Friday, 27 July 2012

DLR to Lewisham Junction

In the last few blogs I've argued the case for Lewisham Junction, the development of a major new rail interchange for South East London, backed by regeneration of Lewisham. This blog looks at how the DLR interacts with the site.

Lewisham Junction and the DLR

The Lewisham Junction proposal faces an immediate peoblem in that it acts as less of a junction than the current Lewisham (North) station. This is expected and is the trade off between the inability to further expand the existing site and building a new junction from scratch.

Key to making the new junction work is the DLR.

The first DLR extension would need to be from Lewisham (North) to Lewisham Junction. This would almost certainly be in addition to the existing railway line that runs to Hayes. This extension would be essential to the viability of the station as a junction, especially for connections to Canary Wharf and Stratford.

There has also been talk of extending the DLR, to Catford separate to this proposal. Having been to Ladywell, I'm uncertain as to how that would happen without closing the Hayes line north of Catford. Now this may be a longer term option, but doesn't seem likely now.

Instead, I want to focus on a different DLR extension - from Woolwich. It isn't always appreciated that the DLR station in Woolwich faces west, rather than south. As such, the most logical direction for extension is to the west.

DLR from Woolwich to Lewisham Junction

This proposal would extend the DLR from Woolwich to the new Lewisham Junction station. There would seem to be two main approaches.

The first approach (in purple/red) would see a new tunnel of 2.2 miles from Woolwich to Charlton, probably via the B210 Artillery Place/Hillreach. From there, it would take over the Charlton to Blackheath line from Network Rail, potentially adding a new station by opening up the tunnel near Old Dover Road. From Blackheath to Lewisham Junction, the DLR would then run on the surface alongside or above the existing line to Lewisham before turning to Lewisham Junction. This last section could also be tunnelled.

The second approach (in green) is to tunnel the whole way, running via Blackheath, but not via Charlton. This approach would allow new areas to be served that are currently remote from rail public transport. The amount of tunnelling is of the order of 4.5 miles. Note that the tunnel length is only twice that of the first approach.

The two routes are shown here:

The key benefits of these two DLR extensions is a major boost to public transport connectivity in the area. Lewisham Junction would have direct services to both Canary Wharf and City airport, as well as boosting regeneration in Woolwich.


The Lewisham Junction proposal cannot work without extending the Lewisham DLR branch to the site. However, the site really starts to work if the Woolwich DLR line is extended to Lewisham Junction as well.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lewisham Junction

Building a key interchange for inner South East London, similar to Stratford or Clapham Junction, would have many benefits to the area. This blog expores a proposal to develop Lewisham Junction as that interchange.

Lewisham Junction

Lewisham Junction is a proposal for a brand new station on a new site on the south side of Lewisham town centre. This blog explains the rationale for the site choice and how it could be developed.

The first thing to note is that Lewisham Junction is a separate site to the current Lewisham station. The current Lewisham station suffers from a complex flat junction and curving platforms, with little room to make alterations. It is not a practical place to expand or convert into a major junction. That said, the existing station, referred to here as Lewisham (North), is already a reasonably major junction, with lines to Victoria & Blackfriars, Charing Cross & Cannon Street, the DLR, Hayes, Chislehurst, Sidcup, Bexleyheath and Charlton.

The Lewisham Junction site is known to the railway as Courthill Loop Junction. To locals, it is to the west of the river at the south end of the High Street. The map hopefully clarifies the location:

This location is closer to the centre of the High Street than the current Lewisham station. And this access could be dramatically improved as part of building the station by opening up the south end of the shopping centre, across Molesworth Street.

While much of the core land is in railway ownership, the access land is not. The southern part of the High Street and Engate Street would ideally be totally redeveloped to provide good access, including for buses.

The station itself would need 4 platforms on the main-line and 2 platforms for the slow lines to Sidcup and Chislehurst. There would also need to be 2 platforms on the Hayes line that runs at right angles to the main-line under the site. (4 platforms are needed on the main-line to allow a train to pull into one platform while another train is pulling out of the other one).

