I was in the London Transport Museum shop the other day, admiring the Tube map of Team GB’s Olympic medallists – yours for a mere fifty quid. But then it was pointed out to me – something was missing…
Yup, the DLR’s retreated north of the river for the first time in 13 years. Still, it’s not like they held any Olympic events around here, is it? Oops.
Greenwich Council’s cabinet is preparing to mull over proposals for a £1 billion Docklands Light Railway extension to Eltham, which it claims could be built above the A102 and A2 dual carriageways – and pits the Labour council against the transport policies of the party’s mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.
The report, commissioned by the council from Hyder Consulting – the company behind the shelved Greenwich pedestrianisation scheme – suggests an extension could be built via tunnel from Silvertown, then on top of the Blackwall Tunnel southern approach through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath and then above Rochester Way Relief Road through Kidbrooke and Eltham to Falconwood, on the borough’s western boundary.
It suggests narrowing the lanes on both roads and building the railway above the central reservations.
A road tunnel from Silvertown is one of current mayor Boris Johnson’s long-term proposals, and got backing from chancellor George Osbourne earlier this month. But Ken Livingstone has said a tunnel there would be “mad”. Nonetheless, the report suggests building the railway inside a road tunnel.
Eight stations would be built, including two in tunnels at Woolwich Road and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout, where building above the dual carriageways would not be possible. Indeed, the flyover at Woolwich Road may even need to be completely rebuilt, the study says.
The report also acknowledges difficulties in building at the Kidbrooke interchange, where traffic stops at signals, and at Eltham station, where the A2 runs in a tunnel.
Cabinet members will discuss the report on Tuesday. The study, which has not been released to the public, was originally announced early in 2010 and was due to be completed in the summer of that year. After 18 months, the £25,000 report concludes that further work is needed on assessing passenger demand an alternative route options. Council officers recommend spending £45,000 on that extra work.
It’s hard to assess quite what the impact of the scheme would be without seeing the report – all we have to go on are the cabinet papers. We lack important details like where some of the stations would be (North Greenwich, Woolwich Road, Sun-in-Sands, Kidbrooke, Eltham and Falconwood are a given) and where on earth these trains would go to in the first place (Bank? Stratford International?).
But, on first sight, and I can’t think of any other way of putting it… this is crackers.
Above is Deptford Bridge station – see the size of the viaduct? And they’re planning to build that above the road? Obviously it’s wider here because there’s platforms on either side, but what’s basically being proposed is turning the A102 and A2 into a box with the DLR running on top. I can’t imagine anyone who lives alongside the Blackwall Tunnel approach – and a lot of people live very close to it – wanting trainloads of people peering into their bedroom windows.
There’s also the engineering challenges – including years of disruption if the 44-year-old Blackwall Tunnel southern approach has to be rebuilt. It seems to me that this report mistakes the DLR for what it was 20 years ago – a small railway with little bolted-together stations, whereas now its trains are three cars long and stop at stations as well-appointed as mainline stations.
It also relies on the assumption that a road tunnel will be built underneath the cable car site – which is by no means a done deal. Indeed, it seems mad to restrict road capacity while encouraging more traffic to come up the A102 with a new tunnel.
Reports like this can come up with good things – the Greenwich and Lewisham extension came out of a Lewisham Council study, for example. But construction in Greenwich and Lewisham town centres aside, the construction of that line was relatively unobstrusive. Hyder’s plan for an Eltham line would be anything but.
Greenwich is understandably anxious about public transport links in the south of the borough – Eltham’s long had poor connections and the Kidbrooke Village scheme will put big pressure on Kidbrooke station. But this seems a strange solution. And remember, an Eltham extension isn’t even on TfL’s list of ideas at the moment.
Lewisham Council has commissioned a study into extending the Bakerloo Line, which includes options through Eltham and onto Bexleyheath. If there’s a billion pounds – a billion pounds! – kicking around, then why not sort out the junction at Lewisham, extending the Overground into the area?
