DLR Bank platforms reopen Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has confirmed its platforms at Bank station have reopened.
I can confirm this too. I went down into the sub-vault depths at Bank station yesterday and the platforms have definitely reopened.
The station has been closed to upgrade it for three-car operation, and to enhance and improve the platforms, lighting and signage.
It's been closed for five weeks, since just before Christmas, which is a very long time to close a station. Much longer than is actually required to improve a bit of platform and a few signs, in fact. But DLR-folk have also been busy upgrading a key junction further up the line, at the point where services to Bank and Tower Gateway diverge, so the 40-day hiatus has all been worthwhile honest. I can't say I noticed any difference when my train sped through Royal Mint Street Junction track yesterday, but I guess this shows how well all the remodelling and signalling works have gone.
Three-car operation will now be introduced gradually on the Bank-Lewisham route.
That's the over-arching reason for all of this mega-closure hassle. The DLR's a lot busier than it was ever designed to be, so by adding an extra carriage to each train a lot more people can be crammed in. Good job too, because the cattletruck ambience during every rush hour is no fun whatsoever. It's taken nearly three years to extend all the necessary platforms - some of which have been sitting around for ages with big signs saying "Trains do not stop beyond this point (but they will in 2010)", or words to that effect. Now 50%-longer services can (finally) be initiated. Got to be worth a cheer, I reckon.
Jonathan Fox, Director DLR, said: "These upgrades represent the final piece in the three-car jigsaw on the Bank-Lewisham route, so we look forward to seeing the first of our longer trains shortly enter service."
Now that might sound good, but there are two big catches here. Firstly, even though the platforms are now long enough, there are no three-car DLR trains yet. And there's no date for when the first one will appear, nor the second, nor the umpteenth. Could be a while yet. Secondly, these extended trains are only scheduled to be introduced on the Bank-Lewisham line. That's the busiest branch of the DLR's network, but there are currently no plans to introduce 3-car trains to Stratford, Beckton or Woolwich. Only when demand merits more carriages, we're told, which may be soon or may (in these credit crunch times) be never. Moan 1: Surely demand on the Stratford branch is already high enough during peak periods? It was rammed yesterday afternoon, with homebound commuters having to wait on the platforms because the train was too full. Sounds like that'll be continuing. Moan 2: We may not be having extended trains on the Stratford branch, but at some stations the automated signalling system thinks we already do. At All Saints some idiot has pre-programmed all southbound trains to stop at the far end of the extended platform, leaving a carriage-sized gap between the back of the train and the foot of the stairs. How much longer will unwitting passengers have to run up the platform when the too-short train pulls in? Could be years, alas.
"Meanwhile I'm confident our Bank passengers will really notice the difference at the new and improved platforms."
Nope, 'fraid not. I think I spotted a new sign out in the passageway that read "DLR" in a much bigger font, but that was all. I was expecting some architectural miracle to have occurred, or some pristine new design feature to have appeared, but there was nothing obvious. Maybe the big change is the orange strip of lighting across the full length of the tracks, or has that always been there, I can't remember. That's the trouble with "Spot The Difference" puzzles, they're especially hard when you can't see the before as well as the after.
"I would like to apologise for the disruption that the Bank closure has caused."
And please, while you're at it, an apology for all the other closures and disruptions that have taken place during the entire Three Carriage Capacity Enhancement Project. But the pain is now over, on the Bank-Lewisham branch at least, and there'll be a 50% bonus to enjoy henceforth and foreverafter. Northern line commuters take heart - your months of endless misery are yet to come, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and one day it'll all have been worthwhile.