Key to keeping initial costs down would be to no longer provide for trains to run from Hayes to London direct from Ladywell via the "short cut" on the western part of the site. All Hayes trains would have to go via Lewisham (North). Similarly, there would no longer be a connection from Hither Green to Lewisham (North). All Sidcup and Chislehurst services would run "straight on", avoiding Lewisham (North). This change to the services requires that the DLR is extended to Lewisham Junction, so that passengers from Sidcup and Chislehurst can still access Greenwich and Docklands (extending the DLR south of Lewisham North is not simple, but nor is it impossible).

Note that Lewisham (North) would remain open and unaltered with this proposal, serving that area of Lewisham.


The real question is what have we gained through this scheme?

The benefits to the railway are simpler operation around the Lewisham area. The Hayes and Sidcup/Chislehurst lines have clearly defined routes/destinations, with less need for complex timetabling. Specifically, there is relief of the Lewisham flat junction, which would allow more Blackheath services. These railway benefits are important, providing a step change in capacity. However, there are much larger benefits around regeneration, with longer term benefits.

Next to this site is Wearside, a Lewisham Council Depot. This is a large plot of land that would suddenly be located next to a key railway junction, with fast access to London. Using this land to drive a major regeneration project would be key to the whole scheme. In addition to the Wearside land, there would need to be concerted effort to completely redevelop the southern end of Lewisham High Street. It would also make sense to redevelop Riverdale House, a nearby office building.

Finally, the main shopping centre would need to be opened up to the south, no doubt providing a major boost to retail in the centre. With the increase in people travelling only by publc transport, and not owning a car at all, improving public transport access to urban shopping centres is of increasing importance.

If these redevelopments could be linked together, there may be a surprising aount of money available to fund the scheme.

Some pictures that may help set the scene.
The southern end of the High Street, station site on the right, ideally replacing this row of shops:

Lewisham, London

Engate Street, behind the High Street. The station site would include this area, requiring demolition of this building and using land further to the right (the High Street is to the left):

Lewisham, London

Wearside depot, targetted for redevelopment:

Lewisham, London

The heart of the site itself, taken here from behind Riverdale House:

Lewisham, London

Longer term

Stratford and Clapham Junction stations are the models that this proposal looks to. Stratford in particular, didn't start as the huge interchange that it is now. Over time, other railway lines came to Stratford, the DLR twice and the London Overground. A key interchange becomes an attractor that reinforces the location.

In future entries I will look at some possible options that would reinforce the "junction" nature of Lewisham Junction, creating the hub for South East London that is needed, but cannot be built at Lewisham (North).


The current Lewisham (North) station is a reasonable junction, but cannot be expanded. This leaves the Lewisham Junction site, an opportunity for regeneration over a large part of Lewisham town centre and through the Wearside depot to Ladywell. Something that could change Lewisham forever.

South East London interchange

Inner South West London has Clapham Junction as a key interchange. Inner North East London has Stratford. But Inner South East London doesn't have anything that matches the pattern. This blog looks at some of the options.

A key interchange for inner South East London

The key rationale for enhancing and creating key interchanges around central London is to encourage more travellers to avoid the city centre. With the ever increasing number of travellers expected in the next 20 years and limited funds, developing stations and routes outside the centre (like London Overground) look appealing.

Clapham Junction has long been the model of this, recently seeing major growth through London Overground routes around the core city. Stratford is the equivalent in the North East, which has seen major investment for the Olympics and general redevelopment. If HS2 continues, it is likely that Old Oak Common will become a similar junction for the West of London.

