Greenwich Council’s cabinet has agreed to spend up to £45,000 on further studies into a Docklands Light Railway extension to Eltham, with leader Chris Roberts declaring he wanted to “challenge Transport for London’s mentality” on new transit links.

The council has already spent £25,000 on the report via its Eltham Regeneration Agency, which suggests an eight-station line built on stilts above the A102 and A2 dual carriageways between a new river crossing at North Greenwich and Falconwood, on the borough’s western boundary.

Its director of regeneration, enterprise and skills, John Comber, told councillors on Tuesday that “a great deal of work needs to be done” to establish the viability of the proposal, which is costed at £1 billion and could include rebuilding east Greenwich’s Woolwich Road flyover.

Cllr Roberts said he envisaged costs coming down as “engineering solutions are discovered” for the scheme.

“This is also about changing the mentality of Transport for London, who seem to think that every bus and every railway line should go into central London when in actual fact we’re seeing in Westfield in Stratford, in Canning Town, in Canary Wharf that actually working patterns are changing,” he added.

“TfL needs to get into the 21st century about where jobs are located. It took years to get a bus service from the north to the south of the borough” – the 132 extension to North Greenwich – “and part of this is the ongoing challenge to change that mentality.”

Transport for London’s two most recent projects, however, have run around the edge of central London – the East London Line extension and the Docklands Light Railway link to Stratford International.

Culture cabinet member John Fahy called the proposal “an exciting opportunity for the borough long-term” which would “reduce the continual horror of queuing at the Sun-in-the-Sands and the Blackwall Tunnel”.

“There are cynics among us who would rubbish this and say this is pie-in-the-sky, but they need to recognise that we have a great track record in terms of the Jubilee Line, the DLR, and bringing Crossrail to the borough. I’m enthusiastically in favour of this report.”

Regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland said: “There will be huge numbers of living at Kidbrooke Village, and this would be actually fantastic if we could actually ensure this is technically feasible. It would improve access to jobs and businesses in the borough.”

The report, compiled by Hyder Consulting, has not been made public by Greenwich Council.

Pie in the sky or not, it’s worth remembering that for this scheme to go ahead, Greenwich Council will have to hope for a Conservative victory at the next mayoral election, as Ken Livingstone has come out against building the tunnel between North Greenwich and Silvertown that this proposal depends on.

To further understand the difficulties with this scheme, it’s also worth picking up a copy of the current issue of train bible Modern Railways, which carries a special feature on the latest thinking for London’s transport. TfL’s current thinking for the DLR is to extend it to Euston, to cope with crowds from High Speed 2. “We could well get a bigger bang for our buck if we head west rather than east,” TfL executive Howard Smith tells the magazine. The other DLR scheme mentioned is Dagenham Dock – nothing about Eltham.

The magazine also carries a lengthy feature on the possibilities of extending the Bakerloo Line further into SE London, written by the author of a recent report for Lewisham Council on the idea. Five options are considered for inner London – one to Charlton, one to Canary Wharf, and three to Lewisham.

Beyond Lewisham, it could take over existing railways to go to Hayes (via Catford) or Slade Green (via Eltham) – both costing between £3.2-£3.6 billion. This scheme is actually on TfL’s radar, but it currently prefers a line to Hayes, but says the idea will be reviewed further.

If you want to find out more about the Bakerloo scheme, the Lewisham Council report is available online.

I still can’t help thinking that Greenwich would be better off junking this bizarrely insular DLR scheme and teaming up with other councils to back a Bakerloo Line link, properly plugging SE London into the tube network and giving access to a wider range of destinations than just North Greenwich. It’s bad enough trying to get the short distance from Blackheath or Charlton to North Greenwich in the mornings – surely the council should be trying to fix these relatively simple problems before thinking about a technically difficult scheme that still leaves Eltham relatively isolated, in London-wide terms.

