Large Plans and Illustrations
(Note: This Monograph has been reproduced by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English Partnerships. It is published for general interest and research purposes only and may not be reproduced for other purposes except with the permission of English Partnerships who now hold the copyright of LDDC publications)
1. LET THERE BE TRANSPORT
This monograph reviews past attempts to provide London Docklands with a modem transport system. It offers a perspective on the history of transport planning for the area, and describes the approach of the LDDC and other partners and players to provide a good transport system and integrate the area with the rest of London.
The monograph provides an insight into the transport planning process. It describes the crucial role played by Government and the increasingly significant contribution made by the private sector to the complexities of funding, and in realising public sector ambitions.
It has always been recognised that an adequate transport system would be the key to successfully redeveloping the area. The planning and provision of transport for the area has therefore long received critical attention especially given the lack of progress in implementing the numerous schemes proposed in the 1960s and 1970s, and the choices made about schemes in the 1980s.
Promoting and developing new transport facilities is complex and protracted. Many agencies and groups are involved and only rarely is there from the outset a correct solution which is apparent and acceptable to all. Choosing the appropriate scheme is an iterative and involved process, with planners and decision makers having to balance many conflicting factors. interests and opinions.
In regeneration areas in particular the development which generates the need for transport may be opposed by many and this lends an added dimension to the transport debate. In urban areas new transport infrastructure can cause significant disruption and inconvenience to communities, and is often unwelcome to those most affected. Typically, therefore, it takes a very long time to create transport infrastructure.
Traditionally transport projects have relied heavily on public expenditure, though this is now changing with the Private Finance Initiative. The competition for public capital spending is fierce. This competition for funds has particularly influenced the Docklands story because large capital sums were required to provide the initial basic level of transport facilities commensurate with those enjoyed by the rest of London. It would be naive to suppose that the presentation of a sensible scheme for public funding to the government of the day would simply win acceptance due to its own intrinsic merit. The history of the last 40 years of transport proposals in Docklands has been far more about schemes which were never funded or implemented, or were much delayed, rather than about those projects which successfully negotiated the planning and funding system.
London Docklands is a huge area stretching 8 miles from London Bridge to Beckton; it is over 2000 hectares (8 square miles), equal in size to Westminster and the City combined (Fig 1 - 64kb).
The decline of the Docks through the 1960s and 1970s exacerbated the problems of the area: poor accessibility, a neglected physical environment, massive job losses and growing unemployment, poor housing with very little opportunity for home ownership, and inadequate amenities and community facilities.
The complex task of regenerating Docklands with its diverse areas was enormous. From the mid 1960s onwards there was increasing concern about the future of the port and what the progressive closure of the docks meant for the social and economic future of the area. Throughout the last 30 years there has been no consensus about what should be done. There were major planning exercises carried out for the area but their aspirations did not survive scrutiny by government and other bodies, and too often proposed schemes failed to materialise. The lack of agreement on the nature and intensity of proposed development fuelled the uncertainty about transport infrastructure provision. It was impossible to demonstrate the necessity of new schemes at public inquiries or to Parliament without robust credible and specific development proposals to substantiate demand. Though transport planning attempted to be all-embracing, in practice schemes were implemented sporadically or not at all.
The failures of the 1960s and 1970s
The future of Docklands was much studied and debated during the 1960s and 1970s, but none of the plans and proposals produced during that time provided a strategy which was funded or implemented. Plans by local authorities and others were unrealistic in that they failed to win agreement on public spending and took little account of prevailing market conditions. Development was therefore stunted and progress limited, with the private sector having little confidence in the ability of the local authorities to deliver the infrastructure necessary to activate development. Indeed, especially during the 1970s there was massive disinvestment in the area as businesses closed or moved away with the progressive closure of the dock system.
Transport planning during this period was dominated by the concept of the land use transport study; this was based on the proposition that travel demand, and to some extent modal split, could be determined from a knowledge of population and job locations and densities. A major weakness of this approach is that it is only as good as the quality of its assumptions. In practice when evolving transport plans for a city, the original ideas must either be largely intuitive, or policy led. They can't be generated objectively. The land use transport study could not provide the transport answers for the area.
The achievements of the 1980s and 1990s
The more pragmatic and incremental approach adopted by the LDDC in its early days bore much more fruit. It was not until the mid 1980s, however, that the potential scale of Docklands development was established with the arrival of Olympia & York and the Canary Wharf development. It was the progress of these massive development proposals which crystallised transport requirements for Docklands. They pointed the way to future funding and implementation, with the prospect of substantial contributions by the private sector.
Between 1981 and 1997 the LDDC and its partners managed to build, get built or commit to most, of the key elements in all of the paper plans made in the 1960s and 1970s. Also, the balance between road and rail transport usage now in place is very close to that suggested as appropriate 20 years ago. A closely focused government agency, backed by central government commitment and funding, analysing demand throughout the Docklands area across local authority boundaries, and with the vision and inspiration of key entrepreneurs and investors, helped to translate aspirations into real projects.
2. BEFORE THE LDDC
The 1960s and 1970s
At the beginning of the period the Docks were all active, and by the end of it they had all closed, or were on the brink of closure. The closure was progressive, however, and planning and responding to the changes tended to take place in small steps. For example the Port of London Authority's (PLA) decision to close the East India Dock in 1967, and St Katharine and London Docks in 1968, was taken without any firm view being taken about the future of the rest of the docks.
This piecemeal approach was not helped by the fragility of the national economy at the time, with, for example, unemployment in 1976 exceeding 1 million for the first time since the 1930s. Concern about the inner cities was put more clearly on the political map through the July 1977 White Paper by Peter Shore, then Secretary of State for the Environment. This new programme set up regeneration funding mechanisms, but on a small scale. The lack of certainty in financial planning, however, and long lead times required for transport schemes made it very difficult to commit to expensive major projects which could help to make regeneration viable.
