Thamesmead DLR extension consultation launched by Transport for London

A consultation has been launched into extending the DLR to Thamesmead and Beckton Riverside.

It’s the latest in many rounds of reports, studies and consultations into plans over the years with the latest costing put at £1.4 billion.

As reported previously, the newest proposal does not link north Thamesmead to the Elizabeth line, Thameslink and Southeastern services at Abbey Wood.

DLR would not link to Abbey Wood station

For those in north Thamesmead the link would provide a bit of a slow trundle over the Thames via Beckton before heading to Canning Town and beyond. Slower in fact than heading to Abbey Wood on existing buses (10 minutes) and then catching existing rail services all over the capital or into Kent.

Factor in that a new express bus is launching in weeks between north Thamesmead and Abbey Wood station that could take as little as five minutes and one wonders how much demand they’d actually be?

Then factor in £24 million has been allocated for another express route from north Thamesmead to Woolwich with its Elizabeth line, DLR and National Rail station and well, would many really use the Thamesmead DLR branch south of the river?

It hardly serves many areas in demand on the Beckton route and crucially doesn’t link to Barking with its numerous London Overground, tube and c2c rail links.

Bus then Elizabeth line quicker for many destinations compared to proposed DLR

This plan thus offers no link south to a major rail head nor a link north to similar at Barking.

TfL though seem adamant that extending the London Overground (which would link to ample travel options at Barking station) or trams (with greater flexibility to serve other growth areas plus high capacity vehicles) isn’t the way to go: “We believe that an extension of the DLR is the right long-term solution because the alternative options do not offer the same value for money or improvements to capacity and efficiency that is needed for the area.”

London Overground’s Barking riverside route is limited in the ability to run more than four trains per hour so that makes sense but trams offer high capacity and Thamesmead certainly has capacity for them.

Thamesmead’s wide road network tailor made for express buses and future tram links?

A tram though? They are far higher capacity than existing buses and a high frequency could compete with the DLR.

Still, TfL seem focused on crossing the river. Yet how many people in north Thamesmead would want to cross the Thames when the planned route via Beckton offers little. A barely used business park?

Far more people would want the connections offered through the Elizabeth line to Heathrow/the City/West End/Stratford/Paddington/west London (and more), Southeastern to London Bridge/the City/West End/Lewisham plus Thameslink with its stations through central London such as St Pancras and then north of the capital.

Roads

Thamesmead’s road network can certainly take frequent high capacity buses and trams in future given it was built for a town of 100,000 which has yet to see more than 60k. Dual carriageways lead all the way from north Thamesmead to both Abbey Wood and Woolwich stations.

Trams at street-level rather than the grade-separated DLR would also permit onward extension to major north Bexley growth areas such as Belvedere and Erith where Bexley’s Growth Strategy foresees up to 10k homes as well as extension west to 8,000 homes planned at Charlton riverside and then up to 20k homes at Greenwich Peninsula.

It’d be the precursor so a wider strategic network serving areas earmarked for some of the biggest housing growth in the UK. The DLR to Thamesmead doesn’t offer that.

Proposed express bus and DLR

But that would all be some way off following the introduction of express, high capacity bus rapid transit routes.

Capacity

Of course one advantage the DLR does have is capacity over buses (though less so with trams) and Thamesmead could see over 10,000+ homes in an unbuilt area in the north of the town as well as higher density on retail parks.

Whether that’s enough to justify extension at the expected cost over the Thames remains to be seen.

Thamesmead to Abbey Wood Superloop express route to start within weeks

What I could easily see is a DLR extension beyond its existing route in Beckton but still terminate north of the Thames to permit thousands of homes at Beckton retail parks and underutilised land.

Crossing the Thames at high cost without it even connecting to Abbey Wood station nor much scope for onward extension give the need to be separate from road traffic? In the current financial climate I cannot see either major party going for it and it’d require central government funding.

GWT map from early 2000s before cancellation. Trams were an option. Better use of capital funding?

TfL state they’ve considered it but still don’t think an extension to Beckton Riverside alone will happen so are seeking to cross the Thames. We shall see.

The increased cost of a river crossing would also amplify the “more spending in London” argument from across the country.

Bakerloo extension plan

And in a financially constrained time wouldn’t the Bakerloo line extension be a better bet? That could see 20k new homes along the Old Kent Road and alleviate Lewisham station.

It’s also benefit from developer contributions in zones 1-2 areas rather than out in north Thamesmead where development-related revenue would be lower.