I can’t help thinking the only winner from this is Hyder Consulting – who’ve already led the council up a blind alley with its botched scheme to pedestrianise central Greenwich. Hopefully this time, the council’s cabinet will realise it can spend £45,000 on better things than this weirdly insular scheme.
Am I right to be so dismissive of this proposal, or is this as plainly nutty as I think it is? I’d love to know what you think…
10pm update: This gets weirder. I’ve just found on Eltham MP Clive Efford’s website a proposal for exactly the same scheme as Hyder were paid £25,000 to come up with – from six years ago. “Clive pointed out to them… might be possible to run a service above the A102 to Eltham.”
Lots of people out and about yesterday indulging their inner geek on the Docklands Light Railway’s long-awaited new extension. Tourists hunting for Shakespeare at Stratford can now be joined by those searching for the Beatles at Abbey Road in getting completely lost in the back streets of West Ham.
I’d love Newham Council to put a zebra crossing outside Abbey Road station.
Most of it isn’t strictly a new line – it’s the old North London Line from Canning Town to Stratford with a couple of new stations added and an old one brought back to life. The new bit is the real reason why it’s here, though. Turn left out of the station and the Olympic athletes’ village is under construction. Turn right, and there’s Westfield Stratford City, which opens on 13 September.
So, with a direct line from Woolwich Arsenal to the new shopping centre, how is Transport for London aiming to take pressure off the Blackwall Tunnel and encouraging shoppers to take the DLR across the Thames to Stratford City?
By restricting the direct Woolwich-Stratford service to rush hour, unfortunately. Weekends and during the rest of the day, the service runs to and from Beckton, serving the University of East London and ExCel, which is where DLR thinks the trains are needed.
I can’t help thinking the lack of an all-day service on both branches, particularly from Woolwich, is going to be proved a mistake – there’s going to be a lot of demand for Westfield Stratford City, and a lot of people who won’t fancy dragging bags up and down the grim interchange at Canning Town. Plus experience in Shepherds Bush shows that a Westfield means traffic gridlock – so why not get people to take the train from day one?
Take a look at London Reconnections, for there’s an interesting post about possible extensions to the Docklands Light Railway. When the ribbon is finally cut on the Stratford International extension (delayed, apparently, because of thefts to cabling), it’ll be the first time in 24 years that there’s been no plans for an extension to the network.
Since it opened in 1987, lines to Bank, Beckton, Lewisham, Woolwich Arsenal and Stratford International have come off the drawing board and into reality – but after Boris Johnson canned a scheme to extend it to Dagenham, that production line has ground to a halt. Anyhow, TfL’s released a map to show that it hasn’t given up on expanding the network just yet.
Here’s the map as it affects south-east London. Can you see what’s missing?
Yes, it’s a line to Eltham. Remember that?
Political rivals smelled a £75,000 PR stunt ahead of the general election, with Labour MP Clive Efford defending a marginal constituency which would benefit from such a rail link.
Since then, the trail’s gone cold. The Greenwich Council website still claims a report would be due “in summer 2010”. It’s almost summer 2011, and nothing’s been produced. There’s been no mention of the extension proposals at ERA meetings since March 2010.
The report is being produced by Hyder Consulting – the firm whose proposals to pedestrianise Greenwich Town Centre were shelved after an outcry from residents and Transport for London. In March 2010, Hyder’s Ed Humphrys told an ERA meeting about the practical challenges of building an extension to the railway. Maybe he was trying to warn them off the project?
Another speaker at the meeting was William McKee, chairman of Tilfen Land – which owns much of Thamesmead and has local London Assembly member Len Duvall as a non-executive director. (McKee himself chairs Boris Johnson’s Outer London Commission.) He warned that TfL’s budget was about to be cut, and it was more interested with extending the DLR north of the Thames.
Since those warnings, nothing. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in January, and was told the report was yet to be completed, although it was hoped that it would be completed “shortly”. Three months on, there’s been no news. The next ERA meeting is on 24 May, but with the release of TfL’s map, it may now be too late for any plans to bring the DLR to Eltham.
