If all had gone to plan on December 9th 2018 the morning TV shows would have captured bigwigs from the DfT, TfL and politicians craning to be featured in front of the cameras as the first Crossrail (or Elizabeth Line) train left Woolwich for Paddington.
Over in the Royal Docks passengers would have suddenly found more space on the morning DLR commute as people travelling from south east London and Kent towards Canary Wharf and central London switched to the shiny new line.
Of course that didn’t happen, and won’t for two years now. And that’s a big problem in a number of ways.
Figures of passenger increases at DLR stations show the difficulties ahead.
On the Woolwich DLR branch to Canning Town are a number of large developments. I covered many here. One of the biggest is 3,000 homes at Royal Wharf near Pontoon Dock station, which has seen incredible growth recently.
Passenger numbers have risen at the station:
- 78,000 in April 2017
- 143,000 in March 2018
- 210,000 in March 2019
And that isn’t down to easter timings or weather. January 2018 saw 126k passengers increase to 198k in January 2019.
Royal Wharf isn’t even finished yet, and other blocks comprising 236 flats are nearing completion near Thames Barrier Gardens.
That’s just one station where Crossrail was due to abstract passenger growth. The DLR will see no additional trains until 2022 at the earliest, and it’s likely to be 2023 for the Woolwich branch as the Beckton branch is seen as in greater need. It has lower frequencies and is also seeing numerous schemes along its length such as the Asian Business Park now being built and opening soon.
London City Airport is another development that will cause issues if Crossrail is delayed further. The airport is seeing expansion which will increase passenger numbers from 4.5 million to 6.5 million. Building work is underway with passenger facilities and flight increases expected from 2021 and completion in 2022.
Woolwich itself is of course seeing an ever-increasing amount of new homes. Delays to the next Southeastern franchise from the DfT will also play a factor there. No new carriages soon will limit the number of passengers who could switch to the train from the DLR.
The impact of Crossrail’s delay spreads far and wide. Limited scope for changes on other forms of transport in the near future means numerous stations will be feeling the squeeze.