All things considered, even after £75,000 is spent on a feasibility study, it’s still likely that the DLR on stilts to Eltham will join the King’s Cross Aerodrome and the Regent Street monorail in the long list of London’s canned transport schemes.

21 replies on “Eltham DLR bid ‘to challenge TfL’, says council leader”

  1. Quote –

    “Cllr Roberts said he envisaged costs coming down as “engineering solutions are discovered” for the scheme.” The reverse will happen. Problems will be discovered, solutions will follow — at a price.

    See my earlier comments about the Bangkok Skytrain.

    I also imagine that ‘engineering solutions’ were to bring down costs for the Olympic stadia, Jubilee Line signals, Thames foot tunnels and virtually every other public sector construction project we’ve seen in the last few years….

  2. Not sure I agree with you. The Bakerloo extension has been gathering dust on the Broadway shelves since the 1930s, initially just to Camberwell and Peckham, and TfL keeps dragging it out and giving it another whirl just to show that occasionally it does think of SE London.
    The real problem with North Greenwich is that it’s so far from most of the borough. Great for visitors to the O2 and the new residents of the Peninsula, but for the rest of us, queuing for a 108 or whatever at that freezing bus station …
    A train above the road from the Blackwall tunnel to Kidbrooke and Falconwood makes a lot of sense, and connecting it up the the DLR to give change-free access to Canary Wharf and the area would be sensible.
    Why doesn’t LB Greenwich test part of the idea by funding a high-speed bus service from North Greenwich station along the road, stopping at the Woolwich roundabout, the Sun in the Sands and then Eltham and Falconwood?

  3. But, frankly, why should North Greenwich station have to serve the entire borough? Eltham should be getting its own transport links in its own right.

    Agree with you on trialling a fast bus – although to a certain extent the 132 does that (but limits capacity for the rest of us waiting for 108s, etc, to nearer destinations).

  4. Whilst I think the scheme as proposed is pretty pie-in-the-sky, I sort of see Chris Roberts’ point – if you can get a serious conversation started with TfL and the Mayor(s) on the back of this, then it’s £25k well spent – a further £45k might be pushing it, however.

    I can see why Hyder are pushing the A102/A2 route – it’s the line of least resistance through a heavily built-up area, but it’s far from being the optimal route in terms of actually serving the various communities en-route. A line up from Woolwich Arsenal would make far more sense in terms of serving places with poor transport links, but would be far more complex, though removing the need for another river crossing ought to count in its favour. If only they hadn’t designed the Woolwich extension to basically face the wrong way…

    I’m not convinced, however, that the proposal for a DLR extension ought to be seen in opposition to a Bakerloo extension – the latter would be about increased capacity and connectivity on existing transport corridors, whereas a north-south DLR is about creating a high-capacity transport corridor which doesn’t really exist currently. The east-west axis of the rail routes through south-east London represents a 19th century single economic centred London, which no longer exists. I don’t think this DLR route is the solution (though if you’d told me 20yrs ago there would be a light railway down the Ravensbourne Valley, I’d probably have laughed), but north-south connectivity in south-east and east London needs improvement.

    Have never been convinced of the value of extending the Bakerloo beyond Lewisham – replacing mainline services out to Sidcup, Charlton or Hayes with tiny tube-profile stock calling at all stations via Elephant & Castle is going to mean much longer journey times into zone 1, in more cramped conditions. And, quite frankly, beyond Elmers End, the Hayes branch outside the peaks doesn’t have the level of patronage needed for Underground levels of patronage. Extending the Bakerloo to Camberwell and Lewisham is a must – but not sure about beyond. And I don’t just say that because I worry about having Bakerloo line sidings built over my Charlton back garden!

  5. If only they hadn’t designed the Woolwich extension to basically face the wrong way…

    – Indeed. My main gripe with this DLR route – other than the absurdity of building it on top of the dual carriageways – is that it doesn’t actually seem to go anywhere beyond North Greenwich, which is surely approaching capacity for passengers at rush hour, (or Silvertown). It won’t go directly to Canary Wharf, it can’t go to Bank (full up) nor Tower Gateway (full up), which leaves Stratford International – if that isn’t full up by then.