Long wait

Arguing against the current DLR proposal to Thamesmead does feel very odd having grown up and worked in the area for many years. I’ve shopped there, socialised there, worked there and know it like the back of my hand. I would buy groceries back when Morrisons was Safeway. We’re going back a bit. Visited Thamesmere leisure centre and library frequently. I’ve had a personal connection to north Thamesmead for decades.

I’ve also been reading and writing about the need for better transport for Thamesmead for years. Whether it be the Jubilee line or a new railway station. Thamesmead is always of interest.

Proposed station site for Thamesmead in red

It must also be said though a lot the isolation of Thamesmead in the present day is exaggerated. Thamesmead hasn’t been the isolated outpost of myth some think it is. At least not for 20-30 years. Much of south Thamesmead never was. The north was a different story but is now much better. I worked there and commuted in.

But it does need something more and will do to unlock many much-needed homes.

Yet this plan doesn’t stack up for me. Knowing the area well I cannot work out why people would use it rather than the forthcoming express routes to either Abbey Wood or Woolwich (which will take five minutes!) for far faster rail routes connecting across London. That should be where funding is focused to boost capacity as more housing comes on stream in years to come so an initial bus can become a tram, ensuring high frequency, high speed express routes from new homes to those stations.

It’s not as if the DLR won’t almost certainly require a change anyway for users to reach many parts of London, so why not take an express route to use Thameslink, Southeastern, or the Elizabeth line?

Woolwich Elizabeth line station is five minutes from proposed Thamesmead development area

If this was a time of ample infrastructure investment and the new extension connected to Abbey Wood I’d be more supportive but it isn’t and it doesn’t.

And maybe it doesn’t need to anyway if high capacity, frequent routes become available link north Thamesmead to Abbey Wood and Woolwich. That ball is already rolling. It could be scaled up accordingly as more homes are built.

One thing we hopefully won’t see if little movement on new housing while this rumbles on one way or another for another 10+ years.

Thamesmead retail parks. Soon to be five minutes express bus away from Elizabeth line stations

With express buses starting imminently set to take five minutes to major stations which then offer regular rail services to Canary Wharf in less than 10 minutes, the City and Stratford in 15 minutes and West End in 20, there’s already a pressing need for masterplans in north Thamesmead to replace retail parks.

Given Peabody are a key part of north Thamesmead’s proposed development we probably shouldn’t expect much anyway even if major public funds were spent. Abbey Wood saw the £18 billion Elizabeth line and what have Peabody built in 10 years even after the line opened? Next to nothing with numerous vacant plots just minutes from Abbey Wood station.

One of many vacant plots sitting empty for years under Peabody ownership near Abbey Wood station

Even if the stars align and somehow money from central government is awarded, it wouldn’t open until the 2030s. You never know, Peabody may have even built a dozen homes by then.

The consultation can be seen here.

 

 

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    22 thoughts on “Thamesmead DLR extension consultation launched by Transport for London

    • TfL don’t state the planned trains per hour on the consultation?

      I recall before reading it would be 6tph with others on the line still heading to the existing Beckton terminus which remains open.

      Six tph isn’t *that* high capacity compared to, say 10 trams per hour from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood or Woolwich.

      TfL and advocates seem to think there’s some pressing desire for people in Thamesmead to want to cross the river here which would be true *if* any new link connected somewhere useful i.e not the Beckton branch which avoids many places of major employment or transport nodes. I agree most existing and future residents would want to reach Abbey Wood and Woolwich for the ample, fast choices on offer there. Linking north Thamesmead with high capacity routes (and not double deckers alone) to those two stations is the most important priority.

      Reply
    • I agree with your thinking and I think the emphasis on there being a ‘direct connection to employment centres’ is weighted too heavily when only one station is being created in Thamesmead. Many in practice would already be using the bus to connect to the DLR from West/East/South Thamesmead, assuming they don’t use it to connect to the Elizabeth line at Woolwich or Abbey Wood. And then even if using the DLR they would likely be changing at Custom House to reach Canary Wharf/City/West End (would be interesting to see TfL’s modelling on this).

      The purpose of this is should be to connect as many people to the Elizabeth line as quickly as possible, and sending it down the Beckton branch with a dense stopping pattern doesn’t make sense to me. The junction to Custom House is 8-9 minutes on the DLR, and if you are spending money on a tunnel across the Thames, you could cut that to 3-4 by creating an ‘express lane’ on the old Beckton Park corridor terminating at Custom House, with Gallion’s Reach trains working as normal and then a link train working direct from Custom House to Beckton and onto Thamesmead.

