Docklands Light Railway

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Docklands Light Railway
Docklands Light Railway logo
Royal Victoria DLR station MMB 04 DLR 02.jpg
Basic information
Country Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
city London
opening August 31, 1987
operator KeolisAmey Docklands Ltd.
( Keolis 70%, Amey 30%)
owner Docklands Light Railway Ltd. part of Transport for London
Route length 34 km
Gauge 1435 mm ( standard gauge )
Power system 750 V DC busbar
(coated from below)
System type driverless elevated train
Stations 45
Lines 7th
vehicles 149
Cruising speed 80 km / h
Top speed 100 km / h
Passengers 110,200,000 (2014/15)
Docklands Light Railway
System color: turquoise
Tower gateway
London – Southend
Royal Mint Street Junction
Regent's Canal
Limehouse Cut
West India Quay
West India Docks
Canary Wharf
Poplar Depot
West India Docks
Heron Quays
All saints
West India Docks
Langdon Park
South Quay
Limehouse Cut
Millwall Inner Dock
East India
Mudchute (published in 1999)
Devons Road
London – Southend
Island Gardens (relocated in 1999)
District Line / H&C Line
Bow Church
Pudding Mill Lane (relocated 2014)
Canning Town
Cutty Sark
Star Lane
West Ham
Abbey Road
Stratford High Street
Deptford Bridge
High Speed ​​One
Elverson Road
Stratford International
Crossrail to Canary Wharf
Royal Victoria
Custom House
Thames Wharf
Prince Regent
West Silvertown
Pontoon Dock
Royal Albert
Beckton Park
London City Airport
Gallions Reach
King George V
Beckton Depot
Woolwich Arsenal

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a driverless elevated and underground railway in the Docklands , the former port area in east London , which has existed since 1987 . It operates under a license awarded by Transport for London (TfL). The 34 km long route network is used by vehicles similar to light rail vehicles. DLR is not part of London Underground , but appears on their route network map and is within the scope of the TfL tariff system .

The DLR network comprises six branches and has 45 stations, five of which are in tunnels. The routes are mostly on viaducts or use the routes of former port railways. In the 2014/15 financial year, DLR carried 110.2 million passengers.


The DLR mostly drives on viaducts , long sections were created on port rail routes that are no longer needed. There are three tunnel sections: At Greenwich and Woolwich the Thames is crossed, in the City of London the westernmost terminus ( bank ) is also in the tunnel. There are no level crossings with other means of transport, which means that DLR fulfills many of the criteria for an underground or elevated railway . The term “light rail” is used because the technology is similar to that of a light rail and to distinguish the network from the conventional London Underground.

There are six branches, four of which cross at Poplar station : to Greenwich and Lewisham in the south, to Stratford in the north, to Beckton in the east and to the City of London in the west. The latter route has two end stations, a bank and a tower gateway . The southern route is particularly worth seeing. For the most part, it runs on a viaduct across the old docks on the Isle of Dogs , at Heron Quays it leads through the middle of a high-rise. The fifth branch runs from Canning Town via London City Airport to Woolwich Arsenal station . A sixth route runs from Stratford International Station to Canning Town Station.

Current route network

Although the network structure allows numerous different route combinations, the following six lines are normally operated:

  • Bank - Canary Wharf - Lewisham
  • Bank - Poplar - Canning Town - Woolwich Arsenal
  • Stratford - Poplar - Canary Wharf - Lewisham
  • Tower Gateway - Poplar - Canning Town - Beckton
  • Stratford International - Canning Town - Woolwich Arsenal
  • Stratford International - Canning Town - Beckton

In the terminus, the trains turn around directly at the platform, with the exception of Bank, where there is a pull-out siding . During rush hour, numerous trains on the Stratford - Lewisham line already turn at Canary Wharf station . In the event of disruptions and maintenance work, trains can also turn around in the Crossharbour and Mudchute stations .



