- Bank – Lewisham
- Bank – Woolwich Arsenal
- Tower Gateway – Beckton
- Stratford International – Woolwich Arsenal
- Stratford – Canary Wharf/Lewisham (Mon – Fri Morning Peak)
In July 1981, the UK Government formed the London Docklands Development Corporation to co-ordinate the redevelopment of the recently acquired docklands area of London. One of the first realisations of the LDDC was the need for a cheaply provided public transport solution for the developing area and they commissioned London Transport to evaluate a number of light rail options for the area.
The proposal for the core of the route was that it ran alongside the Great Eastern line out of London and then south along the former London & Blackwall Railway through the Isle of Dogs. Of the three terminus options proposed, the former Minories station was chosen and this is the site of the present Tower Gateway Station.
The southern terminus of the line was a choice between 2 sites. The first of these was at Tiller Road and the second, ultimately the one chosen, was at Cubitt Town, the site of today’s Island Gardens station.
The initial Docklands Light Railway system began as a pair of routes utilising mainly disused railway vidaucts & railway alignements or new elevated sections of line. One began at Tower Gateway with the other starting at Stratford, both lines terminating at the elevated station at Island Gardens. The routes was constructed between 1985 & 1987 and were officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on July 30 1987, with passenger services beginning on August 31.
The Docklands Light Railway began with a length of 8 miles (13km) and comprised of 15 stations. Trains on the line were fully automated and computer controlled. Although the system was driverless, Passenger Service Agents (or Train Captains as they were initially known) were employed on the trains to check tickets, make announcements and operate train doors. These PSAs could also take control of trains in the event of equipment failure or emergencies.
As the Docklands area grew and developed, usage and passenger numbers grew at a fast rate. The system began to gain criticism of it’s poor connections in the City of London & it’s capacity. In 1991, the DLR was extended to Bank station via a tunnel that came above ground between Tower Gateway and Shadwell Stations, with 2 unit operation also initiated after the extension of existing station platforms and the procurement of more trains.
With the growth of the Canary Wharf complex, the exisitng station was developed from a small 2 platform halt into the six platform interchange that exists today which is fully integrated within the complex of office and shops.
To encourage the development of East Docklands and to improve transport connections, a fourth branch of the DLR via Poplar and Canning Town to Beckton was constructed and this opened in 1994.
The system remained with these lines until, in 1996, construction began on a Southern extension of the route via Greenwich & Deptford to Lewisham. The new extension left the existing line just after Crossharbour and dropped to ground level at a new Mudchute station (replacing the existing elevated station). A new sub-surface station was constructed at Island Gardens, replacing the exisitng elevated terminus, and the line passes through here before burrowing under the Thames to Cutty Sark and resurfacing at Greenwich Railway Station before continuing via Deptford Bridge to Lewisham.
No further development of the DLR occurred until, On 2 December 2005, a new eastern branch of the system was opened from Canning Town to King George V. This branch was initially built to allow the DLR to serve London City Airport. This line was further extended in 2009 thanks to Private Finance Initiative Funding under the Thames to a new terminus at Woolwich Arsenal, giving a direct interchange with the North Kent Main Line, and also being close to the projected Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood.
In August 2011, the final extension (so far) from Canning Town to Stratford International Station, which was built along the alignment of the former North London Line, was opened. This extension was seen as vital to help move the crowds away from the London 2012 Olympic sites at Stratford. The branch parallels the London Underground Jubilee Line for much of it’s length but serves more stations on the route.