Shadwell has two railway stations right next to each other, for the Overground and the DLR, and yet separate, and unsurprisingly, TfL has looked at how it could merge the two into one. Not just to create an easier interchange but also to enable step-free access on the Overground, which is currently not possible.

The separation of the two stations is a legacy of complex railway history.

The railway viaduct that today carries the DLR dates from 1840 when it was opened initially as a cable haulage railway, but a decade later swapped to conventional steam trains.

As part of the line which ran from Minories in the City of London to Blackwall in the docks, a station was opened at Shadwell just to the east of the current DLR station but the station closed in 1941. If you use the DLR, you can see part of the old platform structure just before you arrive at Shadwell DLR station when heading into the City.

Map showing two Shadwell stations

Map showing two Shadwell stations

There was even a Railway Arms pub next to the old entrance. The pub has gone but the old station entrance remains, although now in use for storage.

Old Shadwell station entrance - Google Street view

Old Shadwell station entrance – Google Street view

The London Overground arrived next, as an underground station in April 1876 and used to have a ticket office a few yards from the current surface building – fronting onto Watney Street. In 1983, the station entrance moved to its current location.

The old ticket hall remained until 2010 when it was demolished to make space for a new electricity substation for the London Overground.

Old Shadwell ticket hall – Google Street view

Back to the DLR for a moment, when that arrived in 1987, the old railway viaduct still existed, and thanks to the way the viaduct widened as it approached the old Shadwell station, there was enough space to squeeze a single platform station into the tracks next to the Overground station.

Unfortunately, the widening of the railway arches didn’t happen close enough to sit the new DLR station over the Overground station, and as the DLR was built on a bit of a shoestring, they had to compromise.

Build the DLR as close to the Overground as possible, but don’t join them up.

Ever since, people swapping between lines have had a 50 metre walk between the two stations crossing a street and using narrow pavements, but now that both the DLR and the Overground are carrying vastly more passengers than ever expected, what if they could be joined up.

The DLR 2030 upgrade programme looked at this very issue back in 2016.

Improving the interchange while nice to have, needs a business case, and it was concerns about overcrowding at Canada Water where people swap from the Overground to the Jubilee to get to Canary Wharf that was the main motivation for seeing if improvements at Shadwell could soak away some of the passengers from Canada Water.

The DLR between the City and Canary Wharf is also expected to see a decline in passengers when the Elizabeth line opens, giving it more capacity to absorb Jubilee line passengers displaced from Canada Water.

They looked at a number of options.

One was to move the DLR station about 100 metres to the west and build a more suitable station for the passenger numbers, with escalators and a wider platform. A covered walkway would link the DLR with the Overground, so while it’s still two separate stations, the interchange would be more pleasant.

While fortunately, there is space for the new station as the land it would sit above is currently a car park, unfortunately, it was estimated to cost around £30 million. It would also not really create a direct interchange which is what they were looking for.

New DLR station (c) TfL

The other option which was never taken up was to commission a report into full integration between the two stations.

A further visit in 2017 looked at the issues they might face.

One advantage that the Overground station has is that while it’s actually underground, there’s a large open-air void at the northern end of the platforms, a legacy from the days of steam trains.

View of the air void at Shadwell station

They looked at using that to create a new entry/exit point with lifts, increasing vertical circulation capacity as well as providing step-free access between the platform and the street. The step-free issue is a significant one, as while there is a lift at Shadwell station, it doesn’t go all the way down to the platform level as there simply wasn’t enough space.

If they were to fill in the open-air void with a new entrance, then part of the costs would be recovered from the oversite development that inevitably follows. The new entrance to the Overground would be right next to the proposed relocated DLR station, so while there would still technically be a gap between them, it would be much smaller than before, and likely to be across a pedestrianised street.