Studies, plans and proposals .
During this period there were significant administrative changes in London brought about by the 1963 London Government Act. This abolished the old London County Council and replaced it with the Greater London Council, with responsibility for strategic transport planning in the capital, and gave the 32 new London Boroughs responsibility for local transport matters. Against this background there were milestones which marked the development of thinking on transport.
London County Council, 1889-1965: County of London 1951 Development Plan
This plan contained proposals to improve the East Cross Route (Fig 2 - 68kb), including the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel, and the provision of a second tunnel (completed in 1967)*.
Greater London Council, 1965-1986:The Greater London Development Plan, GLDP (1969-1976)
One of the GLC's first tasks was to prepare a strategic development plan and work on it started in 1965. At this time the GLC and the Boroughs were working on the assumption that London's docks would continue to operate. Early thinking, therefore, assumed that the Port of London, a massive economic feature, would continue to be based in the centre of the capital, and that the GLDP should take this as a fixed starting point.
The draft plan was published in 1969 and proposed expanding the highway programme of the earlier 1951 plan, including the construction of an outer ring road - Ringway 2 (Fig 3 - 35kb). This would have extended the North Circular Road across the Thames at North Woolwich via the proposed East London River Crossing (ELRC). Also proposed was the upgrading of the A13 west of Ringway 2, After the public inquiry into the GLDP these proposals were substantially revised in that key sections of Ringways 1 (an improved inner ring road) and 2 were largely abandoned after many years of safeguarding.
The other major project in the GLDP was a new underground line, the Fleet Line. This had its origins in the plans for London in the late 1940s but was not progressed in earnest until the late 1960s. The proposals at this stage did not route the line through Docklands. It envisaged the line being constructed in four stages, Stanmore to Aldwych, via Charing Cross; Aldwych to Fenchurch Street; from there to Lewisham, via New Cross and Surrey Docks and Lewisham, and a possible final stage from Lewisham to Hayes and Addiscombe - see Fig. 14 in Part II (108kb).
The line was seen as providing a direct connection between Central London and the inner south-east suburbs. Parliamentary powers for the first stage, to Charing Cross, were granted in 1960 and the line was opened on 1st May 1979.
The Travers Morgan Study 1971-1973
By the late 1960s the GLC had come to realise that the future of the port in central London was not assured, and they formally identified the Docks in the GLDP as 'areas of future opportunity' and initiated preliminary studies to assess their development potential. The Docklands boroughs, as local planning authorities, commenced locally focused studies as part of the process of producing borough plans. In spite of this no definitive plans for the staged closure of the docks had been agreed.
In 1971 the consultants Travers Morgan were appointed by Peter Walker, then Secretary of State for the Environment, to undertake a study of the Thames-side area between London Docks and Barking Creek. This was the first comprehensive assessment of the area as a whole.
The findings of this study were published in January 1973. After considering a wide range of options, five were presented as being possible broad statements of intent for the development of the area. These took the GLDP primary road proposals, including Ringways 1 and 2 (ELRC) as a constant assumption for the proposed new road network, with a range of other roads being included in the various options.
It was also suggested that the Fleet Line need only be extended to Fenchurch Street. Two out of the five options had a new public transport spine route, but it was considered that the potential demand arising from those living and working in Docklands only required the provision east of Fenchurch Street of a light rail system or minitram. (See Figure 15 in Part II - 108kb)
The local authorities were critical of the Travers Morgan proposals which they claimed did little to remedy local deficiencies and which, according to them, had involved insufficient consultation.
The proposals were widely opposed, therefore, and progress was also stalled by the collapse of the property market boom which followed the 1970s oil crisis.
Docklands Joint Committee 1974-1980: London Docklands Strategic Plan, LDSP - 1976
In November 1973, following the hiatus caused by the lack of support for the Travers Morgan proposals, Geoffrey Rippon, as Secretary of State for the Environment, proposed the establishment of the Docklands Joint Committee (DJC). It was set up on 1st January 1974 and work started on preparing the London Docklands Strategic Plan (LDSP). The local authority lead on planning was reinforced by the change in GLC political control from Conservative to Labour, and the election of the Labour Government in February 1974.
The LDSP proposed the provision of:
and three new major road routes
After extensive consultation the Plan was published in July 1976. It recommended that the public transport link should be provided as an underground line. It is interesting to note that the projected cost of this tube line at £146-180 million seems remarkably optimistic, especially when compared with the then forecast cost of £87 million for the East London River Crossing. Table 1 below shows the LDSP priorites:
The LDSP also strongly underlined the inadequacy of the principal road network within and adjacent to Docklands, and made abundantly clear the seriousness of the current traffic congestion even without the regeneration of Docklands. The lack of opportunity to cross the Thames was also seen as a major contributor to the road congestion problems in the area.
In 1979 the then Minister of Transport in the new Conservative Government, Norman Fowler, expressed his commitment to getting the 'right transport links for Docklands' and indicated that resources would be earmarked for a specific programme of improvements for Docklands. It was agreed with the GLC that this programme would be given priority within the total resources available for London.
However, in the event the resources available were severely constrained, and it was agreed that lower cost alternatives to the Jubilee Line Extension, as the tube line was by then called, would be examined.
All these plans and studies had certain elements in common: although the use of public transport was to be favoured, a good road network was also seen as important. This network should both provide good links for industry, and reasonable accessibility for the growing numbers of car users in the area. Despite the encouragement of public transport, it was recognised that, with increasing wealth, the demand for car use would increase.
