We need cash to build DLR to Thamesmead, TfL boss tells government

DLR at Elverson Road
A government minister recently visited Thamesmead to assess plans for housing and transport

Transport for London’s boss has called on the government to support plans for a Docklands Light Railway extension to Thamesmead, revealing that a minister recently visited the site to assess its potential.

Andy Lord, who is the interim commissioner of TfL, also called for Westminster backing so work on the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham can restart, along with Crossrail 2.

In his report to the TfL board, Lord – who replaced the previous commissioner Andy Byford last year – said the projects were critically important for enabling new housing to be built.

“We are keen for the Government to support development work carried out on the DLR extension to Thamesmead and to restart our joint work on the Bakerloo line extension and Crossrail 2,” he said.

“These were stopped at the onset of the pandemic, and restarting this work would ensure that these critical projects enabling hundreds of thousands of new homes and substantial economic opportunity across London and the wider UK can progress within the next decade.”

Thamesmead has been poorly served by public transport since the town welcomed its first residents in 1968, with plans for a Jubilee Line connection scrapped in the 1980s. There have been calls for a Docklands Light Railway link ever since the original network opened on the Isle of Dogs in 1987.

But the DLR extension is planned to serve a new area, Thamesmead Waterfront, which could have 11,500 new homes. Officials hope that the government’s Homes England agency will help out with the funding.

TfL Thamesmead map
Rapid bus links are planned as well as the DLR extension

Lord said that Rachel Maclean, the housing minister, visited the site of the DLR extension on March 9 and “reviewed the plans for housing and public transport infrastructure in the area”.

The Thamesmead extension would come off the existing Beckton branch at Gallions Reach and would also serve new housing at Beckton Riverside.

Before the inflation crisis, the cost of an extension was put at £800 million. Local MP Abena Oppong-Asare has previously said the link is “desperately needed”.

Suggestions that a London Overground extension from Barking Riverside, would offer better connections have been downplayed by TfL, which says that trains would not run frequently enough to make it worthwhile.

Lewisham with Lewisham Gateway phase 2 behind
Lewisham is already being transformed by new towers

Plans for the Bakerloo Line to come to Lewisham have looked rocky since the Covid crisis, even though there remain big plans for housing along the route of the new line, which would serve two stops on the Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate.

Despite the uncertainty over the new line – and cuts to existing Southeastern services – plans for new housing continue in Lewisham, which has already been transformed by tall towers. The developer Astir announced last week that it had bought Tesco’s Lewisham store so it can build new homes and a new store on the site. Towers are already approaching completion in part of the store’s old car park.

Other towers could come to the shopping centre and the Lewisham Retail Park on Loampit Vale.

The other project on Lord’s wishlist, Crossrail 2, would not serve SE London under current plans. Instead, it would link northeast London with commuter lines from Waterloo and is seen as vital in encouraging new development in the Lea Valley, as well as relieving the Victoria Line.

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