Rough mock-up of possible new layout

At the moment though, the project is in limbo, and with TfL constrained finances it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

Source: What do they know


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  1. Geoff Demprunt says:

    The Option involving Development would surely be attractive for either a Bank or Financial Institution and depending on the Height Restrictions Housing; Foundation’s may be awkward and expensive,

    Housing 1 Stop from Bank and 10 minutes from Canary Wharf.

    The Concession based Model wouldn’t Work here and Usage is growing in any Event. Its better parceling up 3 or 4 Sites and looking at Schemes that may be Viable along the DLR. This could have been added to Thames Wharf say.

    Numerous Hybrids can be considered. The same must be applicable at York Way Station. Is there Land available there?

    The Issue is clearly the repercussions elsewhere, as that’s the only thing preventing a new Viable Overground Station at Camden Town.

    However, with new Staggered Peaks, perhaps its time to take a fresh look.

    • Andrew Neil says:

      Three months ago I would have agreed with you very strongly. There seems to be a stronger move to work from home(today Twitter said all staff can work at home forever, and many studies indict many staff prefer WFH) and there is a strong money benefit for companies not to jhave permanent office space(maybe meet at a hotel every few months?). Of course this trend may reversesoon – who can tell?

  2. Paul Bohane says:

    In the short term they really need escalator access to the DLR. The small single lift is woefully inadequate. And the DLR is really quite high up – prams, pushchairs and the elderly have many problems here. It’s hard to understand why this was not done when the additional stairs were added some years ago – still a legacy of the thinking that “it’s only poor people in the East who use it”? Given it’s an interchange, its’ surprising that there are these long stairs.

    • ianvisits says:

      By DLR standards, the stairs are fairly short – try heading out past Poplar where the heights are about double what they have here – and they manage with a single lift per platform as well.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    TfL as usual seems to ignore the Network Rail part of the Shadwell situation. C2c operates past it on the viaduct. A station there for c2c would be useful allowing clsoure of Limehouse an awkward curved station and making c2c interchange with Overground East London lines possible giving easy interchange for the overground ring into both North London ,as far as Willesden and south London to Croydon and Clapham .

    • ianvisits says:

      You’ve just quadrupled the cost, at a minimum to widen the viaduct to fit in the new station platforms.

    • Gordon says:

      I agree with Geoffrey. Arriving on the C2C I take the DLR between Limehouse and Shadwell to change again for London Overgound. Time on the Shadwell DLR platform left me considering the large amount of space available within the viaduct width for a C2C station. A rebuilt DLR to the West side of Watney St. would leave plenty of viaduct width for a C2C station on the East of Watney St to Sutton St and comfortably more that 200m in length.

  4. David Thorn says:

    Why not just close Watney Street to through traffic and pedestrianise that bit? It would then be somewhat of a piazza with DLR at one side and Overground at the other.

    Wouldn’t help the step free access, but is there any opportunity to add lifts to the original station entrances half way along the Overground platforms? Where do those come out at street level anyway?

  5. Geoff Demprunt says:

    The C2C Option looks the best but would that lead to a Congestion outside Fenchurch St. The Junction at Limehouse is historically located at the turn- off to the Isle of Dogs.

    Unless its essential to go into Zone 1, its cheaper and more efficient to redirect around.

    People rarely venture from the Radcliffe Highway in to Wapping by Car.

    I agree with Ian unless you’re really struggling you wouldn’t go searching for a Lift to avoid those Stairs

    An Old Fashioned Box Girder Cross Passage?

    It’s time, once Tfl get security of Funding to have their Inteligencia work up basic Schemes that would improve Connectivity and Journey Times and even if they’re not allowed to spend in JMK fashion the Private Sector to take a look.

    Fantasy Improvements?

    Mine is the Northern Heights from Ally Pally to Stratford via Stroud Green; opening up Passenger Revenue in Muswell Hill and diverting Passengers at Highgate Station. A twin bore from Brent Cross West via Golders Green would create a Northern Outer Orbital from Kew to Stratford / Barking

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