It was also recognised that the lack of river crossings put East London at a substantial disadvantage.
The implementation of 1960s and 1970s plans
Progress was made on a number of other relatively minor transport schemes after the publication of the LDSP.
By the time of its review in 1980, the schemes completed or in progress included:
And, most important of all -
In addition the Greater London Council (GLC) and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had accepted the case for the Docklands Northern Relief Road which was scheduled for completion in 1986. The case for the Docklands Southern Relief Road was less clear cut, and although it was accepted by the GLC it was opposed by the London Boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets. Responsibility for taking forward the East London River Crossing passed from the GLC to the Department of Transport.
A £100 million package representing part of the LDSP July 1976 proposals was subsequently agreed by the Government and the GLC in 1980. This included the Docklands Northern Relief Road, but excluded the Southern Relief Road. Because of its limited size the package did not include the construction of a tube or rapid transit system, but it was understood that additional finance might be forthcoming at a later stage.
Meanwhile, in 1980, the West India and Millwall Docks also closed. The Royal Docks closed two years later, in 1982.
The inheritance of the LDDC
The position, then, when the LDDC was set up in July 1981 was that substantial transport planning had been carried out by the local authorities and others. The only major project that had been implemented in the previous 20 years was the second Blackwall Tunnel and its northern approach. Road schemes which had been judged essential were only at the early planning stages, with no identified routes. The Fleet/Jubilee Line underground proposal was not being pursued despite its significance for the area, and no decision had been taken on the spinal public transport service considered essential to open up the still largely isolated Docklands and to provide reasonable access between Docklands and Central London.
Docklands entered the 1980s very poorly served compared with other parts of London, and with a great deal to do to make it attractive to investors.
There was, however, consensus about the need for:
3. The Days of LDDC
How to start?
The docks and their surrounding communities had always been isolated from London's transport network. Although physically close to the centre of London, the winding of the Thames with the resulting peninsulas, and the lack of any good road or rail connections, reinforced the perception of the area as being far removed from the heart of the capital. This inaccessibility reinforced the deprivation and poverty in the area because of the lack of access to alternative jobs elsewhere in the capital.
It is easy to forget, looking back from the perspective of 1997, how isolated and unattractive to investors Docklands was in 1981. Photographs from this period act as a sharp reminder, and also show how other initial infrastructure work was also needed early on to make the area developable.
For London Docklands to be successful in attracting investors, home buyers, tenants and employees the area had to be both more accessible, and to be perceived as accessible.
The record of much planning and debate but only limited implementation and achievement of those plans led the LDDC to promote a different approach.
There were several key questions to be addressed at the outset:
It was also necessary to acknowledge that estimates of the nature and scale of regeneration would continue to change and evolve, particularly in the earlier years. This meant that the requirements of the area needed to be continually reassessed.
First steps - the EZ Schemes
At the outset there was a rapid analysis of proposals for relatively small but important projects within the Enterprise Zone (EZ)* on the Isle of Dogs. These were proposals which the Development Corporation could deliver quickly, unlike the major schemes, such as the tube line, which though very important to Docklands had had a faltering history. The early proposals, therefore, were focused on the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone* (Fig 4 - 55kb) where inadequate roads and bridges inhibited development and regeneration prospects. These early transport schemes were intended to support, indeed to make possible, the realisation of the EZ's tax and planning incentives. Two early examples of these small scale projects were the Red Brick roads and the Docklands Clipper bus.
The Red Brick roads
Accessibility within and around the Enterprise Zone at the time of its designation in 1982 was extremely poor. The existing internal Dock Estate roads were inadequate for development purposes and public transport was non-existent. Difficulties were also created by frequent breakdowns of lifting road bridges over dock entrances which had ceased to be maintained since the closure of the Docks. The old road bridge (Millwall Cut Bridge) on what is now Marsh Wall, for example, which had to be opened to allow boats to get to the timber yards at Timber Wharf, would often get stuck, forcing all traffic all the way round the outside of the Island on Manchester Road/Westferry Road.
A proposal to open a badly needed new ASDA supermarket on the Island was being endangered by these access problems, and so the Corporation conceived of the red brick roads. These were a basic network of 7.3 metre roads, known as the 'EZ roads', designed to serve all the major sites in the Enterprise Zone. The first phase of these roads was opened in 1983. (Fig 4 - 55kb)
As well as serving ASDA these roads allowed the Corporation to focus on the development of the sites around what would become Millharbour which were the first sites to be made available for development. All other sites awaited demolitions or land assembly, or had other problems to be resolved before development.
At that time the maximum potential development considered feasible for the Island was a low density business park. The opportunity would be taken to create a high quality business environment quite unlike that of the industrial estates of the 1960s and 1970s. The proposed roads were envisaged as being more than adequate in providing local capacity for the Island and were to be supplemented at a later date by the more strategic Docklands Northern Relief Road.
It was decided that red bricks should be used for these roads. They would look attractive, convey an early upbeat statement about the potential of the area, assist in calming traffic to travel at reasonable speeds, and would offer a practical way of dealing with repairs by allowing individual areas of brick to be taken up to allow works to services as necessary. In spite of all the later increases in development the majority of the red brick roads have performed their job well, and are only now being replaced before the roads are handed over to the local highway authority the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
The Docklands Clipper
Another early transport move was to set up and subsidise the Docklands Clipper (Jan 1984 - May 1989) - a high profile, frequent shuttle bus running between Mile End tube station and the Isle of Dogs. It provided an early and visible signal about the changing prospects for the area, and fulfilled a vital role as a public transport feeder.