      They mention that the cost of a tram/bus tunnel is comparable to a DLR tunnel, but costs on the surface must surely be much cheaper, making an extension a BRT/tram onto Belvedere much easier. Could a tunnel engineered for trams also carry buses for other destinations? And if the alignment terminates in any case at Custom House and offers similar speeds (and probably could run at higher frequencies to cover the lower capacity) then surely it would be better to have a scheme with expanded reach for the same cost.

      Reply
      • Buses and trams seem like they’d entail staffing costs and risks; the DLR is designed to reduce those as much as possible, although it is not infallible there. I have to imagine that is a factor, especially considering recent industrial action.

        Reply
        • The operational costs of a tram may be higher though not guaranteed. They’d have a driver v a “train captain” on the DLR.

          Both would have roving ticket inspectors.

          Whether a marginal operational cost increase (if that) offsets vast capital spend and little extension possibility in the DLR is a key question.

          Reply
    • I’d like to see it living in Thamesmead but realistically can’t see it. I can already get to Abbey Wood in 10 minutes then its the liz line every 5 mins. Basically door to door to central in 25 mins and with new rapid bus that will speed up. Better than the dlr would offer.

      Given we already have this option the dlr doesn’t look a good use of what is likely to be a couple of billion if/when it ever begins. Spend a fraction on reviving the greenwich waterfront transit as a tram/electric high capacity bus and perhaps extending liz line east to belvedere/erith.

      If London has the chance of a couple of billion for capital projects in the next 5 years I’d certainly put the bakerloo and liz line east ahead of DLR going just one stop over the thames.

      Reply
    • What will be key to know is the cost breakdown. How much a short extension to Beckton would be and how much the subsequent tunnel under the Thames to Thamesmead?

      That then broken down by how many homes each could take.

      If Beckton can be done cheaply which it looks like that seems a no-brainer. If the Thamesmead station and tunnel alone is, say, £1 bn plus I’d put that towards something like the Greenwich waterfront transit plans.

      For those unaware it was originally a high capacity, high frequency tram/trolley bus proposal from Abbey Wood to north Thamesmead then onto Woolwich before heading to Charlton and terminating at North Greenwich tube station. It linked a range of major growth areas. Eventually downgraded so much it was a rebranded 472 bus before being scrapped. A history of it can be seen here:

      https://www.fromthemurkydepths.co.uk/2019/02/26/greenwich-waterfront-transit-the-history-cancellation-and-rebirth1/

      Since then London’s population has risen by 1.5 million and more areas along its route earmarked for major growth – plus areas to the east.

      I agree scarce capital funding should go towards that long before a DLR extension of limited value. GWT offered much to north Thamesmead and facilitates major housebuilding to boot, as well as other growth areas along the Thames while connecting to fast cross-river routes.

      Reply
    • Initially I thought great but this does seem a bit flawed. To ever extend to Belvedere and Erith it’d need to be either in a tunnel or stilts/viaduct greatly adding to the cost. That wouldn’t be the case for a tram/fancy high capacity bus/whatever can run on streets.

      A tunnel would cost loads while a viaduct is often ugly and a land hog.

      It’d be baking in limited use for decades to come.

      Reply
    • I thought it could help with bringing less to Woolwich Elizabeth line station which is already struggling but then it struck me, given this could cost a billion that should easily help fund another entrance at Woolwich station? Would also help many in Plumstead too. Surely better option that with other funds on rapid transit from Thamesmead. That way Thamesmead, Plumstead AND Woolwich all benefits. Better than going to Beckton anyway. Who wants that? Nobody. There’s nothing there.

      Reply
      • It’s not really to link to Beckton though in future it could be a bigger town with housebuilding etc but to link to Custom House/Canning Town etc.

        Whether that’s worth potentially spending a billion quid on is another matter if high frequency and high capacity transport can be provided to Abbey Wood/Woolwich with their myriad transport options that now exist and didn’t just a few years ago.

        If so, in a financially constrained environment that would be the better choice and utilise any saved capital funds for the Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham etc.

        Reply
    • To play devil’s advocate on the positives of a DLR crossing; the city is developing eastwards and this will provide a link between two large areas of east London that are under development. At the moment ‘all roads lead to Rome’, i.e. central London, or at least most of them, this at least provides the foundations of a network that won’t mean you have to travel towards the centre first only to head back out eastwards again. If anything, with this train of thought the project isn’t ambitious enough and should span further into south east London from inception.

      Reply
      • Problem is the DLR proposal isn’t really a radial option. The LO would have been from Abbey Wood to Barking.

        A tram could be as well. But the DLR as this plan stands isn’t. It doesn’t link to nearby transport nodes either side at Barking and Abbey Wood

        That’s one of my issues with it. For the cost it doesn’t do a great deal to link to the tube/LO/national rail in east and SE London

        Reply
    • Stupid plan led by people who have rarely if ever set for in Thamesmead. We don’t want Beckton ffs we want to reach Woolwich, Abbey Wood, Plumstead easier to get rail there.

