abbey Flyer to St Albans, but the missing connections might have confused things too much. The location of Hemel Hempstead station also remains a frustrating choice, and I would have needed a bus for this approach anyway, so I opted for the 500 to the Marlowes.

It was £3.40 for a single ticket, which seemed steep at first, but matches the similar rail fare, and I arrived at Hemel Hempstead on time 18 minutes later.

Bus 302 from Hemel Hempstead

Hemel Hempstead to Hatfield was the longest part of my trip.
– Credit: LDRS

Bus 2 – Hemel Hempstead to Hatfield

The bus driver gave me a weird look when I asked for a single here, and it turns out for a good reason. I had underestimated the cost and was charged £5.20 for the one hour journey, tipping me over the £7.80 cost of a day ticket for Arriva services.

From my anecdotal evidence most of the demand was for the Hemel to St Albans route which makes sense as it is a 30 minute journey whilst connecting areas like Adeyfield or Leverstock Green which are well out of reach of the train.

However, the bus left 10 minutes late, threatening the rest of my journey which was already hanging by a thread.

As it weaved its way through the larger neighborhood, it wasn’t as scenic of a ride through the Hertfordshire countryside as I had expected. Roadworks along Batchwood Drive in St Albans also did nothing to create a calming atmosphere.

It was particularly stressful because for the last 90 minutes I had spent worrying about my connection from Hatfield to Hertford on the 641.

If I missed the 12:19 bus it would be a two hour wait for the next service, or I would have to wait half an hour to then continue on an extended route through Welwyn Garden City.

Either would have been fine for me as I didn’t have anything waiting for me on either side, but if I was trying to get to work or just wanted to get home from a summer excursion one day, it could really spoil the mood.

Luckily the bus arrived in Hatfield about 15 minutes late and I made the connection in two minutes – a welcome relief.

Hertford town center in Hertfordshire

I only had time for a whirlwind tour of Hertford.
– Credit: LDRS

Bus 3 – Hatfield to Hertford

As someone who drove around the county without a car for months when I first moved, I was amazed when I realized how close these two towns are.

If I haven’t had so much luck with my connections, the recommended route on Google Maps is a 50-minute ride on two trains to cover just 13 kilometers, making travel between the two unnecessary for most people. . For reference, getting from Hatfield to Kings Cross only takes 24 minutes.

This bus was a Uno service costing £4.20 one way. The bus was much cleaner and more modern, but the fact that there were only three of us on board perhaps showed that it was not the most popular route.

The 20 minute ride got me to Hertford as planned, it’s just a shame that ‘as planned’ was exactly two hours after I left Berkhamsted.

It’s three times longer than it would take me by car, and it had crossed a line from not being doable for a drive, to not even really being doable for a day trip. a day – and I’m afraid to think of the trip if you wanted to enjoy the pubs and restaurants anywhere along the route and then try to get back. I had one connection to make before I reached my finish line.

Young white man in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Made it to Hoddesdon almost three hours after leaving.
– Credit: LDRS

Train 1 – Hertford to Hoddesdon

Here I will take some of the blame. To try and beat Google Maps by a few minutes, I looked up to get off the bus, run to Hertford East and hop on the train. That would tick Ware off the list of towns I had reached and buy me a few minutes.

However, because I don’t visit Hertford enough, I was completely distracted and missed the ideal connection, instead of having to wait for the next arrival and adding a few extra minutes to the trip. There were, however, restrooms, WiFi and power outlets, which were all welcome at this point in the trek.

But it highlighted something else that makes public transport in Hertfordshire so frustrating, the long walks between stations.

I stayed at Rye House, then it’s less than a mile from Hoddesdon town center which can only attract many visitors. If the new HERT stops in town en route to the new Gilston Garden Village, hopefully that’s something planners will consider.

I finally reached my final destination – the clock tower in the city center – just after 1:35 p.m., 2 hours 50 minutes after departure.

If the county council plans to ease access across the county, it hopes whatever it builds will move much faster than that.

Final cost:
Arriva single from Berkhamsted to Euston – £3.70
Arriva single from Hemel Hempstead to Hatfield – £5.20
Uno single from Hatfield to Hertford – £4.10
Greater Anglia single from Hertford to Rye House – £3.40

Total cost: £16.40

View of the City of London from the train

I gave in and drove through London to get home.
– Credit: LDRS

The return journey

Finally, I took the quickest route in reverse from Rye House to Liverpool Street and then Euston to Berkhamsted which cost £15.35.

This trip seemed like child’s play in comparison and got me back in just under 90 minutes, with much more comfortable seats for the duration.

Such a long journey is still unrealistic to get to work or just to spend an afternoon out, which means our cities must be missing out on a lot of tourism and passing trade as people decide to head to London on the square.

I understand why buses have to go around houses, but I was surprised not to see a route that checked off city centers to speed up trips. Hopefully this is where HERT will come into play and join the patchy transport links that currently exist.

So far, unfortunately, I’ve had a very strong response that it’s almost impossible to enjoy Hertfordshire in all its glory without driving. The wait to drop the M25 continues.

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