It was to be an express service running between the Island and the nearest tube station at Mile End, and was intended to act as precursor to the DLR and attract new businesses to the Isle of Dogs. (Fig 5 - 70kb)
The service started with a 15 minute frequency in January 1984 with a special livery, stops and shelters as part of the package. Early projections of 5,000 passengers per week were exceeded by March 1984 and had reached 10-12,000 by the end of 1984. The rapid increase in economic activity between 1984 and 1987 put a strain on the service. The frequency was increased to 12 minutes, then 10 minutes and finally 5 minutes, to cope with growing numbers of passengers.
This increase in activity also produced an increase in traffic congestion which badly affected reliability over this period.
When the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in summer 1987 it reduced demand for the Clipper by 80% in peak hours, and in 1989 the service was discontinued.
The key to Docklands accessibility- a public transport spine
The second major issue which had to be addressed urgently at the outset was how to improve the quality and capacity of public transport. Following joint analysis and discussion with the GLC and London Transport, a report on 'Public Transport Provision for Docklands' was submitted to Government in June 1982, recommending the construction of a new automated light railway, with a cost estimated at £65 million.
In October 1982, Government approved the proposal, cash limited the project at £77 million, and set a target opening date of 1987.
The first London Docklands Railway Bill (Isle of Dogs to Tower Gateway) was deposited in Parliament in November 1982, and Bill No.2 (covering Poplar to Stratford) was deposited in November 1983.
Royal Assent was received in 1984 and 1985 respectively, and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened to the public on 31st August 1987. (Fig 6 - 51kb)
The EZ roads, the Docklands Clipper and the DLR were all designed to make the Enterprise Zone accessible by road and public transport, thus enhancing land values and employment opportunities. Sites with a negative land value were thereby turned into sites with a positive land value.
To further maximise their appeal, the first development sites to be marketed adjoined the new red brick roads and enjoyed views over the docks.
The strategic road schemes
The third area of activity, the strategic road schemes, was inevitably going to take much longer to bear fruit. Discussions and joint planning with the GLC and the Department of Transport about the major road schemes for the area between 1981 and 1984 included the historic schemes such as the Docklands Northern Relief Road, Docklands Southern Relief Road, upgrading of the A13 and East London River Crossing. All of these looked as though they would be the subject of extremely lengthy consultation and public inquiry processes. The Corporation could contribute to their progress but had little power to influence the speed of it. An additional factor was that the then Labour controlled GLC decided to move away from funding capital projects and into revenue support. This critically affected the funding of some of the key strategic schemes, and as a result the Corporation started to reconsider how to get the road schemes built.
The STOL Airport - London City an aviation first
The fourth seed sown at this time to stimulate the local economy of the area, was the ambitious plan to build a private sector airport in the Royal Docks, to serve the London business market, and the City in particular. Most airports at the time were either state or municipally owned.
Essentially, this project too involved changing perceptions of the area, away from an image of defunct docks and the past, to one that looked forward to new technology, innovation, and future possibilities.
It was a controversial idea which initially, and understandably, was opposed by residents who lived nearby.
Over time, however, most local people recognised the proposals for the Airport as an appropriate replacement for port activities bringing new life and jobs to the area. Following a Planning inquiry in 1984 permission was granted subject to a number of safeguarding conditions relating to noise, safety, hours of operation, and constraints on the type of aircraft that could be used.
The Airport opened for business on 26th October 1987 initially using turbo-prop planes. Following a further Public inquiry into an extension of the runway, regional jets were introduced in 1992 and today the airport provides connections to most major European business destinations.
In focusing its early efforts the Corporation attempted to be both ambitious and pragmatic. It selected projects which were affordable and achievable, whilst safeguarding for upgrading at a later date. It was held to be important to achieve early results and to be seen to have achieved real schemes on the ground, and not just in some long term planning report.
It was considered vital to change perceptions of accessibility, and this had an influence on the shape of the early projects.
4. A New Era: the Coming of Canry Wharf
Between July 1981 and March 1985 1.8 million square feet of commercial development was completed in Docklands, and 2500 homes were built.
Early commercial development activity was concentrated in the Enterprise Zone with the provision of low density business and warehouse units. The first residential schemes were typically low cost family homes at low densities with gardens in Beckton and Surrey Docks. Emerging confidence in the Docklands housing market soon led, however, to the conversion of redundant riverside warehouses to loft style apartments, exploiting riverside views in Wapping, Limehouse and Bermondsey.
This first phase development was able to get under way with the stimulus of the site development roads (7.9 kilometres in all), the promise of the initial DLR, which was under construction high above the docks, and the expectation of an eastern extension of the DLR to Beckton.
The Corporation's investment in new roads, services and public transport began to stimulate private sector interest and to attract redevelopment proposals.
London Docklands started to be perceived as a success story. In a rapidly rising development market developers and investors vied for development sites in anticipation of growing demand, especially from the financial services sector as a result of forthcoming deregulation in The City the 'big bang' of October 1986.
In a related way rising rentals and the shortage of suitable buildings and development sites in the City led three American banks to propose the Canary Wharf scheme in 1985 through their advisor G. Ware Travelstead. G. Ware Travelstead proposed building a massive 10 million sq. ft. (0.9 million sq. m.) office complex on Canary Wharf. This was envisaged as London's third business district, alongside the City and West End.
Canary Wharf at that time was the site of Limehouse Studios - a successful independent TV studio.
G. Ware Travelstead was unable to fund his imaginative and dramatic scheme and it was taken over later by one of the largest North American developers, Olympia & York.
The signing of the master building agreement between LDDC and O&Y for a 12.2 million sq. ft. (1.1 million sq. m.) financial centre at Canary Wharf on 17th July 1987 changed the potential and demand for transport in Docklands overnight.
