Docklands Light Railway train
Work on a DLR link to Thamesmead is not expected to start until 2028 Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Extending the Docklands Light Railway to Thamesmead could cost £1.7 billion – with homes in major new developments being built before the first trains arrive in 2033.

Senior councillors in both Greenwich and Newham are signing off a request for the Westminster government to help pay for early work on the project, which would help the development of up to 30,000 new homes on both sides of the Thames.

Greenwich cabinet members endorsed the request in a brief meeting on Wednesday, with just a summary document placed in the public domain.

However, across the Thames, Newham has been more transparent and published the full document before its cabinet meets on Tuesday. Newham’s paper reveals that an extension would not be ready for another decade, with construction not expected to start until 2028.

Before then, up to £12 million will be needed to develop the project. Both councils will contribute £500,000 each for four years of preparatory work on the extension, while Transport for London, developers and other bodies will also contribute cash. The government is being asked for between £4 million and £6 million.

While Greenwich councillors were told that the total cost of building the line would be between £700 million and £1.2 billion at 2021 prices, their counterparts in Newham were given a fuller picture.

“Taking account of future inflation between 2021 and the anticipated construction period of 2028-33, outturn costs are currently forecast at between £950m and £1.7bn,” the economic case for the extension says.

TfL Thamesmead map
A bus transit link is planned as well as the DLR extension

While much of Thamesmead is poorly-served by public transport, the extension aims to serve two major new developments at Beckton Riverside – on the site of the old gas works – and Thamesmead Waterfront, which would be built on retail parks and the remaining undeveloped former Ministry of Defence land.

But the first residents could move in long before the first trains arrive – as happened across the Thames when the first residents in Barking Riverside settled in before the London Overground came to the area.

“The landowners/developers are also working with the local authorities to explore the potential to bring forward a limited number of homes at Beckton Riverside and Thamesmead Waterfront, in advance of the delivery of a public transport intervention, maximising existing links,” the document says.

“Planning applications for early non-dependent phases could be submitted in the mid-2020s, with the first homes being occupied in the late 2020s.”

Three options are being considered in the preparatory work: a bus transit link between Woolwich, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood; a DLR link to Beckton Riverside only; and a DLR link that continues all the way to Thamesmead.

The document warns against only going to Beckton Riverside and says that a bus transit – a service with its own lanes and priority over normal traffic – could be built in Thamesmead first to be joined later by the DLR.

Options ruled out at an early stage included river buses, cable car links across the Thames and extensions of the Hammersmith & City line from Barking.

Current residents in Thamesmead are “screaming out for transport infrastructure”, communities cabinet member and Abbey Wood councillor Ann-Marie Cousins said on Wednesday.

Greenwich Council leader Anthony Okereke said: “This has been a long campaign for us in terms of wanting the DLR extension from Beckton to Thamesmead, and I’m glad that we’re working with our partners to make sure that we can push this forward.

“The infrastructure’s going to bring a huge investment into Thamesmead and Abbey Wood and the wider area in the same way the Elizabeth Line has done for Woolwich and as a cabinet, we will continue to campaign for more infrastructure in southeast London.”