In the 1960s, the Docklands east of the city center gradually began to decline as the previous port facilities were not suitable for container shipping . The docks were connected to the national rail network via the London and Blackwall Railway , which had to be closed in 1966 due to lack of demand. Eventually the new Tilbury container port in Essex made the London port facilities obsolete and in 1980 the government took control of the now run-down area.

The viaduct of the London and Blackwall Railway is now used by DLR

In 1972 there were first thoughts on how to revive the Docklands. The planning office Travis Morgan & Partners suggested, among other things, the construction of a people mover system to connect Docklands with Fenchurch Street station. The Greater London Council set up a commission to redesign the area in 1974 together with the boroughs of Greenwich , Lewisham , Newham , Southwark and Tower Hamlets . Although a light rail was found to be too expensive, a 1976 study suggested building a conventional subway from Charing Cross via Fenchurch Street and Isle of Dogs to Woolwich . The construction of the second stage of the Jubilee Line was planned in this corridor . After the Conservative Party won the 1979 general election , the subway plans were abandoned as Margaret Thatcher's new administration insisted on a more cost-effective solution.

In July 1981 the government created the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). The need for a cheap public transport solution led London Transport to work out several light rail options. In all cases, the main line ran along the Great Eastern Main Line and the earlier London and Blackwall Railway. Minories Street (today's Tower Gateway station ) was determined as the location of the western terminus . The Tower Hill option failed due to high costs, the Aldgate East option (with a connection to the District Line ) due to a lack of capacity. There were two options for the southern terminus: at Cubitt Town (now Island Gardens Station ) and on Tiller Road west of Millwall Dock , with the first choice. This required a route through the center of the peninsula and the bridging of the West India Docks , although the report by London Transport explicitly warned of the low passenger capacity and should in the area around Canary Wharf no comprehensive urban development to be made (which for several years in fact the case was).

Construction and commissioning of the basic network

A train crosses the West India Dock (1987)

The company GEC Mowlem received the order to build the Docklands Light Railway in 1984. The backbone began in 1985 and cost a mere £ 77 million . The basic network consisted of two lines: from Tower Gateway and Stratford to Island Gardens. The routes mainly used disused railway viaducts or newly built concrete viaducts along the route of the former London and Blackwall Railway and the subsequent Millwall Extension Railway. In addition, a disused section of the North London Railway could be used in the direction of Stratford . In Linke-Hofmann-Busch eleven driverless, computer controlled vehicles Series P86 were ordered.

Gleisdreieck at West India Quay (1987)

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the new means of transport on July 30, 1987, and scheduled operation began on August 31, 1987. At the beginning, the DLR network was not very well developed: the platforms were very short so that only individual units could run. The network with 15 stations consisted of three branch lines with a total length of 13 kilometers, which were connected to each other with a simple track triangle near Poplar . The operations center with administration, depot, workshop and signal box was also located there. The stations almost all looked the same and consisted of standard elements. A common feature were short, semi-cylindrical, glazed canopies in blue color.

First expansion phase

Canary Wharf Station (2012)

The transport capacity of the basic network soon proved to be too small. Since the Docklands quickly transformed into an important financial and economic center in the late 1980s, passenger numbers rose much faster than originally expected. In particular, the Tower Gateway terminus on the outskirts of the City of London turned out to be unattractive, as there was no direct connection to Fenchurch Street station and the closest underground station, Tower Hill, can still only be reached by a several hundred meter long walk. Another problem was the fact that the capacity was completely inadequate after a short time. Even before the opening of the basic network, plans for extensions to Bank in the west and Beckton in the east began.

In order to eliminate the worst capacity bottlenecks, the stations were extended to double their length. On July 29, 1991, the underground extension to Bank went into operation. This branches off from the original route, as a result of which the still-operated Tower Gateway terminus lost its importance. As they did not comply with the British fire protection regulations for tunnel vehicles, the original trains could not run in the tunnel. They drove above ground for a while and were later sold.

The rapid growth of the Canary Wharf office district made it necessary to expand the station of the same name from a simple stop to a station complex with three platforms and separate entry and exit points ( Spanish solution ). The platforms are covered and integrated into a shopping center between two high-rise office buildings. The still undeveloped areas east of Poplar also needed better transport connections in order to promote regeneration there as well. For this reason, a fourth route was created, which leads via Canning Town and along the north side of the Royal Docks to Beckton . The Gleisdreieck near Poplar was expanded to a complex structure without crossing. The new route opened on March 28, 1994.

Second expansion phase

As Canary Wharf grew rapidly, so too did the need for transport links to residential areas in south-east Greater London . The London Borough of Lewisham commissioned a feasibility study for an extension of the DLR under the Thames . Based on the results, the Lewisham borough government requested in 1995 an extension of the Island Gardens branch via Greenwich to Lewisham station . Influential politicians such as John Prescott and Larry Whitty supported the project, so that construction work began the following year.

The Cutty Sark tunnel station in central Greenwich

The extension to Lewisham was opened on December 3, 1999. It branches off the old route south of Crossharbour and reaches Mudchute , where a new ground-level station replaced the one on the viaduct. The subsequent tunnel section initially follows the course of the viaduct to the new underground station Island Gardens (the original station and the southern end of the viaduct were later demolished). Then the Thames and the center of Greenwich are crossed (accessed by the Cutty Sark station ), the tunnel portal is just before Greenwich station. On another viaduct, the route follows the Ravensbourne River and finally ends under the forecourt of Lewisham station.

On February 10, 1996, the Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a car bomb in a small truck near the South Quay station . Since a telephone warning had been received, the neighboring buildings could be evacuated. However, a nearby newspaper kiosk was not evacuated and two men who worked there were killed. Numerous people were injured as a result of the shock wave and the shattering glass. Three houses nearby were badly damaged. While the Midland Bank building had to be demolished, the South Quay Plaza I and II buildings were completely refurbished. The station itself was badly damaged, but was able to be put back into operation after three months.

Third expansion phase

The next upgrades were supported by a five-year investment program presented by Mayor Ken Livingstone on October 12, 2004. On December 2, 2005, Transport for London opened the fifth branch of the Docklands Light Railway. It largely uses the former route of the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway on the south side of the Royal Docks . It connects Canning Town with London City Airport ; the provisional terminus was King George V , located at the dock of the same name .

Extension to Woolwich

This route was extended by another station from King George V to Woolwich Arsenal . Construction work on this stretch of tunnel under the Thames began in June 2005. Mayor Boris Johnson opened the building on January 12, 2009. In the meantime, the original Tower Gateway terminus was closed for renovation work in mid-2008. The two tracks on either side of a narrow central platform were replaced by a single track between two side platforms. The reopening took place on March 2, 2009.

After this extension, the capacity of the system had to be expanded further. It was decided to use three-car trains and waived the increase in the cycle density because the new train control system required for this would not have been cheaper and would have brought fewer advantages. The Docklands Light Railway was originally built for the use of one-car trains. The expansion required the reinforcement of viaducts in order to be able to carry the heavier trains; Likewise, the platforms in several stations had to be extended. Originally the work was to be carried out in three parts: Bank – Lewisham, Poplar – Stratford and Poplar – Beckton. Implementation of the £ 200 million project began in 2007, with the first part expected to have been completed in 2009. However, the first and second parts were merged, which delayed completion until January 2010. Finally, in May 2009, the third part was also completed.

The stations Elverson Road , Royal Albert and Gallions Reach were not extended due to lack of space. The same applies to the tunnel station Cutty Sark , which was built using shield driving ; there this was done for cost reasons and out of consideration for neighboring historical buildings. Individual train doors remain closed in the stations mentioned. In addition, the South Quay station had to be moved around 125 meters to the east, as a nearby curve would otherwise have made an extension impossible.

Fourth expansion phase

Stratford International shortly after opening (2011)

In addition to the station extensions , which were partly financed from the budget of the 2012 Summer Olympics , a sixth branch of the DLR from Canning Town to Stratford International was built . This was opened on August 31, 2011. A converted section of the North London Line , which had been shut down on December 9, 2006, was used. The Jubilee Line already runs there , but with only one stopover; thus the DLR takes over the fine development here. During the Olympic Games, this route connected two of the main venues ( Olympic Park and Exhibition Center London ).

One of the tunnel portals of the Crossrail line under construction through central London is at the original location of the Pudding Mill Lane station . Therefore, the DLR route in this area had to be relocated to a viaduct further south. The replacement station was put into operation on April 28, 2014. The old station was on the only significant single-lane section of the DLR network, so that it was possible to use this opportunity to expand to double-lane to remove this bottleneck.


The infrastructure is owned by Docklands Light Railway Limited; this company is part of the London Rail division of Transport for London , which is also responsible for London Overground , Tramlink and Crossrail . Until the privatization in 1997, the operational department of the DLR was a wholly owned subsidiary of the transport authority London Regional Transport . The first concession was awarded to Serco Docklands Limited for an initial seven years . On November 22, 2005, Transport for London announced that Serco had been awarded the contract for a further seven years. The license that was then awarded was extended in 2013 for a further year until 2014. Since December 2014, the DLR has been operated by KeolisAmey Docklands, a joint venture between Keolis and Amey .


View from a DLR car; the auxiliary cab is usually locked

The DLR owns a total of 149 high-floor, single-pivot, bidirectional multiple units . Each unit consists of two cars that are used in double or triple units (i.e. four or six cars). Each car has four doors on either side; with 70 seats it offers space for a total of 284 passengers. So far, five different series have been used at DLR, three of which are still in operation. All previous vehicles have a uniform paint scheme in red, blue and white (apart from advertising paintwork). The trains run automatically and without a driver; they receive their data via a line control system . There is a radio link between each train and the signal box via an antenna installed under the vehicle and two cables (line conductors) laid in the track. The interlocking computer constantly receives information about the vehicle location, the vehicle computer the maximum permissible speed.

Each train is manned by a passenger service agent who monitors the closing of the doors and is also responsible for passenger safety and minor maintenance work, announcements and ticket controls. If a train cannot continue to move automatically due to a fault, the train attendant drives it in manual mode using an auxiliary control that is located under a hinged (and normally closed) cover on the front side. Despite the automatic operation, the trains are reminiscent of German light rail vehicles .

The trains of the B90, B92 and B2K series are technically compatible and can be coupled with one another as required. The series are marked with a letter that identifies the responsible depot (P = Poplar, B = Beckton) and the year of their first commissioning (example: P86 = Depot Poplar, first commissioning 1986).


Type Construction year Manufacturer number Vehicle no. Remarks
P86 1986 Left-Hofmann-Busch 11 01-11 1991 EVAG sold
P89 1989 British Rail Engineering Ltd. (BREL) 10 12-21 1995 sold to EVAG
B90 1991 Bombardier 23 22-44 General overhaul since 2004, planned use on the Thessaloniki Metro
B92 1993-1995 Bombardier 47 45-91 Vehicle no. 45 was given a new paint job in blue and turquoise as a test in the mid-1990s.
B2K 2001/2002 Bombardier 24 92-99,
The vehicle numbers 01–16 were assigned for the second time (see P86 and P89).
B07 2007/2008 Bombardier 24 101-124 New design
B09 from 2009 on Bombardier 31 125-155 Type designation and vehicle numbers unconfirmed
  from 2023 CAF 43

First series

Former P86 series Docklands car in Essen Hauptbahnhof underground station (2005)

P86 : Linke-Hofmann-Busch in Germany built eleven units of this series in 1986 and added numbers 01 to 11 to the vehicle fleet. The DLR began operations with these vehicles in 1987. Since the wagons were not equipped with fire-retardant materials, the strict British safety regulations for rail vehicles in tunnels prevented them from being used on the tunnel to the Bank station, which was opened in 1991. They were sold to Essener Verkehrs-AG in 1991, where they were put into operation between 1994 and 1998 after renovations (installation of roof pantographs and driver's cabs).

P86er at West India Quay (1987)

The former DLR P86 series trains initially retained their distinctive original color scheme in Essen in red, blue and white and were only used on the U11 line due to their lower braking performance. Gradually, these were also painted in the typical EVAG paint scheme (yellow / blue). The only unmodified P86 Tw 5211 was parked for a few years after 2011 and was transported to the scrap yard in Duisburg port in June 2017.

P89 : British Rail Engineering Ltd. In 1989 he built another ten units with the numbers 12 to 21.As with the opening of the line to Beckton, the DLR lines were converted in sections to a different line control system (Alcatel SELTRAC) and the P89 series could not be coupled with the following series, these vehicles became In the mid-1990s, it was also sold to Essen and, after renovations, was taken over into passenger service there between 1999 and 2004. The units of the P89 series were painted in the typical EVAG paint scheme (yellow / blue) and are in use on the Essen lines U11, U17 and U18.

P86 : EVAG equipped the vehicles of the P86 series from 2005 in its own workshop with a second drive and a reinforced brake system, which allows operation in the StVO area. This enables use on the U17 light rail line. In addition, the double-leaf interior swing doors were replaced by single-leaf sliding doors. Due to the changed technology, the units of the type P86 ( P oplar- 86 ) can also be used in traction with the vehicles of the type P89. The P86 corresponds in technology, equipment and paint scheme to the P89. The only difference is the elimination of the blue EVAG stripes that adorn the entire fuselage from bottom to top. Only their approaches from the roof to the window, as with the M8D-NF tram cars, are still there.

Later series

B90er at West Ham (2011)

B90 : Bombardier manufactured the 23 units of the B90 series in 1991. These have been included in the vehicle inventory with the car numbers 22-44. The vehicles in this series were completely overhauled after 2004 and given a new paint job in red and blue with gray doors.

B92 : Bombardier also built the 47 units of the B92 series (numbers 45 to 91) between 1993 and 1995. Unit no. 45 was given a new paint job in blue and turquoise as a test in the mid-1990s. This color scheme was no longer used and the vehicle was repainted in the original color scheme after a few years.

B07er at Poplar (2008)

B2K : Bombardier delivered the 24 vehicles of the B2K series in 2001 and 2002 (2K is an abbreviation for 2000). They have the numbers 92 to 99 and 01 to 16. The vehicle numbers 01 to 16 had already been used once for the P86 and P89 series vehicles, which have since been decommissioned.

B07 / B09 : In May 2005, Bombardier announced that it had received an order to build an additional 24 vehicles (with an option for nine more units). These are technically improved compared to the previous series; they were manufactured in the Bombardier plant in Bautzen and delivered between May 2007 and September 2008.

These vehicles, known as B07 , have the numbers 101 to 124. The first new DLR vehicle was delivered on December 22, 2007, and the first train went into operation in September 2008. In June 2006, Transport for London added a further 31 units to this order, available through 2009. Funded in part by the 2012 Olympic Games budget. These vehicles are known as B09s and have vehicle numbers 125 to 155.

In June 2019, TRANSPORT for London (TfL) commissioned CAF to plan, manufacture and deliver a fleet of 43 driverless metro trains. The five-car trains will be based on CAF's Metro product platform, with the first trains starting passenger services from 2023. The first 33 sets will replace DLR's almost 30-year-old B90 trains, while the remaining 10 will increase frequency and capacity across the network.


West-East route

Station Bank (2004)
Station Cyprus (2013)

North-South route

Bow Church station before expansion (1990)
Passage through the Heron Quays station (2012)
  • Stratford - opened August 31, 1987
  • Pudding Mill Lane - opened January 15, 1996
  • Bow Church - opened August 31, 1987
  • Devons Road - opened on August 31, 1987
  • Langdon Park - opened December 9, 2007
  • All Saints - opened on August 31, 1987
  • Poplar - opened on August 31, 1987
  • West India Quay - opened on August 31, 1987
  • Canary Wharf - opened July 29, 1991
  • Heron Quays - opened August 31, 1987, closed February 10, 1996, reopened March 16, 1996, closed September 30, 2001, reopened December 18, 2002
  • South Quay - opened August 31, 1987, closed February 10, 1996, reopened April 22, 1996
  • Crossharbour - opened August 31, 1987, closed February 10, 1996, reopened April 15, 1996
  • Mudchute - opened August 31, 1987, closed February 10, 1996, reopened April 15, 1996, closed January 8, 1999, reopened November 20, 1999
  • Island Gardens - opened August 31, 1987, closed February 10, 1996, reopened April 15, 1996, closed January 8, 1999, reopened November 20, 1999
  • Cutty Sark - opened December 3, 1999
  • Greenwich - opened November 20, 1999
  • Deptford Bridge - opened November 20, 1999
  • Elverson Road - opened November 20, 1999
  • Lewisham - opened November 20, 1999

Branch to Woolwich Arsenal

London City Airport Station (2010)

Route to Stratford International

Expansion projects

After Dagenham Dock

The Dagenham Dock Railway Station has been suggested as a possible terminus

In 2007 Transport for London presented the project for a new branch line from Gallions Reach to Dagenham Dock . The Barking Reach development area, a former industrial zone, was to be developed and converted into a new residential and business area. The five stations Beckton Riverside, Creekmouth, Barking Riverside, Goresbrook and Dagenham Dock were planned. In an information brochure, suggestions for further extensions were also presented, for example to Dagenham Heathway or even on the other side of the Thames to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood (there with a connection to Crossrail and the North Kent Line ).

Construction was not scheduled to start before 2013 and the earliest possible date for opening was 2017. Due to the global financial crisis , Transport for London requested that the public hearing be postponed until funding was secured. The main purpose of the extension was to develop residential areas not yet built, which made it extremely difficult to predict a time frame for this project. In November 2008, Mayor Boris Johnson announced the cancellation of the project. Nevertheless, there are demands that this decision be reversed. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham continues to view the route as essential to the development of the area.

New stations

Thames Wharf was the name for two different planned DLR stations. In 1994 the proposed location was between Canning Town and Royal Victoria . Subsequently, plans envisaged the location in a potential development area on the route to London City Airport , between Canning Town and West Silvertown at the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock . Since the station's purpose is to develop the surrounding land (currently a mix of fallow land and decaying industrial buildings), construction will depend on the progress of the regeneration project. Its implementation has meanwhile been postponed indefinitely.

A plot of land near London City Airport was identified as a possible location for another station called Silvertown. Here is the Connaught tunnel of the former North London Line, which Crossrail will reuse from 2019. However, there are no plans as to whether and when a station will be built at this point.

To Victoria / Charing Cross

A study by the Arup engineering firm published in July 2005 suggested extending the DLR from Bank to Charing Cross . The tunnel route would cross central London and reach the platforms of the Jubilee Line at Charing Cross . These were in operation from 1979 to 1999, but have only been used for business trips since then and could thus be reactivated for public transport. There are even plans to extend the DLR from Charing Cross to Victoria Station . In both cases, an existing section of tunnel between Charing Cross and Aldwych , which was built in the 1970s as part of the Fleet Line project (unrealized variant of the Jubilee Line), could also be used.

24 hour service

Similar to the London Underground and London Overground, continuous operation is planned on Saturday and Sunday nights. The British government has expressed its will that night traffic will be implemented on part of DLR by 2021 at the latest.


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  • Robert Schwandl: Metros in Britain . 1st edition. Robert Schwandl Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-936573-12-3 , p. 86-93 .

Web links

Commons : Docklands Light Railway  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

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