DLR extension would transform transport in area where 'people pay for taxis to Central London'

Bexley locals have thrown their support behind potential plans to extend the DLR to Belvedere, with one resident claiming they currently have to pay for taxis into Central London. Belvedere sits in Bexley borough, with trains taking just under 40 minutes to reach central stations such as Cannon Street or Bank.

However, the Mayor of London suggested last month that the area could potentially benefit from DLR services in future. The news came after Conservative London Assembly Member Thomas Turrell asked during Mayor's Question Time on May 23 for a meeting between the Mayor and Bexley Council to be held to discuss the extension.

The Mayor said: "I'm more than happy to arrange for the deputy mayor to meet with you and the leader of the council as well. You'll be aware of the difference it could make to your community. I'm also well aware of the paucity of TfL services currently to your borough. So I'm really keen to do whatever we can to assist."

The news follows a public consultation from earlier this year on a project to extend the DLR network from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead via Beckton Riverside. Greg Pisente, 56, thinks the DLR extension would improve the Belvedere area as he finds the current train service unreliable. He said he sometimes has to pay for a taxi into Central London to be able to visit family members due to trains being cancelled or not running late enough on weekends.

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Mr Pisente told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): "It's not nice because if you don't have a car you have to pay for a taxi to go to London and after they stop the trains, when you're coming back, you pay for a taxi again. The transport is OK but the problem is the weekends. I don't know why they put the ticket prices up. It's something that people are upset about because we're stuck here all the time."

He added: "That's a problem because I work here but I have my family in [Central] London. When you come on a Sunday the trains could be shut. Sometimes I don't go to visit my family because you need to pay for a taxi."

Train services for Belvedere station are operated by Southeastern Railway. A spokesperson told the LDRS that the company operated more than 1,700 trains a day and its punctuality was among the best in the country, with less than one per cent of weekend services at Belvedere being cancelled this year.

They added: "Our June timetable has improved the spacing of trains to reduce the time between services – and from December there will be direct services linking Belvedere with stations including Bexley and Sidcup."

Doug Osborne, 58, has lived in Belvedere for over 25 years. He said he works near Stratford and currently cycles back using the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, but the DLR would help his commute home as well as allowing locals to make use of the Westfield Shopping Centre.

Doug Osborne, 58, in Belvedere, Bexley, London, UK
Doug Osborne, 58, said South East London is currently 'underserved' by transport -Credit:Joe Coughlan

He told the LDRS: "If they had the DLR here, it would help serve Thamesmead most likely, which is underserved [by transport]. There is a big population there and it's mainly just buses."

He added: "I think it would be more for people to travel out because there's nothing really here for people to come to… There's a bit of a village mentality around here, but it's a progression."

Transport for London has previously claimed that up to 30,000 new homes could be provided across Newham and Greenwich through the Thamesmead DLR extension, along with 10,000 more jobs. Bexley Council documents from April stated that the authority asked TfL to ensure the currently planned project is designed in such a way as to allow future possible extensions.

A general view of Belevedere south east  London, Britain 12 July 2023. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
A local said the project could help attract more interest to businesses in the local area -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Nina, who did not wish to give her surname, said she felt the DLR extension could improve Belvedere in a similar way that the Elizabeth line did for Abbey Wood. She said some residents are blocked from using the Elizabeth line due to needing a connecting bus or train service to use it.

Regarding this she said: "You've got the Elizabeth line, but you still have to get from Belvedere over to Abbey Wood to actually use that service, so if [the DLR] came over this way it means there's no changing." She added: "You can get straight into Canning Town or even Canary Wharf a lot quicker so I think it would be beneficial."

The resident said she often notices a huge number of people getting off the train before Belvedere at Abbey Wood station to use the Elizabeth line. She said she felt the attractive new transport link could help draw more attention to local businesses in the area.

Esther Olownfeni, 38, Belvedere, Bexley, London, UK
Esther Olownfeni, 38, said the DLR would make getting to and from Lewisham much easier -Credit:Joe Coughlan

Esther Olownfeni, 38, has lived in the area for just under a year. She cited convenience as a main draw to the new plans, such as by providing an extra link to Lewisham for commuters. She added: "When I want to get my native food I prefer to go to Lewisham so coming back home is going to be very easy. Currently I'm sitting on the bus for a very long time, so you get tired."

She added: "It's going to be a benefit to this area and everyone in it. If you ask people, I believe that they are going to say they want it."

Matthew Norwell, Bexley Council's director of place, told the LDRS that the council was delighted that the Mayor of London agreed on the importance of the Belvedere extension, which has been targeted as an area of development. He added that Bexley borough was poorly served by public transport and more routes were needed to provide greater connectivity, as well as job and leisure opportunities, to residents.

He added: "The borough's transport strategy for growth is based on the principle of public transport-orientated development, where new growth is focused in the most well-connected areas. Being relatively poorly served by public transport means opportunities for growth are modest. Projects such as DLR to Belvedere are key to unlocking the borough's potential for growth, enhancing travel options, increasing land values and improving development viability."

A Mayor of London spokesperson told the LDRS: "A further DLR extension to Belvedere has been considered and would bring additional benefits in terms of housing, jobs and connectivity. Given funding constraints, the extension to Thamesmead must be delivered first, and this is our current focus."

They added: "However, it will be designed in such a way as to provide opportunity for a further extension in the future."

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