The problems and opportunities created by Canary Wharf
With the coming of Canary Wharf, forecasts of the ultimate employment in the Isle of Dogs increased in 1986 from 12,000 to 50,000*. This total continued to increase as subsequent proposals for other sites emerged, encouraged by the vision for Canary Wharf. Understandably the transport planners involved at the time were concerned about how to accommodate this dramatic increase in the local workforce. Although the initial DLR was being built to allow for capacity increases, it had not been expected that this increased capacity would have been needed so quickly. Between 1985, when G Ware Travelstead's scheme first emerged, and 1987, with the signing of the Canary Wharf master building agreement, therefore, all the transport plans for Docklands were re-evaluated.
The coming of the Canary Wharf development put the LDDC in a strong position to bid for funds for significant transport improvements not only to support the new Isle of Dogs business district but also to benefit East London generally.
In the preceding twenty years, it had been extremely difficult to make a robust case for major new road and rail links to Docklands, because few believed such large scale development would happen. This new business centre brought with it a unique opportunity to lift aspirations and seize benefits which would never otherwise have been achievable.
Three major decisions came out of this re-evaluation:
Upgrading the DLR
The first consequence of Canary Wharf's arrival was the proposal to upgrade the initial railway from one to two car trains, and to extend the DLR system into the heart of the City at Bank.
In November 1985 following detailed negotiations with the Canary Wharf developers about their contribution to the work, the Private Bill for the Bank extension was deposited, receiving Royal Assent in November 1986.
The contracts for the Bank extension and upgrading, involving the lengthening of platforms and strengthening of viaducts and structures, was let on 17 July 1987 before the railway had even been opened. Tunnelling work to Bank started in March 1988, and the extension opened in 1991. These and other changes to the DLR would ultimately increase its capacity to over 12,000 passengers per hour in each direction, over 7 times the initial figure.
These contracts were let at a time when the contracts for the initial railway were still running. The significance of the overlap between the new and old contracts was not properly understood or addressed at the time, and inevitably the lack of resolution of interface responsibilities between the different contractors led to contractual disputes and difficulties about allocation of responsibility for non performance. These were to give DLR, as client, enormous problems for years to come.
A second rail line
The upgrading and extension of the DLR to Bank, although important for the new business district in the short and medium term, was not sufficient to guarantee adequate access in the long term. The forecasts made in 1989 of final employment for the Isle of Dogs with all development completed grew from 50,000 to 125,000 - 150,000. With the demand generated by this level of employment even the expanded services would be under pressure at peak times, and in addition to this capacity issue, more choice was needed for public transport users.
Further schemes were investigated to expand the effective capacity of the DLR, and provide a wider range of direct connections - south to Lewisham, and east, beyond Beckton, to Barking. But none of these removed the need for a new mass transit link to serve the new business district.
The proposal to provide high capacity heavy rail services to Docklands was resurrected. In 1988 LDDC and Olympia & York started discussions about a Docklands second rail line, initially in the form of an extension of the Bakerloo Line, and later as a new line running from Waterloo to the Greenwich Peninsula. These ideas eventually developed under the guidance of London Transport into the Jubilee Line Extension, now under construction. (Fig 9 - 70kb)
Those planning the route of this second Docklands rail line during 1988 and 1989 examined various route options through the City and Docklands. These were debated and argued over during the run-up to Bill deposit in November 1989, and in the case of the route between Canary Wharf and Canning Town, the argument was carried into the Commons Committee stage of the Bill.
A route was finally agreed, however, and Royal Assent for the Jubilee line Bill was granted in 1992.
It is undoubtedly true that without O&Y's initiative in campaigning for and part funding the new line, there would not have been such strong Government support for the proposal.
Although London Transport and the LDDC played a vital role in planning and justifying the scheme and reinforcing Olympia & York's lobbying, in the early days it was almost entirely due to O&Y that the idea attracted government attention and support.
An important factor in this was the willingness of O&Y to make a substantial contribution towards the costs of providing new public transport infrastructure. For the Bank extension of the DLR this amounted to £75 million, about 40% of the total cost, and for the Jubilee Line extension the contribution was £400 million. When Olympia & York went into administration in 1992 the Jubilee Line project was brought to a halt, as Government would not commit the project without the promised private sector contribution. After a cliff hanging 18 months of debate, negotiation and uncertainty, during which a vitally supportive role was played by Steven Norris, then Minister for Transport in London, the development eventually was brought out of Administration by the creditor banks in Autumn 1993, who committed to the Olympia & York contribution, and the Jubilee contracts were let.
The history of the Jubilee Line extension project is described in more detail elsewhere in this document. It is worth noting here, however, that while Olympia & York and LDDC were strongly supportive of the proposal, in the early stages of discussion London Transport were less enthusiastic.
London Transport had already invested heavily in the DLR and their concentration was now focused on solving congestion and reliability problems in the rest of London's network. They believed initially that their first priorities were to build Cross Rail and the Chelsea Hackney Line, and to upgrade the Northern and Central Lines, rather than to put further resources into a new line for Docklands.
The proposals by O&Y to build a free standing Waterloo to Greenwich Line were not therefore favoured by LT. As an alternative it was LT who proposed resurrecting the extension of the Jubilee Line which would bring wider benefits to London as well as to Docklands. LDDC and O&Y supported this, and with this change of emphasis LT became strong champions of the new tube line proposal. O&Y's initial idea was therefore developed into what would be an extremely valuable line for London as a whole. It would relieve congestion problems elsewhere, both directly and indirectly (through dispersal of employment), and provide an east-west tube line in a deprived part of South and East London which has never been served by tube before. It also uniquely would provide interchanges with every other Underground Line in London, as well as with two mainline British Rail termini. It was a new idea, quite different in fact from the Jubilee Line proposal which had been examined in the Central London Rail Study of 1989, which ran on a different route to llford, without serving Docklands at all.
