The issue of the extension of the DLR to Thamesmead was raised in the House of Commons, although no commitments were offered to it being built.

There is a plan to link the DLR at Beckton on the north side of the Thames with Thamesmead on the south via a new bridge, as doing so will unlock a considerable amount of housing development on both sides of the river.

Apart from a study in 2020, there is currently no funding for the DLR extension, which has been costed at around £800 million, for a 5 trains-per-hour service. Supporting the proposal is that the government already has a scheme that supports transport upgrades where they unlock housing developments — and the DLR extension is almost entirely about supporting around 25,000 new homes on both sides of the river, with the bulk in Thamesmead.

The DLR extension while still unfunded has not been formally dropped by TfL, and hasn’t been put on hold as the Bakerloo line extension and Crossrail 2 have been.

The area has a particularly low public transport accessibility rating, and that’s a factor in the area’s higher than average unemployment as it’s difficult to reliably commute to work. The area is thought to have a large number of people working in service and hospitality, which means they can’t work from home and need better transport links.

During a transport debate in Parliament on 3rd February, the MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Abena Oppong-Asare asked what discussions had taken place recently between the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL) on proposals to extend the DLR to Thamesmead.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, responded, noting that “the Government and Homes England are exploring potential opportunities and options at Thamesmead and Beckton Riverside with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.”

As Abena Oppong-Asare MP explained though, Thamesmead ” has some of the worst public transport links in the capital. There are ambitious plans to extend the docklands light railway to Thamesmead, which are supported by Greenwich and Newham councils and Transport for London. Will the Minister look favourably at these proposals when they are submitted to the Government, and provide the necessary funding to finally put Thamesmead on the transport map?”

Wendy Morton MP was non-committal though, repeating her earlier prepared statement that the issue is being looked at, and that the various bodies are working together.

The problem with Thamesmead is that it’s pretty difficult to improve public transport links without a railway across the river. Although there will be the terminus of the Elizabeth line at Abbey Wood, it’s a slow bus ride from there to the heart of Thamesmead. A link across the river raises the costs of the rail upgrade, but the area is also fortunate in having a lot of empty land waiting to be built on, thus generating the revenue needed to run a railway and some of the money needed to pay for it.

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25 comments
  1. Basil Jet says:

    I don’t understand why a DLR extension (via reversal) at Woolwich Arsenal is not being considered. Surely tunnelling under East Woolwich is cheaper than tunnelling under the Thames, and it would give Thamesmead far better connections to South London and City Airport. Woolwich Arsenal to Woolwich Crossrail is a comparable walk to the length of a Crossrail station, so the journey time to Bond Street or Heathrow should be less than a multi-stop trundle to Custom House would give.

    • ianVisits says:

      Try catching the DLR at Woolwich and explain to the passengers crowding into the train that they could end up getting onto a train that’s already half-full when it arrives at Woolwich.

    • Andy T says:

      Agreed, and if the line terminates at Thamesmead there wouldn’t be an increase in through traffic as it would be a self contained line.

      I can certainly see the attraction of the Woolwich line and Crossrail will hopefully relieve the DLR, but the reality always seems to be different. Like whenever a new road is opened, an extra lane is added, somehow cars just appear and its as full as it ever was a year or so later, I have a feeling this is what will happen with Crossrail once everyone gets back to commuting at pre Covid levels.

      So using the Woolwich line wouldn’t be viable even if it was, which of course it isn’t for the other reason mentioned.

  2. UCHE MICK CHINONSO says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s impossible given that if you were to study the pathway, the line curves into Woolwich. Remember, King George V is geographically north of Woolwich Arsenal, not south-east of it.

  3. Uche Mick Chinonso says:

    Moreover, a Jubilee Line extension from North Greenwich to Thamesmead is more likely than a DLR extension from Woolwich Arsenal to Thamesmead, but after Crossrail absorbs passenger volumes and the DLR to Thamesmead actually spurs regeneration (re Isle of Dogs).

  4. Basil Jet says:

    I think the DLR will be fairly empty at Woolwich after the opening of Unsweaty Betty (the only deep “tube” with aircon). If the DLR alignment shown at http://streetmap.co.uk/map?X=544302&Y=179026&A=Y&Z=115 is correct, the land under the orange arrow contains nothing that can’t be demolished and so would be an easy place to put in a segregated junction.

