A feasibility study that could see the DLR extended to Thamesmead is nearing completion and is looking likely to recommend the project. Transport for London (TfL) has previously been allocated £1.5 million in funding to study the proposals, which if built, would see the DLR extended from the Beckton branch across the river to Thamesmead via a new station at Beckton Riverside.

Local area transport map (c) TfL

The extension is considered essential to enable the construction of around 30,000 homes, mostly in the Thamesmead area, where a large swathe of land has been earmarked for development. The difficulty with building so many homes in Thamesmead is that it has very poor local transport links to the rest of London, meaning that a lot of people won’t want to live there unless transport links are improved.

Although the Elizabeth line terminates at nearby Abbey Wood station, the bus connections into the Thamesmead estate are not ideal, and there’s no option to go north thanks to the river getting in the way. A DLR link would substantially improve public transport links and that would be essential if the new housing is to be built.

A question from Elly Baker AM at last month’s Mayor’s Question Time meeting has been responded to by the Mayor’s office, which confirms that the “feasibility work is nearing a single option stage, with a preferred package of a Docklands Light Railway extension from Gallions Reach to Beckton Riverside and Thamesmead combined with a Bus Transit from Woolwich to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.”

At the recent unveiling of the new DLR trains that are now running tests on the line, TfL’s Commissioner, Andy Lord also confirmed that TfL would like to proceed with the Thamesmead extension.

He said that at the time that TfL was revisiting the business case and the economics of it, but that the extension would open huge potential for housing and development of that area [of London] as well. He also confirmed that they’re having early positive discussions with the Department for Transport about what options could be looked at.

However, the Mayor’s office response to Elly Baker AM also confirms that funding to build the extension is not in place yet.

Based on a 2020 study, it’s estimated that the extension, along with additional trains, would cost around £800 million to provide a 5 trains per hour service. Paying for the extension is likely to be the usual mix of local developers, local council borrowing and housing infrastructure funds, plus some level of central government grant.

If the studies show the extension is viable, which seems highly likely, then TfL is looking at submitting a planning application or Transport & Works Act application in 2026. It would take a few years after that to build the two new stations and a twin bored tunnel under the Thames, so maybe early 2030s to open the extension.

Matthew Yates, TfL’s Head of Projects, Consents & Urban Design said: “Along with our partners, Transport for London is developing plans and assessing funding options for proposed transport improvements to support the delivery of new jobs and homes in Beckton Riverside and Thamesmead. This includes a new cross-river DLR extension from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead via Beckton Riverside which would deliver a new DLR station at Beckton Riverside, a tunnel under the Thames, and a new DLR station at Thamesmead.  This is part of a package which also includes the assessment of a bus transit, providing a quick and reliable service for Woolwich, Plumstead, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.

“While funding for any project would need to be found, extending the DLR to Thamesmead, along with wider public transport improvements, would support the delivery of up to 30,000 new homes and help unlock the huge opportunity that exists in this area. It would also improve connectivity across the river and reduce car dependency.”

Very rough concept image of a Thamesmead DLR station – source Peabody

Although the DLR extension would take years to build, there’s a possibility that the proposed bus transit linking Woolwich to Thamesmead could open sooner. An initial study into that has previously suggested a “tram on rubber tyres” based service with segregated lanes in the road to prevent road congestion slowing the buses. That would be similar to, although on a smaller scale to the Greenwich Waterfront Transit that was cancelled in 2008.

Whether a transit link would be as ambitious as that, or simply an improved bus service with more dedicated bus lanes providing a fast link between Thamesmead and the Elizabeth line remains to be seen when the final report is published. Opening that link sooner may also allow housing developments to proceed while they wait for the DLR extension to be built.

Although not part of this feasibility study, the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Opportunity Area Planning Framework (OAPF) leaves open the possibility of extending the DLR further through Thamesmead towards Belvedere, and also on the north side of the river up towards Barking.

And to answer the question before it’s asked, the OAPF also investigated the potential of extending the London Overground from Barking Riverside to Abbey Wood, but this was ruled out as it would cost significantly more to build and operate, and would result in fewer trains per hour than the DLR due to capacity constraints further up the railway past Barking.


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  1. Colin Newman says:

    Disappointed that the extension is not proposed to cross the River Roding.

    • Kevin says:

      Thamesmead is an area that has been bereft of proper public transport links for decades now, contrary to initial promises when it was developed. What possible reason could there be for taking the DLR over the Roding?

  2. Kraut says:

    Would the DLR extension go down to Abbey Wood? Seems sensible to link it up the the Liz Line

    • ianVisits says:

      “Although not part of this feasibility study, the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Opportunity Area Planning Framework (OAPF) leaves open the possibility of extending the DLR further through Thamesmead towards Belvedere, and also on the north side of the river up towards Barking.”

    • Steve says:

      Wouldn’t it still be faster to get the bus to Abby wood for the Elizabeth line than transfer at costoms house? Feels like extending the overground to Abby Wood would be a much more useful connection, but no idea on the feasibility of that.

  3. ChrisC says:

    5 trains an hour doesn’t seem like a lot – unless there will be capacity built now to increase it later.

    • Si says:

      They’d be able to run a lot more trains than 5tph on the track unless they are proposing a single-track extension to make the scheme cheaper (only one tunnel bore).

      Actually that would explain the strange number – the DLR runs overlapping every-10-minutes (8 in the peaks) services, and 5tph (every-12-minutes) wouldn’t mesh.