    Here’s something revolutionary I’ve just thought of. Build a tram. Have Eltham High Street* as the hub, and have tram lines out to Woolwich, North Greenwich, Catford, Bromley and Bexleyheath. Bring it on. Can I have some cash to do a study? I’m sure someone in Croydon had that idea once…

    (*Or the Yorkshire Grey! That’s Kidbrooke Village sorted)

  6. “Have Eltham High Street* as the hub, and have tram lines out to Woolwich, North Greenwich, Catford, Bromley and Bexleyheath.”

    Stead on Darryl! That’s far too sensible! And wasn’t there talk some 20 years ago about “driver-less” trams running about the borough?

  7. Darryl – I don’t see the tram as a revolutionary idea. Its been talked about all over the place – as a way of getting people up from North Greenwich on the motorway on a system which could be run on the road among the other traffic and not take up too much road space – and as an extension to the Boris-cancelled tram from Thamesmead.
    Historically of course Charlton was a great centre for trams – with Charlton Car Repair Depot in Feltram Way (Mr. Fell being the General Manager) and the Tramatorium (on the Makro site) where all the defunct trams were burnt out in the 1950s (with many tearful enthusiasts outside). I always understood – I’m sure someone will correct me – that the last tram was driven by the Mayor of Woolwich. In Greenwich we still have, of course, and still in use the Power Station built to power the trams.

  8. It is revolutionary in terms of govt policy, though, which has been anti-public transport for at least 30 years. As an example, the “tram” to Thamesmead had been watered down to a bus by the time it was cancelled.

  9. Hmmm. Either a vastly expensive light rail on stilts needing a rebuild of almost every bridge over the M-way, and nowhere able to accept the trains north of the river, or a relatively cheap tram network improving connections to existing cross-river transits and probably needing very little in the way of re-arrangement of roads. It would be better to spend £45,000 on a tram study based on an analysis of costs and benefits of several possible routes.

  10. I’ve always understood SE London is hard to tunnel because it is based on sand (as opposed the rest of London, based largely on clay). If I’m right, that pretty much rules out the bakerloo, since the infrastructure would involve huge compulsory purchases – unpopular and slow.

    Since the coalition has overnight been converted into believing in infrastructure projects, somethng like this possibly has a better chance of success than it has (or will) for some time

  11. It was harder to tunnel, but technology is better these days. Historically, the mainline railways also objected to extensions of the Tube into “their” patch.

  12. Hmm, for anyone who thinks a tram system is the cheap and easy option, take a look at Edinburgh…

  13. Instead of the DLR link, why not build a cable car/gondola link from Eltham Station to Canary Wharf, calling at Kidbrooke, Sun-in-the-Sands, North Greenwich and Canary Wharf. This could easily be built above the A2 and at a fraction of the cost of the DLR on stilts, with no problems of rebuilding bridges or tunneling beneath the Thames. Unlike the “ArabFly Dangleway” (Thank You Diamond Geezer ) this would actually take people where they might want to go 18 hours a day, 364 days per year. The sloped glass roof of Eltham Station already looks like a cable car station …

    Are urban gondolas the future ? –

  14. Even the cocked-up Edinburgh Trams project will cost the same as the Eltham DLR project would.

    Croydon Tramlink cost £200m when finished in 2000.

  15. it’s bad enough that we in Siebert Road have speeding trucks at night causing considreable damage and cracking to our homes, now a high level railway!!!!!!!! Complaints have been made but nothing done, its very obvious that these truck s and the velocity the reach are well above the legal speed limit and in breaking the law they are breaking our houses. Has anyone actually been near an elevated section of the DLR and experienced the track noise that elevated railways cause! As a resident we will object all the way.

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