The new Docklands highways: upgrading the road network
In providing the early EZ road network the emphasis had been to improve internal access on the Isle of Dogs. What was also required was a major strengthening of the access to and from the Island and the Royal Docks.
Following the demise of the GLC in 1986, LDDC had decided to press forward with plans for new roads to serve the Docklands development sites, and in July 1986 announced proposals for a series of access roads which came to be known as the Docklands highways.
A high priority was attached to improving the connections to the Isle of Dogs and the Royals from both east and west, and in particular to providing direct road links to the City.
The new Docklands highways would provide 24 km (15 miles) of new and improved high capacity roads from Limehouse in the west to the Royals in the east. The proposals included construction of the Limehouse Link, a new dual carriageway tunnel under the Limehouse Basin providing a connection via The Highway to Central London, and the Lower Lea Crossing. This bridged a major barrier to east-west traffic and provided an important link to the Royals and points further east via the M11 and M25 to the trunk road network. (Fig 10 - 114k)
These improvements, for which the LDDC was responsible and which were secured using the LDDC's Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers, were to be supplemented by improvements to the trunk road network under the control of the Department of Transport.
These DoT schemes included the building of the South Woodford to Barking Relief Road, linking the M11 southwards to the A13, the upgrading of the A13, providing a direct connection to the M25 and most dramatically the construction of the East London River Crossing, which would provide much needed cross-river capacity, and have a major impact on the accessibility of the Royals. All of these proposals had of course been in the planning phase since at least the 1960s, but had not yet been committed. The DoT finally announced its programme for the A13 in 1986, although at this stage there was no certainty about dates. Uncertainty about the delivery dates of the Department of Transport's Road Programme was to be a continuing problem.
Building transport schemes quickly: the problems
One of the difficulties of planning transport for Docklands (as in the rest of London) has always been the long lead time needed for the implementation of road and rail proposals. It inevitably takes very much longer to plan, fund and execute plans for transport infrastructure than it does to plan and complete a development scheme, particularly a zone with EZ incentives, where buildings go up much more quickly.
On average a major development can be planned and built within 4-5 years. Phase 1 of Canary Wharf was planned and built by O&Y in 3-4 years. A major road or rail proposal however, takes up to 5 years at the planning/funding stage, 1-5 years at the Public Inquiry/ Parliamentary Stage, and 2-5 years to build, a total of up to 15 years in all. Many of London's major projects have actually taken a great deal longer.
The Docklands roads, however, were all completed within seven years of conception. The initial DLR took two years, and the Jubilee Line Extension will have taken 10 years from conception to completion. Although to a layman these may sound like long lead times, they are in fact extremely fast. The time to implement a Department of Transport road scheme, for example, ranges from 12-30 years. The LDDC has, in contrast, been successful at compressing the lead times for transport infrastructure, using its CPO powers.
The key to achieving this has revolved around certain important factors:
It was nevertheless impossible to complete all the major infrastructure ahead of all the commercial development in the isle of Dogs. Even with the fast track approach the lead times for major transport schemes could not match the pace of the Isle of Dogs development boom. In the Royal Docks, however, in contrast, the infrastructure was completed well in advance of development.
Early increases in capacity: improved bus and Riverbus services
Because the upgrading of the public transport and road network would take time to implement, and would lag behind completion of the new office space, other measures were developed to provide additional capacity in the shorter term. Support was provided to Riverbus which provided a high quality service between London City Airport, the Isle of Dogs and Central London, and new bus services were introduced which also provided improved connections to Central London. Both of these to some extent supplemented the DLR services, and provided travellers with increased services and choice, although neither could provide high capacity services for the longer term.
The other areas of Docklands: transport options
While all the media attention had been focused on Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs, the remaining areas of Docklands had also quietly been making significant progress.
The development areas of Surrey Docks, Beckton, Wapping, Bermondsey and Limehouse, were all well on their way to becoming established and successful as mixed tenure housing areas, each with a distinct character. There had, of course, been transport issues to address to make these areas work, relating to parking, site roads, and access to public transport, but in general these were local rather than strategic matters.
The remaining sites, in Leamouth and the Royal Docks, were more interesting from the transport point of view. These large sites obviously required some mass transit facility to make them developable, as well as access roads. The Beckton Extension of the DLR, running approximately east-west through the whole area, was designed to meet this need. The evolution of the Beckton Extension and the roads for the Royal Docks is described in more detail in Chapter 8.
5. Resolving Problmes and Moving On
In August 1991 the first tenants started to move in to Canary Wharf. By 1991/92 with all the roads either complete or under construction, and the Jubilee Line Bill in Parliament, there had been great progress on the transport front, although there were still major problems to resolve. The first of the transport consumers in Canary Wharf were to experience some of them.
The recession and anti-Docklands perceptions hit both the commercial and the housing market very hard. A vast surplus of office stock in Central London made it increasingly difficult to obtain lettings at this critical time.
These years during the recession, although not without their own problems, (not least the demise of O&Y in 1992) were put to good use however in allowing the provision of transport infrastructure to better match demand as buildings filled up.
The first of the problems which had to be addressed at this time was the operating record of the DLR.
DLR: resolving the problems
The DLR was plagued by operating problems from the first day it opened in 1987. These problems of performance and reliability proved to be extremely complex and difficult to resolve.
DLR was Britain's first 'automated light rail transit' system - there was no previous experience of or expertise in this type of driverless railway, run by computer, in this country. Other similar examples overseas had much less complex networks and operating patterns than DLR's.