Cracking the problem of Eltham’s ropey public transport links is an issue that’s occupied local politicians for a few years. I’m surprised the idea of extending the DLR from Lewisham wasn’t considered – but Greenwich politicians of all parties seem concerned with creating north-south links within their borough, not east-west links outside (even though Lewisham station is actually only a few hundred yards from the borough’s western border).
Hyder’s first proposal would arguably depend on a Silvertown bridge being built. But that’s now discounted thanks to Boris’s cable car leading to plans for a third Blackwall tunnel instead, which mayoral rival Ken Livingstone says he is now opposed to.
Even if you managed to stick the DLR in a tunnel – and frankly, that’d provide a rollercoaster ride through Silvertown – a second underground station on the peninsula would be expensive, to say the least. Furthermore, I’m not sure how one would tunnel “past Charlton” without getting in the way of the existing 162-year-old Charlton-Blackheath railway tunnel. A tunnel from Woolwich, meanwhile, also seems phenomenally costly, risks digging up Woolwich Common, and just how would you run a line through Kidbrooke or the Well Hall Road? Maybe they really do have the DLR mixed up with trams.
But how else would you do it? The Green Party talked up an extension of the Jubilee Line from North Greenwich some time back – but that’s a non-runner, because the tunnels there point in the wrong direction, and splitting the line would halve the service to Stratford.
You could include Eltham on a Bakerloo Line extension or a London Overground extension – but both would cost serious money, and turn Greenwich councillors’ hair white because they’d link to Lewisham and not other parts of Greenwich borough.
Which leads us into blue sky thinking. The return of trams? Another cable car? Maybe a monorail…
The citizens of Eltham got an extension to the 132 bus to North Greenwich a couple of years back. It’ll be the best they’ll get for a while. For now, we’ll have to wait and see what this report actually says. But it really does feel like as far extensions to the DLR are concerned, Eltham may well have missed the train.
Ladywell, Catford and Forest Hill haven’t, though – and Brockley Central’s discussing the idea of the DLR heading to that part of town. (How would they get it across the A20 at Lewisham, I wonder?)
I’ve asked Greenwich Council for a response to TfL’s map, and will update this post when it gets back to me.
6:15PM UPDATE: No response from Greenwich Council so far.
A date’s finally been set for the long-awaited boost in the Docklands Light Railway service from Woolwich Arsenal – with the opening of the network’s new branch to Stratford International now due on 24 February.
London City Airport chief executive Richard Gooding let slip the date in an interview with the Travelmole website. The move should see the already-packed two-year-old service from Woolwich Arsenal to Bank joined by trains to Canning Town, Star Lane, West Ham, Abbey Road, Stratford High Street, Stratford and Stratford International, using the old North London Line route.
This won’t mean more direct trains to the City, but it’ll mean more opportunities to change to Jubilee Line, Central Line and mainline trains to central London and beyond, as well as the high-speed services to Kent from Stratford International and other rail routes to Essex and Hertfordshire.
(Thanks to @markvauxhall for the tip-off.)
You wait ages for a spoddy transport post and three come at once… the long-awaited extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Woolwich Arsenal will open on 10 January, according to TfL papers seen by transport blog London Reconnections.
Shame people who use it will be stung by it being in Zone 4, even though the equivalent stations north of the river are in Zone 3. I imagine Southeastern didn’t want to give up all that lovely money from fares they sometimes make an effort to collect at Woolwich Arsenal. I wonder if this will take some of the insane pressure off North Greenwich Jubilee line – and the 161 and 472 buses that run to it – station in the mornings? Or will people simply opt for the cheaper choice (using North Greenwich only requires a zone 2 ticket) of travelling as they do now?
“The authorities are trying to turn Woolwich into the new Greenwich. That’s not going to happen overnight but it could well happen. There is already a more cosmopolitan feel…” Already estate agents are licking their lips.
(EDIT: Or, you can visit an exhaustive photoset from Flickr user MackenzieBlu, who also explored the hole in the ground in the Royal Arsenal development.)