New trains on the DLR £61million over budget and facing nine-month delay

New DLR trains have been delayed  (TfL)
New DLR trains have been delayed (TfL)

The £880 million introduction of new air-conditioned trains on the Docklands Light Railway has been delayed and is running £61 million over budget.

Transport for London had hoped to start introducing the walk-through trains by April, increasing capacity and frequency on the network that carries 99 million passengers a year across south and east London.

But the arrival of the first new train into passenger service has been pushed back until “later this year”, meaning it could be six to nine months late.

It comes as plans to open a new DLR station at Thames Wharf, south of Canning Town and near City Hall, have been “paused” due to a lack of cash. The station will only be built if housing developers contribute.The delay in introducing the new trains has been caused by difficulties integrating the braking system on the driverless trains with the track signalling system — while enabling the existing DLR trains to keep running.

A new train slid beyond a stopping point during testing. A number of the new trains, which are painted teal, have been seen for months undergoing testing without passengers on board.

TfL commissioner Andy Lord said: “Bringing any new fleet of trains in is always complex, and integrating it with the existing infrastructure and the existing fleet.”

The delay means that the DLR’s existing fleet, some of which is 30 years old, is having to remain in service for longer than expected. Some trains only have two rather than three carriages as a result.

However, TfL chiefs insist all of the 54 new trains, which are being built by CAF in Spain and will have five carriages, will be running by the end of “summer 2026”. Eleven of the new trains have been funded by the Government.

Stuart Harvey, TfL’s chief capital officer, said: “The delivery of the new trains is going well. The manufacturers are ahead of programme. We have encountered an issue with the way the signalling system on the train and the braking system is working.

“We now fully understand it. It is complex. Importantly, we remain on track to get all the trains into service by summer 2026.”

The new trains also feature improved accessibility, USB chargers and real-time travel information. A total of 30 new trains are in various stages of testing. The first arrived in January last year.

TfL has also faced difficulties constructing new sidings at Beckton depot, due to a contractor entering administration, and is having to upgrade the DLR’s power supply.

The upgrade will replace the 33 oldest trains of the existing red and blue fleet and increase capacity by 60 per cent. Peak-hour services to Canary Wharf and City Airport are often overcrowded.

Arran Rusling, TfL’s head of programme for DLR rolling stock replacement, said: “We encountered some complex challenges, which means we will introduce the new trains into passenger service later this year.

“We are still on track to introduce all 54 of these new trains in passenger service by 2026.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “The insolvency of Buckingham Group, the principal contractor delivering the initial stages of the infrastructure work to extend Beckton depot, along with higher-than-expected inflation, mean that the estimated final costs to complete the scheme have risen.

"However we are actively reviewing opportunities to minimise this increase and will provide a further update at a future programmes and investment committee, where we will seek additional funding if required.”

TfL retains the longer-term ambition to expand the DLR network to new stations at Beckton Riverside and Thamesmead – via a new tunnel under the Thames – by the “early 2030s”, and potentially then on to Belvedere, if Government funding can be secured.