The DLR Lewisham Extension opened ahead of schedule on November 22nd, 1999.
The extension to Lewisham runs from just before the ‘old’ Mudchute station, on the DLR southern line, to a new Mudchute and Island Gardens stations before burrowing under the Thames to the west of the existing Greenwich Foot Tunnel and the Cutty Sark dry dock, emerging just before an interchange at the existing Greenwich Connex South-East station. The line then transfers to a 20-column viaduct, 786 metres long, which crosses Deptford Creek and then follows the line of the River Ravensbourne to a station over the A2 trunk road at Deptford Bridge. It then descends to ground level adjacent to a re-aligned River Ravensbourne, with the river now flowing between grass banks in a greatly modified Brookmill Park rather than being confined to its old concrete culvert. From the next station at Elverson Road the extension rises again, finally moving adjacent to the Connex South-East lines from New Cross to Lewisham and on to a new station between the arms of the existing North-Kent branch to Blackheath and the Mid-Kent branch to Ladywell and Catford.
The initial plan did not actually include a station in Greenwich Town Centre, but with the BR interchange being placed inconveniently for most of the tourist spots in Greenwich and as a result of promises of money from Greenwich Council, the National Maritime Museum and the University of Greenwich (one of the new occupiers of the old Royal Naval College), bidders for the extension contract were asked to include plans for a more central station to be located adjacent to Cutty Sark Gardens.
Original proposals for the station location included a major surface development as well as the underground platforms and station concourse/entrances. This was in order to encourage a suitable developer to provide additional investment in the Project. However, even before the Extension contract was granted, these proposals resulted in Greenwich Council deciding to earmark 32 flats for demolition in a block known as Walrond House which it owned. In addition, the whole of the area bounded by Greenwich Church Street, Thames Street, Welland Street and Creek Road came under threat from the development.
The DLR Extension contract was finally awarded in September 1996. Work began in October 1996 with the demolition of Walrond House and is due for completion by late 1999. Meanwhile, for contingency reasons, Greenwich Council issued CPOs (Compulsory Purchase Orders) on all the properties in the above-named site. Most of the other existing shops and premises face on to either Creek Road or Greenwich Church Street. Although some additional properties fronting Creek Road have been demolished to allow essential work on the site, it is currently (July 1999) proposed to demolish only Nos: 53, 57 and 59 Greenwich Church Street with rear and side wall alterations to Nos: 49 and 51. Earlier development proposals for the site hoped to prevent such demolition taking place, but these ideas have been rejected in favour of the Centros-Miller scheme. After the works are completed, the Greenwich Church Street premises are expected to be offered back to the existing owners at the completion of the contract for purchase or rent.
Local protest on this matter resulted in several stormy meetings with Councillors and secured numerous signatures, especially from tourists, to a petition that aimed to have the Council change its mind on the proposals. A protest group, the DLR Monitoring Group, led by Edward Hill, succeeded in obtaining a Public Enquiry into the plans. This was held in June 1997. One privately-brought injunction failed and another was withdrawn following the announcement of this Enquiry. Unfortunately, there appears to have been no definitive outcome from this enquiry.
In May 1996, an alternative proposal from Greenwich-based company Spatial Logic was being rushed through feasibility and costing. This basically suggested the relocation of the existing Greenwich (main-line) station to an underground location beneath the lawns of the old Devonport Nursing Home in Romney Road where the railway already lies in a tunnel. There would then be an underground concourse link-up between this new station and the proposed DLR station in the vicinity of the present covered Market, with entrances in more suitable locations for links with surface transport. This would leave the previously proposed site virtually unscathed apart from any surface access to the underground DLR platform works which would remain roughly as planned at present. Although this idea would cost a great deal more money than the presently proposed station, its advantage would be in keeping much passenger interchange between the two systems and an additional proposed light-rail link to the Millennium site via Westcombe Park, off the streets. It would also have allowed for the possible closure of the present Greenwich Station and the removal from the equation of the costs of a DLR station at this site.
Since this latter plan was proposed it seems to have disappeared without trace.. and certainly will not now be implemented.
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Compiled from Council minutes and articles in NewsShopper (Greenwich & Charlton issue, 1/5/96) and Meridian Line (March 1998).
Last updated: 4/7/99
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