Langdon Park DLR Opened: 9 December 2007 [i.e. yesterday] Initial feasibility case: May 2000 [blimey, look how long it takes to launch a station] Reasons for opening: neighbourhood regeneration, too long a gap between adjacent stations.
When the DLR was built, back in 1987, there was a glaringly long gap on the Stratford extension between Devons Road and All Saints. It might have looked obvious on a map but nobody really cared, because there was nothing important in the gap apart from a couple of crumbling housing estates. There was no "business case" for a station here, apparently. And anyway wasn't it more important that Essex commuters travelling to and from Canary Wharf should be able to save precious seconds by speeding through without stopping? So residents of the Lansbury and Teviot estates got used to watching DLR trains whizzing by behind a big fence, and carried on catching the bus instead. It's taken 20 years to finally put a stop to this rather blatant case of transport neglect.
Here we are in Poplar, just north of the East India Dock Road and close to Chrisp Street Market. The Germans bombed the area quite heavily during the war, and the existing landscape owes much to the un-pretty era of postwar council block redevelopment. The authorities did at least try - the Lansbury was a showpiece estate built for the Festival of Britain, and Erno Goldfinger's Balfron Tower is almost as big an icon as its big sister Trellick on the other side of town. But years of neglect and disinterest eventually led to increasing crime levels and greater marginalisation. If Tower Hamlets ever offer you a council flat here, you'd think twice.
But now there's a new way out, with the opening of a brand new DLR station at the heart of the community. It opened yesterday without any fanfare whatsoever, not even a mention on the TfL website (which still has the opening date listed as "Late 2007"). I think the Mayor is due to pop along and perform some official ceremony sometime this week, but presumably he has better things to do on Sunday mornings than eulogise about regeneration in a speech littered with media soundbites. The station was, I suspect, due to open on Saturday because the DLR had scheduled a mini "open day" with leaflets and giveaways for local residents. But the entrances remained boarded up while workmen scurried around finishing off a few urgent paving slabs, leaving a surprisingly long queue of damp souls waiting patiently beneath umbrellas in the howling rain. Anything for a freebie.
The new station gleams like a shiny alien mothership, miraculously landed in the midst of some decaying backwater spaceport. Its signature feature is the elegantly curved glass footbridge, with a splayed metal cone at each end encircling a pair of liftshafts. Unlike the footbridge it replaced, you'd not feel unsafe crossing the tracks here after dark. Access from Chrisp Street is fairly mundane, up a brief alley, but the plaza on the eastern side is rather more impressive. Up on the roof the station's name has been picked out in big white plastic letters, a bit like at Wembley Park, while down below a row of black bollards prevents local joyriders from smashing into the glass platform walls for a laugh. They would do, I'm sure, given half a chance.
So, will you be stopping off at Langdon Park DLR in the near future? Probably not. Really, there's nothing much around here you might want to come and see. Langdon Park itself is just a threadbare grassy quadrilateral with playground equipment and football pitches - you probably have one of those where you live. Across the road at Langdon Park School (sorry, "Specialist Sports College") there's not yet a blue plaque commemorating Dizzee Rascal's musical scholarship. And festival-goers may have traipsed round the Lansbury Estate in 1951, but you wouldn't want to wander inbetween the apartment blocks today, not for the fun of it. But for those who live here the new station is a precious lifeline to the outside world, and a beacon of hope that somebody somewhere actually cares. Every five minutes, in both directions, life round here just got better.