Docklands Light Railway
There's no better way to see the Docklands developments than the front of a DLR train from Bank; ride it out of the tunnel, past Shadwell and Limehouse, over the junctions west of Poplar and under the shadow of 1 Canada Square, down towards Greenwich.
The DLR trains are unusual in that they are largely computer-controlled and often driverless. Make sure you sit at the front for that "roller-coaster" feeling.
Link: Dodger's Docklands Light Railway site (where the nice photos came from).
Or the Official website. In theory you should be able to get real time train info, but when I try, I get "Access Denied" with the browser and popup blocker combination I am using. --IvorW
A light rail system was first mooted for the Docklands when the [London Docklands Development Corporation]? was set up in the early 80s after the demise of the docks thanks to the introduction of containerised shipping, whose loads could no longer reach the comparatively small docks in London. Shipping moved downstream to Tilbury and Gravesend along with thousands of jobs; huge warehouses in the borough of Tower Hamlets became empty and the area became severely depressed.
A bus-based system thankfully was deemed too unattractive for businesses to move into the redeveloping Docklands, so a cheap light rail option was taken forward. The initial network from Island Gardens to Stratford and Tower Gateway was costed at £87 million - a bargain by todays prices for light rail systems.
However, things changed quickly when Canadian developer Olympia & York decided to construct their massive Canary Wharf property development. The DLR, designed to carry around 12,000 passengers per hour, was deemed undercapacity before it even opened, and the tiny prefabricated station at Canary Wharf was closed for rebuilding when the rest of the network opened. Construction on an extra branch to Bank station in the heart of the City began before the DLR opened in 1987.
Passenger growth on the new network outstripped all expectations, and the network suffered from evening and weekend closure for several years as a new signalling system to cope with more and longer trains was put into place (the original DLR fleet consisted of just 12 trains).
The development of the Isle of Dogs area was such a success that redevelopment plans spread to the [Royal Docks]? in the east. A DLR extension was planned alongside this new wave of construction, from Poplar via [Canning Town]? to the [Royal Albert]? Dock and thence to Beckton. An ingenious design was used to build the section alongside the north edge of the Royal Albert Dock, with a dual carriageway road housing the DLR route in between its carriageways, and stations built within the roundabouts on the road.
As development progressed within the central Canary Wharf area, further plans developed for a route across the river to the south the open up the booming job market in Canary Wharf to South London. Interestingly, the Lewisham extension was being built at the same time as London Underground's Jubilee Line Extension (also built to serve the booming Docklands development and relieve the DLR). However, unlike the JLE (nearly 3 years late and massively over budget), the Lewisham extension was opened ahead of schedule in November 1999 and under budget. Trains now run through from Bank to Lewisham, Tower Gateway to Beckton and Stratford to [Crossharbour]?.
London City Airport Extension
A further extension will be made across the river to [Woolwich Arsenal]?.
So, we now have these timetables to and from the London City Airport:
From London City Airport:
Meanwhile, two other extensions are being mooted. On a larger scale is the Barking Reach Extension, projecting the network from Beckton outwards into new regeneration areas in Barking Reach and Dagenham. On a much smaller scale is the extension to Stratford International - the new station currently being built for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which is situated quite far away from the current Stratford station complex. This is the take over of the Silverlink North London Line east of Stratford, with a DLR branch overlayed on the route from [Canning Town]? via West Ham.
As for upgrading the existing network, progress is being made towards lengthening trains between Bank and Lewisham on the core section of the network which is under heavy load. This involves extending a number of platforms.