TfL lifts lid on possible Thamesmead DLR extension

DLR train
The DLR at Royal Victoria: Trains could be running from here to Thamesmead (Photo: John Ray via Creative Commons)

Greenwich councillors got their first look tonight of what a possible Docklands Light Railway extension to Thamesmead could look like when transport representatives made their annual appearance before a scrutiny committee.

The mayor’s transport agency is currently investigating different routes across the Thames between Beckton and Thamesmead. An extension to Thamesmead has been demanded since the DLR opened over 30 years ago, with better connections seen as vital to revitalising the isolated new town.

A London Overground extension is also a possibility, while work on reviving the Greenwich Waterfront Transit bus route – scrapped by Boris Johnson in 2008 – is also under way.

Outlining plans for better transport connections around Thamesmead, TfL community partnerships lead Gary Nolan said: “It’s sometimes called DLR to Thamesmead, but we don’t want to pre-empt it.” The plans are being assessed as part of a new City Hall planning framework for the area.

He showed councillors a map outlining two routes for a DLR connection across the Thames – one running north of its Beckton depot with a station at Armada Riverside, where 4,500 new homes are planned, the other to the south.

The southern route has an additional station at Thamesmead West, while both routes reach a station at Thamesmead Central – in the town centre – and then a stop at Thamesmead Moorings. A southern option runs towards Abbey Wood station, while an eastern route runs to Yarnton Way and onto Belvedere.

Thamesmead DLR extension
The map shown to Greenwich councillors last night (see a larger version)

The presentation was given the night before housing association Peabody announced it had signed a deal with developer Lendlease for an £8 billion, 11,500 home development at Thamesmead Waterfront, centred around a DLR station, suggesting the northern option is the preferred one.

Intriguingly, on the north side of the Thames, the DLR is also shown running north beyond Beckton. Documents submitted as part of the Silvertown Tunnel planning inquiry in 2016 suggested that a DLR link to Thamesmead could come from as far north as Ilford or Barking, and even run onto Bexleyheath.

Possibilities are also shown for a London Overground extension. The current Gospel Oak to Barking route is being extended to Barking Riverside, and there has been pressure on TfL to continue the link south of the river. This map shows a route to another Thamesmead Central station – roughly close to Gallions Reach Health Centre – with possibilities of routes back to Plumstead, to Abbey Wood, or onto Belvedere.

The Plumstead route is notable as it would – in theory – allow TfL to run trains to and from Clapham Junction, through Charlton, Lewisham and Denmark Hill, completing another loop around inner London. But local political backing so far seems to be for a route to Erith or Abbey Wood.

The Waterfront Transit route would run from Woolwich, Plumstead Road and Plumstead station via Western Way, Central Way, Thamesmead town centre, Carlyle Road and Harrow Manor Way with routes to Abbey Wood and onto Belvedere. One possibility was that it could run to Slade Green, Nolan said.

“It’s a fully segregated bus route with limited stops,” he said. “It’s quicker, more like a tram with tyres – like bus priority, but much better, much more reliable.”

“We need to show we’ve considered a range of options,” Nolan told councillors about the whole package of possibilities.

However, councillors asked few questions about these developments, with none asking Nolan to talk them through the map. Charlton Labour councillor Linda Perks asked about the possibility of a road crossing, saying “it was important to keep options open”. Nolan told her mayor Sadiq Khan was aiming for a “balanced approach” on crossings.

Eltham North Conservative councillor Charlie Davis asked about the Waterfront Transit revival, with Nolan saying the current focus was on linking Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Nolan also told councillors that building a Bakerloo Line extension to Catford all in one go was “still an option”, after recent plans had indicated only a first phase – to Lewisham – would be built.

“We talked about a phase one and a phase two… [but] it’s still on our range of possibilities,” he said.

He also talked about plans to replace the DLR’s entire fleet of trains from 2023/2024, with the new trains featuring on-board real time information and mobile charging points.

Last night’s scrutiny session saw representatives from TfL, Southeastern and Network Rail give presentations to Greenwich councillors and take questions from them. The session can be viewed on this YouTube playlist.

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