It has often been said that the railway was under specified and underfunded from the beginning. This is not strictly true, as the originally commissioned system would have been more than adequate to deal with the employment forecasts produced in the early 1980s, and the reliability would have been resolved sooner if the railway problem had not been disturbed for upgrading so soon after it had opened.
It would have required a remarkable leap of faith to justify a more powerful system at the outset. In 1982 it already seemed like a leap of faith to authorise £77 million of investment for a new railway. Many had argued at the time that a new network of buses would be all that was needed.
The cause of DLR's problems
As a result of the mid 1980s development boom, therefore, plans to upgrade and extend the DLR to allow more frequent services with longer trains were made before the railway had even opened. These changes were made using various contracting arrangements, a mixture of new technical systems, and with much of the work carried out at night and at weekends to allow the system to operate during the working day.
Insufficient time and attention was allowed within the contracts for achieving integration of the new complex systems, and for testing and commissioning of the new services. These issues were therefore not adequately addressed before the railway opened for passenger service in 1987, and again when Bank services started in 1991. These deficiencies caused reliability problems throughout the early years of operation of DLR, culminating in an all time low in autumn 1991 following the opening of the Bank Extension.
Further changes at DLR
In April 1992 the ownership of the DLR was transferred by Government from London Transport to the LDDC, on the grounds that the success of Docklands was so intrinsically bound up with the performance of the DLR, that it had to be controlled and nursed through its problems by the body which had most interest in its future success.
At this time London Transport (LT) was facing a major task in managing and improving the Central London rail network and, for LT, the DLR although important, was not a primary concern.
After DLR's transfer, a new Chairman and Board were appointed, and further urgent attention given to resolving DLR's problems.
Resolving reliability problems
The new DLR management decided that in order to solve their residual development and reliability problems cost effectively they would appoint a Prime Contractor* who would take full financial and performance responsibility for all outstanding contracts. These included the Beckton Extension, the completion and integration of the new signalling and train control system (SELTRAC) and the rolling stock across the whole railway.
Beckton Extension and service improvements
With the Prime Contractor in place the Beckton Extension opened in March 1994, and SELTRAC was finally introduced across the whole railway system in July 1995. Following the introduction of SELTRAC the reliability of the railway has improved.
A series of service improvements then followed between July 1995 and Summer 1996, including the introduction of through services between Beckton and Tower Gateway, the reintroduction of evening and weekend* services and a four minute service from Bank Station in the peak hours. These improvements put extra pressure on the system and the railway continued to have operating problems during the second half of 1996. Software upgrades were introduced throughout this period, and by early 1997 overall performance was much better. Part of the problem had been the complexity of the software, and Alcatel, the signalling designer and installer, was asked to develop new software for the railway to improve the power and adaptability of the system. This second generation software should be introduced in 1998 and completes the development phase of the railway prior to the integration of the Lewisham Extension. It also coincides with the winding up of the LDDC and the transfer of the DLR to a new public sector owner to take it into the future.
The idea of extending the DLR southward to Greenwich and Lewisham had been under review since the mid 1980s. Finally, in 1990, the LDDC and LRT were able to get Government approval to deposit a Private Bill in Parliament. This approval was given, however, only on condition that the project be funded entirely by the private sector. Royal Assent was granted in 1993, and a project office was set up to take the scheme to the market.
A concession was finally awarded in September 1996 to the City Greenwich Lewisham Rail Link consortium, for the design, building, financing and maintenance of the extension.
Construction started in late 1996, and it is expected to come into operation in early 2000.
The DLR Franchise
In 1994 it was announced that following the award of the Lewisham concession the DLR would be franchised for a seven year period. The franchises would be responsible for all DLR's operations, maintenance of trains and facilities and for marketing the railway's services. Following an extended bidding process the franchise was finally awarded in March 1997 to Docklands Railway Management limited (DRML).
Completing the strategic road network
In 1986 the Department of Transport (DoT) announced a programme of strategic road improvements intended to complement the LDDC's transport development schemes. (Fig 10 -114kb)
This programme involves upgrading the A13 trunk road with both road and junction improvements.
The Leamouth Road improvement was completed in 1991; the Burdett Road improvement in 1993; the Branch Road/Butcher Row improvement in 1994; and the Blackwall Tunnel/Cotton Street improvement in 1996.
In November 1995 the Department of Transport decided to progress the two remaining schemes (Iron Bridge/Canning Town Flyover and Woolwich Manor Way) as DBFO (Design Build Finance and Operate) projects. It is intended that contracts will be awarded in 1998 and the schemes completed between 2001 and 2003.
In May 1996 the Secretaries of State for the Environment and Transport decided that a southerly alignment for the Prince Regent Lane improvement should be investigated. This means that the earliest start date for this scheme is 1999.
The other scheme which was to have been taken forward by the Department of Transport was the East London River Crossing (ELRC). Following an extremely long gestation period, this scheme finally went through a Public Inquiry of record length* in 1985/86, and was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport in 1988. However, changes to the bridge design to accommodate City Airport constraints necessitated another Public Inquiry in 1990, and the go ahead for the full scheme with a revised bridge was finally given by the Secretary of State in 1991.
Throughout this time concern was being expressed by opposition groups about the impact of the ELRC proposals on Oxleas Wood and on large areas of housing in Plumstead, and at this stage the scheme was subjected to two further challenges:
Although the Greenwich challenge was rejected, the prognosis for the EC challenge was that it was likely to take a long time to settle.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, the Secretary of State for Transport John McGregor announced in July 1993 that the Government, whilst 'fully committed to meeting the need for a new road link across the Thames in east London as a key element in the strategy to regenerate the Thames Gateway', felt that the current scheme, designed and chosen some time ago, fails to meet the high environmental standards we now apply to new road schemes'.
