Docklands Light Railway (D.L.R.)

Date Established:
Docklands Light Railway (D.L.R.)

In the 1970s, the Port of London's freight-handling facilities moved to the deep-water container port at Tilbury. The centuries-old London Docks were quickly abandoned, with the loss of thousands of jobs. The area quickly became derelict.

In 1981, the London Dockland Development Corporation (L.D.D.C.) was formed to regenerate the area. The L.D.D.C., together with the private developer Trafalgar House and the Greater London Council (G.L.C.), published recommendations to build a light railway to improve the area.

The scheme was agreed and the design and build contract awarded to G.E.C. Mowlam in 1984. It was to be funded by the departments of transport and of the environment. The strict conditions included a stipulation that the project could not exceed its 77 million budget.

The original line comprised 15 stations, with three termini: at Tower Gateway, Stratford and Island Gardens. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the line on 30 July 1987. The first passenger service ran on 31 August, and an estimated 40,000 people travelled that day. This number far exceeded expectations: the first plans had allowed for a maximum of 1,500 passengers an hour to travel on the service. The actual figure rapidly rose to 12,000 an hour. Plans quickly developed to extend the line.

Additional funding for the extension was provided by Olympia & Wharf, the developers behind the Canary Wharf office scheme. Tunnelling from Bank Underground station began in March 1988, and the extension from Tower Gateway to Bank was completed in 1991. The line was further extended to Beckton in 1994. The extension to Lewisham was first proposed in 1989 and completed in 1999. Each of the four 'legs' of the line pass through the Poplar junction, which has been extensively enlarged over the years. The main D.L.R. headquarters, train control centre and maintenance centre is on railway land south of Poplar High Street. An additional depot was built at Beckton after the extension there.

Alternate Names

  • D.L.R.
  • Docklands Light Railway

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