      Reply
    • I worked near the clocktower and the canel for years and what I’d have given for the DLR then! Lovely place to work and somewhere many who sneer at Thamesmead never visited.

      But as you say it’s not much use now given what this plan suggests. We can get to Abbey Wood or Woolwich on the 301, 229, 177 etc quicker than what this proposal offers even including the change and subsequent train. It’s all a bit odd really. It seems not to benefit anyone in the town as current routes to Abbeywood and Woolwich stations are quicker even when one considers a transfer and the same will be true for newcomers in new housing given how close they will be to Woolwich. Why use this link if slower?

      I’m baffled by it really. A good idea 30 years ago but now with the DLR at Woolwich and Elizabeth line nearby coupled with existing and potential improved transport to those stations (above and beyond what is now there) it’s a potential white elephant. The time for it has gone. Better use for the money.

      Reply
    • I’m gonna stand up for it!! If I moved into New tower by new DLR it’s better than bus then Elizabeth line change and wait.

      Granted this is not what 90 per cent of people would do so perhaps not a great use of a squillion cohonies right now but some will use it haha.

      Reply
    • Looking through the consultation part of the deal also seems to be removing safeguarding for the Thames Gateway Bridge as it ‘conflicts with the vision for housing’. I could understand revising the safeguarding so that a tunnel rather than bridge could be built (and turn it into a park in the meantime?) but to salt the earth when the alignment is there ready-made with links into dual carriageway networks at the end is mad.

      Reply
    • I hope that the DLR to Thamesmead does get given the go ahead. And also the West London Orbital since Brent Cross West station is now opened and Thameslink trains are now serving the new station. Also TfL should build more new stations around London including a new London Overground station at Brixton, New Bermondsey (close to Millwall FC The Den stadium). And to reopen and rebuild Primrose Hill so that London Overground can operate the Stratford-Willesden Junction low level/Watford Junction.

      Reply
    • Extending the Overground down from Barking Riverside through Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and on to cross/link up to the Welling/Sidcup branches of the national rail network would make far more sense than extending the dlr to Thamesmead. You would get so many network effects from this. Extending to Thamesmead will get you a seldom used station with 4-6 trundlers an hour, with a need for a change at Custom/Canning if you actually want to get anywhere

      Alternatively, road links from the Thamesmead peninsula across to Beckton and Barking would be game changers for the areas. Appreciate that it’s not the greatest from an environmental perspective, but you could toll cars, punitively toll or ban HGVs and run dozens of new bus routes connecting south east and east London – not just Thamesmead

      However, this is not necessarily about what works best. It’s about opening a TFL branded station in Thamesmead so that Peabody can bang on about being on the tube network when they throw up thousands of new flats, and the local authorities can impose harsh restrictions on parking spaces in those new developments

      Reply
      • I agree but not with he Sidcup line. Run overground trains from barking to Abbey wood, then on to Blackheath, lewisham, Peckham and Clapham and we would have a rail south circular!

        Reply
    • Elizabeth Line should be extended as originally planed along the south branch, Belvedere, Erith, Dartfrod etc all the way to Ebsfleet as was the plan many years ago, or it should be done in stages at least. This would unlock wast areas with potentail for housing and business. Thamesmead being so close to Abbey Wood and Belevedre could be serviced by cheap rapid bus system. I would welcome foot/bicycle tunnel somewhere between Thamesmead and Beckton, chepar and would allow for the connectivity if you had desire to use Beckton DLR. Just my thougths on the subject.

      Reply
    • What puzzles me is why spend so much on a tunnel under the Thames (and remember the Thames here is wide so not cheap) to then just have one Thamesmead station and call it quits.

      The proposed area for new housing is vast. For many at the edges east and west why use DLR as it would take a bus then DLR when they could take bus then Elizabeth line?

      If only one station in Thamesmead is possible then it’s a waste a time except for fraction of the towns residents and just spend money on ensuring capacity there to reach Elizabeth line for new homes. TfL state that’s not possible but that seems based on buses and not higher capacity vehicles be it trams, articulated buses or something else.

      Reply
    • Now what would be nice. And what would be good. If they could Plan to Expand DLR to Enfield in the future as well.

      Reply
      • No it would not be extended to Enfield. That’s London Overground who operates from London Liverpool Street to Enfield Town via Edmonton Green.

        The DLR only serves parts of East London, Docklands and parts of Southeast London including Greenwich and Lewisham since it was built and entered service in 1987.

        Reply

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