diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 28, 2019

Twenty five years ago today the DLR extension to Beckton entered public service. This brand new branch headed east from Poplar and snaked into the Royal Docks, bringing a light rail service to new estates on the far side of Newham. For many years it was relatively lightly used, but blimey, how prescient the line looks today.

To celebrate the silver anniversary I've been out to all eleven stations which opened on Monday 28th March 1994, several of which still look much like they did a quarter of a century ago. You're getting one photograph of each plus a brief paragraph of waffle.


The first new station east of Poplar sits on concrete pillars beside an even concretier dual carriageway. Pedestrian access is always awkward but rather more so at this time of major local development, and approaching via the subway through the roundabout can feel somewhat dystopian. The Blackwall Tunnel passes invisibly to either side, one bore to the west and the other to the east. Station architecture is quite typical of what's coming up elsewhere - elevated platforms, wedge-top lift towers and steep glass-enclosed staircases.


Named after the dock which used to cover the site, East India's big claim to fame is that the Greenwich Meridian passes across the tracks, and is marked by a line up the side of the adjacent apartment block. At ground level look for the diagonal line embedded in the pavement, which aligns approximately with the final lamppost on the eastbound platform and the second lamppost on the westbound. An additional footbridge leads across Aspen Way towards what is currently Tower Hamlets HQ.


At Canning Town the new-born DLR linked up with the former North London railway line to North Woolwich, but not the Jubilee line because that hadn't yet been built. To facilitate its construction the DLR station had to be closed soon after opening, from June 1996 to March 1998, for total reconfigurement. The end result was a fabulously simple stacked Jubilee/DLR interchange, but requiring a proper slog to leave the station, and what's proved to be an impractically awkward interchange to what's now the Stratford International branch. The busiest station on the Beckton extension, by far.


Here's a rare DLR station at street level, featuring the extension's trademark angled lampstands and ribbed platform canopies. It's also the closest station to London's only cable car, so suffers from promotional Dangleway material slapped across most available surfaces. To celebrate the 25th anniversary the station's footbridge is getting a maintenance once-over, so is entirely inaccessible until next week, necessitating an unexpectedly long diversion to reach the other side of the tracks.


Custom House is to be the fortunate recipient of a Crossrail connection, as twin roundels now exposed on its new lift tower proudly proclaim. The DLR station was closed for most of 2017 while an upgrade allowed fresh connections to be made, before reopening in January 2018 with that work substantially incomplete and blue hoardings everywhere. Those hoardings are still everywhere and passageways still closed, even on the non-purple side of the station, and the resultant mess has been depressing international visitors to ExCel for well over a year. One day, though, wow.


This is the DLR station whose name I have the most difficulty remembering, there being a surfeit of regal titles in the old Royal Docks. Prince Regent could instead be described as ExCel East, being attached to the other end of the gargantuan exhibition centre via a staircase worthy of a football stadium crowd. A separate lift and narrow staircase lead down to a small local bus station for local people, whose services will be diminished when Crossrail finally opens and certain bus routes are diverted to serve Custom House instead.


To reach Royal Albert the line has wiggled, at height, between bland modern hotels and the edge of the Royal Albert Dock. This station's located much further from the nearest houses in West Beckton than would have been ideal, and is no fun to access on foot, but is brilliantly located for Newham's waterside slab of council offices. Stop off here to watch planes vrooming at City Airport, to indulge in a splash of rowing or to cross the Connaught Bridge to the newer DLR branch to Woolwich.


I wrote a whole post about Beckton Park earlier in the year, so I'll be brief. This is the least used station on the DLR, being both remote and buried inside a dual carriageway roundabout. It may not be the least used station after the southern fence is taken down providing access to the Chinese-funded ABP Royal Albert Dock development alongside, transforming the area utterly. The actual park is going to be the last thing visitors consider.


This is another circular station embedded in the heart of an inaccessible roundabout, nigh identical to Beckton Park but a lot busier because people actually live here. Many are students at the University of East London's Docklands campus, which is accessed through the southern subway past a frowning security guard. The station's unusual name comes from housing built in 1881 for local dock workers - the Cyprus Estate - a title which commemorated the island's recent acquisition by the British Empire.


Gallions Reach is the easternmost DLR station, fractionally beating Woolwich Arsenal, once in the middle of pretty much nowhere but increasingly surrounded by speculative housing developments. If you haven't been recently, people actually live here now, and a lot more are coming. The DLR's largest depot is close by, along with the levelled remainder of Beckton Gas Works. One day a fresh branch might break off here for Thamesmead, but they once said that about Dagenham, and Mayors are fickle creatures.


Finally the line curves back on itself to reach Beckton proper, ideally located for the bus station and the giant Asda. The front of the station has recently been brightened by a wall of multi-coloured tiles plus the word 'Beckton' in large blue friendly letters. Beckton's 1980s residential district is very low-rise and extraordinarily low-density by modern standards, hence potentially appealing, but has never been especially well connected. After 1994 there was at least a way out.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream