Docklands Light Railway (DLR) 25th birthday celebrated
FOR many of us it has transformed the way we travel around this part of London and, next week, the 25th birthday of the Docklands Light Railway is celebrated.
When the DLR first opened its driverless trains were a revelation to in a part of the capital which felt cut off from much of the public transport system.
Opened by the Queen on August 30 1987, it has since grown from just two routes and 11 trains in east London to a 45-station system - including this part of town - carrying 86m people a year.
Director Jonathan Fox explained: "It's changed beyond all recognition really. It started off as a railway to connect communities and it's continued doing that ever since.
"The main reason behind each extension has been to bring more transport to other communities."
Lewisham Council commissioned a feasibility study to get the line in the 1990s, eventually leading to a Lewisham extension through Greenwich and Deptford opening in 1999.
The clamour to join the DLR route has not abated since. A lengthy campaign to get an extension to Woolwich Arsenal finally paid off in 2009.
And even now the prospect of a economic boost from DLR's links exerts a strong pull, with calls from Greenwich politicians to get another extension to Eltham - though a report last year commissioned by the council showed it would cost £1bn and involve running the line down the middle of the A2.
Mr Fox seemed to rule that out though, saying: "We've got no plans to go to Eltham.
"Of course, ever since the DLR came to Woolwich itself Greenwich Council has been a great supporter and has welcomed us.
"But just at this moment in time I don't see an extension happening."
In many ways, the DLR reached its peak this year, providing a vital connection between Olympic venues and welcomingrecord numbers of passengers on their way to the Games.
So it was fitting that Stratford provided the spot for the system's birthday celebrations yesterday, where a cake shaped like a DLR train was served up to hungry passengers.
Mr Fox said: "We had 7m passengers in the first year of operation - we did more than that this year during the Olympics alone."
Rush to the front seat
Former bank worker Sue Kitts got an early ride on the train one week before it was officially opened by the Queen in 1987 - an event she also attended - and was back in Stratford last week to celebrate the anniversary.
The 56-year-old from Bow said: "One of the things that hasn't ceased to amaze me is how many people still try to rush to get the front seat on the train.
"Not just children but adults do it.
"Only the excitement of going on a train that has no driver can do that. People were coming up with different ideas about how it was being driven.
"And of course you get amazing view of London from such a high level."
1984 - Construction starts of the Stratford to Isle of Dogs route
1987 - The DLR is opened by the Queen
1991 - Bank extension opens.
1993 - Lewisham extension approved by Parliament
1999 - The Lewisham extension opens ahead of schedule
2001 - Public consultation on extending the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal
2003 - Woolwich Arsenal extension public inquiry
2005 - Construction begins at Woolwich Arsenal extension
2009 - Woolwich Arsenal extension opens