  4. Fiona Johnson says:

    Transport links need to be extended into Bexley, which you may not realise, IS a London Borough. A borough with very poor connections & improved bus services would be a good starting point. The borough has no tube so suffers with franchised southeastern rail.

    • timbeau says:

      Bexley now at least has the Elizabeth Line (Abbey Wood station straddles the border with Greenwich – the main entrance is in Bexley) and has two National Rail operators (South Eastern and Thameslink). Even Sutton has a couple of tram stops. Kingston has SWR and nothing else.

  5. Basil Jet says:

    I still think extending the DLR (via reversal) from Woolwich Arsenal to Thameslink would give Thamesmead better connectivity to Elizabeth Line, Kent, City Airport, everywhere really, and should be cheaper because of no new river crossing.

  6. Harry says:

    Anything to get back to the east end is fine by me.

  7. Tom says:

    What is really needed is cycleable cross river routes between Tower Bridge and the Tilbury-Gravesend Ferry.

  8. Dougal says:

    I’m no expert on this but would a DLR extension from Woolwich via Abbey Wood to Thamesmead not be a better option?

  9. Lionel Ward says:

    Thamesmead estates appeared in some famous scenes from A Clockwork Orange. It’s by the Thames and has the potential for lots of riverside new build flats with nice views. In my day Thamesmead was a great place to go if you’re a south East London teenager seeking unsavory experiences, just speaking from personal experience

  10. Bob says:

    What happened to a station at Gallion’s Hill if the DLR crosses the river. There is the land for it and it will serve the existing community. Why should they have to put up with the DLR running literally through their backyards without having a station that serves them.

  11. Huw says:

    I still think a cable car would be a better option. Vastly cheaper than a tunnel, and much quicker to build; especially if they could re-use bits from another nearby cable car which isn’t really useful… (Obviously with normal TFL fares, not the stupid ones on the other cable car.)

    Hopefully the savings could pay for it to carry on to Abbey Wood, or Barking riverside.

    • MilesT says:

      Aerial ropeways (of all sorts) are subject to closure in high winds (which would happen often enough to be annoying).

      Yes, some types of ropeway (cable cars cf Roosevelt in NYC, dual rope detachable gondola–cf DMC @ Alpe D’Huez ski resort) are more wind resistant; the one at Greenwich (detachable single rope high speed gondola) is not especially wind resistant

      Something of a second best option.

      The cheapest option (capital cost wise) would be a fast cross Thames ferry service coordinated with DLR schedules on the north bank and improved local buses in Thamesmead. Northward Ho!

      Over time light rail in a bored tunnel should have less operational costs and would pay back higher initial cost.

    • ChrisC says:

      You’ll find that the operators of London City Airport will have something to say about that.

    • Ray says:

      The whole point is for people to get into city fast and easy. Jumping from bus to cable car to another train and into the tube again is probsbly not the best way to commute. Gonna be faster taking a bus to liz and go straight there.

  12. MPW says:

    The northern tunnel entrance looks like it’d be pretty close to the A1020. Not sure how big of an impact it would have on tunnel cost but if it included room for buses it could form backbone of orbital express bus route to compete with private vehicle road traffic across Thames. For example, someone in dartford could get train to Abbey Wood then bus direct to barking. Though I don’t think it’s likely to happen based on the transit provision expected through Silvertown town

  13. Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

    Are they really planning to build even more high-density housing on a floodplain? There’s a reason its coat of arms is 2/3 water. The recent flood risk assessment has Thamesmead a giant blob of red. Maybe they figure an elevated train won’t be a problem and they can just have it run between tower blocks in a lake?

    Also, watching the giant piles that had to be driven into the ground, I can’t help but feel current residents might not be too happy about the construction. Hopefully they don’t work nights.

    • ianVisits says:

      You can also elevate blocks of flats — I lived in one a few years ago where the 1st floor was 3 floors up.

  14. Jonathan S says:

    In my mind they should make it gallioms reach – barking riverside – thamesmead (- abbey wood)

    This could create a holistic network of rail transport in east London, unlocking potential for journeys like walthamstow – thamesmead, abbey wood – daggenham, barking – royal docks etc and not just throwing bit of random branch to thamesmead with very localised benefits (which is wjay it feels like currently).

    Couldn’t imagine it would be overly costly (in the grand scheme of things) to built above ground tracks from gallioms reach to barking riverside, and the expensive tunnel bit should be roughly the same length

  15. MAREK KRUPSKI says:

    What a useless connection and a waste of public money it is going to be. Who in their healthy minds would choose to travel from Thamesmead through Woolwich, Beckton,… , in order to get to DLR Custom House? or Canning Town? if they have Elizabeth Line available from Abbey Wood and Woolwich which will take them to the same destination in a matter of minutes. Much more with considering would be an extension of the Overground from Barking Riverside to Abbey Wood connecting vast parts of East and North London with SE London & ERII line or the east extension of Elizabeth line itself

  16. Rob Whitton says:

    I would be interested to know if this plan would mean that the existing Beckton station would close.

  17. Davidrichards says:

    Why don’t they just get on with building the DLR to thamesmead and extend the Elizebeth line all they ever do is talk I will be retired the time they start building it’s all about money how about stopping the ulez charge that money could pay for the dlr and the extension of the Elizebeth line

    • ianVisits says:

      If you think you can build two railway extensions for just a few hundred million quid, I know some people who would like to have a word with you.

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