    • David says:

      That bit under the orange arrow is a successful and busy industrial estate. Are you going to relocate those businesses, or will that just be tough luck.

  5. Ariel says:

    I can imagine Overground line from Barking Riverside through Thamesmead to Abbey Wood

    • Paul says:

      I can imagine it too. Unfortunately the way the Barking Riverside extension is being constructed – on an elevated alignment rather than dropping below ground level ready to tunnel under the Thames – means that it will almost certainly never happen.

      Indeed, it seems that TfL quietly ruled that option out when the BR extension was designed; probably because a full-blown heavy rail tunnel, whilst useful in other ways, would be much more expensive than the DLR.

  6. DC says:

    Could someone explain why an extension of the National Rail from Plumstead north-eastwards to Thamesmead via the alignment of the sewer?
    Then run an Overground service from Clapham Junction to Thamesmead via Peckham Rye, Lewisham and Charlton.

    • Paul says:

      I’m no expert, but I doubt building a heavy railway on top of a large and critical 19th century sewer is a trivial endeavour.

  7. NG says:

    NOT going to happen – it’s against the government’s “Grinding London Down” ( Oops, “levelling-up” ) programme
    /snark

  8. Chris says:

    Very shortsighted thinking, which is standard operation procedure for TFL.
    There is a plan almost ready to simply build a Plumstead – Thamesmead West – Thamesmead East branch to the Purple line, and alternating services between the Thamesmead branch and AbbeyWood. A two mile branch, two stations, £100 million. I take cash, Mastercard, Visa and American Express.

    • ianVisits says:

      No such plan exists, at least not from any serious transport body, and setting aside the logistical difficulty of either constructing a new portal in such a location up from the tunnel to the ridgeway and diverting the sewers or trying to squeeze some very tight curves in from the existing portal, the cost would be far in excess of £100 million to complete.

    • Paul says:

      Aside from what others have said, I believe one of the key benefits is to unlock development on the Beckton side of the river as well as at Thamesmead.
      Creating one extension to do both as well as providing another river crossing probably has a high BCR, much higher I would imagine than a similar length tunnel to get the DLR out of Woolwich.

  9. Colin Newman says:

    “the Barking Riverside extension is being constructed – on an elevated alignment rather than dropping below ground level ready to tunnel under the Thames”

    It is true the extension is on viaduct, but my understanding is and always has been that passive provision has been made for the line to B/Riverside to be extended under the river. I’m trying to find a source for this but many of the Wikipedia links are broken.

    • Paul says:

      There’s definitely no “passive provision” Colin; the consultation on it explicitly used those two words and said that passive provision was ruled out as it would require an underground station at Riverside (thus £££).

      The laughable consultation response to those questioning this – which you might be thinking of – was that a future route to Thamesmead could use the same alignment to Riverside. Yes of course it could, but you’d have to rip the whole thing down and start again creating a cutting and then a tunnel. A bit like what was needed with the DLR south of Crossharbour, but on steroids because this is heavy rail which costs loads more and requires gentler gradients.

      I would say the chances of it ever happening are close to nil.

    • Basil Jet says:

      They could always move the Emirates Airline to Barking Riverside / Thamesmead. After all, no-one is using it where it is. Although, given the history of Thamesmead bus stops being stolen and sold for scrap, it would be a brave man who would board the north end of the Thamesmead Airline when he couldn’t be sure the south end would still be there when he arrived.

  10. John Watkins says:

    How close to water level are those proposed new areas of housing? Given that sea levels will rise, should we be building there?

    • ianVisits says:

      As sea level rises are one of the biggest issues facing all floodplains, and as most planning applications need to address the implications of flooding — it’s pretty clear that the housing developers would have thought of that.

  11. Alex says:

    DLR to Belvedere would be nice

    • Dave says:

      Agree. Bexley borough as a whole & Belvedere in particular are poorly served by TfL services. Why do these improvement & extension schemes always stop at the Bexley/Greenwich border? As Crossrail/Elizabeth line has.

    • ianVisits says:

      Population density — no railway upgrade, regardless of who provides it would be economical in areas of such low population density.

  12. Alex says:

    seems a pity to spend £800m but not get to turn-up-and-go service (=6tph/every 10 mins)

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