diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today the Docklands Light Railway enters its 25th year. The network opened on August 31st 1987 with two branches running down to Island Gardens, one from the City and the other from Stratford. It's grown a bit since.
1987: Tower Gateway → Island Gardens; Stratford → Island Gardens
1991: Bank → Shadwell
1994: Poplar → Beckton
1999: Island Gardens → Lewisham
2005: Canning Town → King George V
2009: King George V → Woolwich Arsenal
2011: Canning Town → Stratford International
Today, if all goes to plan, the Docklands Light Railway will be complete. The Stratford International extension is scheduled to open this morning, just before noon, unless it doesn't, because the history of this particular branch is delay after hiatus after postponement. It'll open in mid 2010, they promised a few years back, then it was Autumn 2010, then late Spring 2011, then July 2011, then Summer 2011. And today's the last irrefutable day of Summer 2011, so it looks like today's the deadline the DLR will finally meet. Once this new line opens there are no definite plans for further extensions, only minor tweaks plus pie-in-the-sky pipedreams that Boris hasn't funded. For the foreseeable future, today's opening completes the network.

It has a fairly complicated service pattern, the DLR, and it's about to get even more complex. Trains run on four different routes, and from noon today should run on two more.
Bank → Lewisham
Bank → Woolwich Arsenal
Tower Gateway → Beckton
Stratford → Canary Wharf
Stratford International → Woolwich Arsenal
Stratford International → Beckton
The service pattern on the new extension is going to be, how can I put it, confusing. All trains from Stratford International will go to the low level platforms at Canning Town, that's the easy bit, then some will head for Beckton and some to Woolwich Arsenal. But it won't be the nice coordinated mix that you're expecting. Try to get your head around this.

From Stratford International...
weekdaysvia Canning Townto Becktonto Woolwich
0530 to 0600every 10 minsevery 10 mins 
0600 to 1000every 8 mins  every 8 mins
1000 to 1500every 10 minsevery 10 mins 
1500 to 1900every 9 mins  every 9 mins
1900 to 0100every 10 minsevery 10 mins 
all weekendevery 10 minsevery 10 mins 

Or, in other words, if it's rush hour all the trains from Stratford International go to Woolwich. And if it's not rush hour all the trains from Stratford International go to Beckton. Should you want to travel to somewhere on the other branch you'll have to change at Canning Town, and then it'll be quicker to take the Jubilee line. Jubilee line trains are quicker and more frequent, plus you won't have as long a trek at Canning Town to reach the upper DLR platform. Sorry, this new Stratford International extension isn't going to be quite as much use for through journeys as you might have expected.

Here's the service pattern on the other two arms affected by the new extension.

From Woolwich Arsenal...
weekdaysvia Canning Townto Bankto Stratford Int
0600 to 1000every 4 minsevery 8 minsevery 8 mins
1500 to 1900every 4/5 minsevery 9 minsevery 9 mins
all other timesevery 10 mins    every 10 mins     

From Beckton...
weekdaysvia Canning Townto Tower Gatewayto Stratford Int
0600 to 1000every 8 minsevery 8 mins 
1500 to 1900every 9 minsevery 9 mins 
all other timesevery 5 minsevery 10 minsevery 10 mins

Services to the City will continue as before, on both branches, but now with Stratford International infill. It's no great change for commuters from Woolwich. They already have extra rush hour shuttle trains to Canning Town, and these services will now continue up to Stratford. But it's a weird change for commuters from Beckton. They'll get trains every five minutes at the least useful times... before 6am, midday, late evening, even after midnight. But at rush hours, sorry, trains will run with eight or nine minute gaps, just like they do now, no improvement at all.

Happy 24th birthday to the DLR. With a bit of luck staff will be opening their presents this morning and there'll be a brand new train set to play with. Just don't expect it to be a gift most Londoners will find especially useful. Unless you live in the right place and want to travel at the right time, the Stratford International extension isn't likely to have been worth the wait.

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