The Department decided not to proceed with the approved scheme, but instead to examine alternative solutions which 'meet the same strategic objectives, but which will have less impact on the local environment'.
Following a consultation by the Government Office for London (GOL) and the publication of A Transport Strategy for London (see Chapter 8), the revocation of the ELRC Orders was finally advertised in July 1996, and the process completed in March 1997. The section between the A13 and A2016 is now likely to be replaced by a crossing with a local function, the Thames Gateway Bridge (Gallions Reach Crossing).
Blackwall Third Crossing
In 1991 Cecil Parkinson, then Secretary of state for Transport, announced that a new river crossing should be built at Blackwall.
Following a couple of years investigating a third funnel option, the Department finally went to public consultation on its preferred scheme, a new four lane bridge, in April 1993.
There were strong objections to the scheme on environmental grounds from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and considerable local opposition from the residential and business areas on the north side of the river which would be affected by it.
As a consequence, the DoT has not yet decided on the form of crossing at Blackwall. They are drawing up alternatives for testing and evaluation within the East Thames Crossings Appraisal Framework Study commissioned in June 1996.
Future priorities: cross river links
The River Thames has always been a barrier to north-south movement in London. East of The City this barrier is still much greater than in Central London. Since Tower Bridge and the first tunnels at Rotherhithe and Blackwall were built at the turn of the last century, nothing has been added apart from the second Blackwall tunnel and the crossings at Dartford. The contrast between East and West London is demonstrated by the fact that between Tower Bridge and Battersea there are 19 road and rail crossings of the Thames. Between Tower Bridge and Dartford there are at present only three. (Fig 11 - 67kb)
The Jubilee Line and DLR Lewisham Extension will obviously help to redress this balance, but there is still room for considerable improvement.
This lack of crossings clearly inhibits the economic development of East London and Thames Gateway, and explains why the completion of the key new cross river proposals is so important. (Fig 12 - 95kb)
London moving eastwards
The recent emphasis on shifting London's centre of gravity eastwards means that making the right choices for new river crossings in East London has become more important than ever, and will be essential to the successful regeneration of Docklands and Thames Gateway.
One new crossing, the DLR Lewisham Extension, is now expected to be completed in early 2000. The Jubilee Line, which started on site in 1993, is planned to open in Autumn 1998.
Four other new river crossings have been examined. These are:
The Government Office for London (GOL) consulted on the issue of crossings in 1995 and the Government's Transport Strategy for London published in April 1996 contains a section on river crossings in East London. The most encouraging aspect of the strategy is the proposal for implementation of a package of schemes comprising Blackwall Third Crossing, Woolwich Rail Tunnel and Thames Gateway Bridge. This is on the basis that while each of the schemes has its own attractions, no one scheme would be sufficient on its own to meet the transport and regeneration needs of East London and the rest of Thames Gateway. GOL at the same time undertook to carry out a comprehensive appraisal of the crossings, to assess travel and development impacts of individual crossings and their interaction. This appraisal framework will be used to help private sector promoters to develop their proposals and to facilitate GOLs assessment of the proposals it receives. GOL expects the appraisal to be ready for use in 1997 but meanwhile work continues in parallel on Thames Gateway Bridge (Gallions Reach Crossing) and Woolwich Rail Tunnel.
Making the right choices
Any new crossings should aim to complement the significant infrastructure commitments which have already been made in East London, including:
These major schemes will effect a structural change in the way East London works. It makes sense to build on these commitments and consolidate them in a way that produces the maximum benefit for East London and the Thames Gateway. (Fig 13 - 38kb)
The opening of the Docklands highways and the award of the DLR Lewisham concession and the DLR franchise contract mark another major watershed in the history of Docktands.
At the time of writing, in 1997, there are, however, many challenges still to meet. Although the Docklands highways are open, the Department of Transport's schemes for the A13 have not yet been implemented, and are now part of the next tranche of Design Build Finance and Operate schemes, to be undertaken by the private sector.
Whilst the opening of the DIR Beckton Extension in March 1994 marked a stage in Docklands public transport improvements, the Jubilee line Extension will not be cornpleted until September 1998 and the DLR Lewisham Extension will not be carrying passengers until 2000.
The new river crossings which the area has needed for so long are only partially committed with the Jubilee line and DLR Lewisham.
The Thames Path has recently been opened and extends through Docklands on both sides of the river. Access to the river has been greatly improved, but public transport on the river itself is still nascent. It is to be hoped that the activities associated with the Millennium may bring more and better river piers and enhanced river transport.
There are, therefore, several issues still to be addressed. in an area so large it is implausible to suppose that everything can be solved over a brief 16 year period.
The challenges remaining are:
Perceptions of accessibility
This monograph describes in some detail the enormous changes which have been made to transport in Docklands since 1981. It remains a fact, however, that the vast majority of Londoners have never visited the place, and are probably uncertain as to exactly where 'it' is or how to get there.
Public perceptions about Docklands (which for many people just means Canary Wharf) are that it is inaccessible and remote compared to other parts of London.
In reality Docklands is very central. The Isle of Dogs is only 5 km from Bank, in the City of London. Hammersmith, for example, by contrast. is 10 km from Bank.
Antagonistic media coverage has perpetuated this image, and it may take a few more years before it is overcome. The best way for people to judge is to actually come and visit.
What visitors will see is an area transformed - and an area which actually has the most modern, efficient and impressive transport system of any part of London.
Note by Webmaster:
Some readers will be interested to know about the progress made in developing the transport infrastructure since the LDDC closed its door in 1998. There is a good summary of the various projects completed, in progress or planned at the website of the London City Airport Consultative Committee.