Creating a junction of similar scale for South East London is clearly a long-term project, but the connectivity benefits would be huge, for those travelling around the city centre, or between parts of the suburbs. These are the principal location options that I see for building such an interchange:

  • Deptford Park - south of Surrey Quays, where the London Overground crosses the main line to Greenwich, Lewisham and Orpington (Landmann Way)
  • New Cross Gate
  • New Cross
  • Lewisham
  • Lewisham Junction - where the line from Lewisham to Hayes crosses the main line

The key requirements for this site are to be a major junction station, linking networks in different directions. To achieve this requires a large site and main line services as well as local ones. (A junction of only local services doesn't get passengers from outside London routing around the city core). Its also the case that both Stratford and Clapham Junction have major shopping centres nearby, so that should be seen as a good test as well.

Deptford Park is the "obvious" site. It is already a major rail junction, and with suitable investment could have platforms for main-line trains on both the Thameslink East Croydon route and the South Eastern Orpington route, plus London Overground, all the Dartford locals and Hayes. However, Deptford Park is already scheduled for major work as part of London Overground and the Thameslink project, neither of which are building a station. In effect, the ship has sailed here. Furthermore, the site is perhaps too close to London Bridge - certiainly closer in than Stratford or Clapham Junction. There is no development there at the moment, this no major shopping centre or destination for local traffic.

New Cross Gate would be a reasonable option if a new tunnel was built to take all the Dartford locals (via Lewisham). But even then, it misses out on the opportunity to grab South Eastern main-line pasengers before London Bridge. I'm also uncertain that there is enough land there, and there is no major shopping centre.

New Cross is already a junction, but its hard to see what adding more services to it would achieve. There are limitations in available land, and there is no major shopping centre

Lewisham is already a key junction between the DLR and the lines to Blackheath, Hayes and Hither Green. It is however a badly laid out station with a horrendous junction that limits train frequency. The site is near a major shopping centre, although the shopping centre does rather turn its back on the station. It is a site with some ability to grow, but I cannot see how it could become a major junction towards the scale of Clapham Junction or Stratford - there simply isn't the room to add the platforms and sort out the junction.

Lewisham Junction would be a new station located where the Hayes line runs under the South Eastern main-line to Orpington, and where there are links from Hayes to the main-line and from Lewisham to Hither Green. The site is near a major shopping centre (its as close to Lewisham, if not closer, as the current Lewisham station). And the site has lots of land available - there is lots of existing railway land, plus a large council depot right next door.

In practical terms, I suspect that only Deptford Park and Lewisham Junction have the necessary land available to build a suitable large station. But Lewisham Junction wins the prize by being near an existing shopping centre, as well as a large parcel of land that has the potential to be developed (providing cash to find the project).

The next blog will discuss Lewisham Junction in much more detail and what would be needed to make it a key interchange.


Building a new major rail interchange is not a simple task. Locating it near an existing destination helps provide the initial boost it needs, especially if it enables a major redevelopment project.

Do you have another location where a junction in South East London could go?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Lewisham station

If you want to get to know an area, perhaps before proposing changes, it is always worth visiting. As such, I recently visited the Lewisham area.

Lewisham station

Lewisham station has four platforms. Platforms 1 and 2 serve the line to Hayes and Hither Green:

Lewisham station, London

Platforms 3 and 4 serve the line to Blackheath:

Lewisham station, London

The definining feature of the station is the flat junction on the London side of the platforms. The junction provides access to Victoria on the left and London Bridge on the right. There is also access to the south side of the main-line to London Bridge from the Victoria route. This junction is a huge constraint to the local rail network, with trains waiting to cross it. (Trains from platform 1/2 are behind me on the left, and from platforms 3/4 behind me on the right):

Junction at Lewisham, London

Junction at Lewisham, London

Junction at Lewisham, London

Finally, the DLR station has been built beneath the main-line station, providing a connection to Greenwich and Docklands.

In a wet rush hour, the trains were fairly full, and occasionally very full, but perhaps a little less busy than those in the South West. The main surprise was the number of travellers taking trains towards Peckham Rye and Victoria, which was many more than I expected. It was also very, very clear as to just how constraining the flat diamond junction is - there was almost always a train waiting to cross it.