On November 22 Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott opened the 4·2 km Lewisham extension of London’s Docklands Light Railway, built and financed by a private-sector consortium that will maintain it until 2021. Providing direct access to the City of London, offices around Canary Wharf, and tourist attractions in Greenwich, the extension is expected to be used by 20million passengers a year. With the seven new stations, the DLR now serves 34 stations on 26route-km and carries 30million passengers a year.

Ridership is expected to double as the extension taps new catchment areas south of the Thames, interchanging with rail services at Greenwich and Lewisham. Redevelopment of the Royal Docks along the route to Beckton should also contribute. The next extension, a 3·6 km branch from Canning Town to London City Airport, is expected to open in 2003-04.

Opening two months ahead of schedule and within its £200m budget, the Lewisham extension has been described by Ian Brown, Chief Executive of holding company DLR Ltd, as a ’showpiece’ for light rail and for harnessing private finance to build public transport infrastructure. DLR Ltd intends to build the City Airport branch in the same way.

Under the previous government’s Private Finance Initiative, a 241/2 year concession to finance, build and maintain the Lewisham extension was awarded on October 1 1996 to CGL Rail. Owned by Hyder Investments (40%), John Mowlem & Co (40%), London Electricity (8%) and Mitsui & Co Ltd (12%), CGL Rail raised a total of £268m to meet the £200m construction cost and interest. A bond issue underwritten and placed by BZW raised £165m, and the government provided a grant of £50m. This was to offset a cap imposed in 1995 on increases in the price of multi-operator Travelcard season tickets. The London Borough of Greenwich, Deptford City Challenge, the University of Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum also contributed funding. Property development above Cutty Sark station, due to open in early December, will meet part of the building cost.

CGL Rail awarded a contract to build the extension to LRG Contractors, formed by John Mowlem & Co and a Mitsui-Nishimatsu joint venture. Construction began in October 1996 and included twin 1·08 km tunnels under the Thames (RG 1.99 p41).

Mowlem was responsible for all above-ground work, including cut-and-cover tunnels, trackwork and commissioning, with Mitsui-Nishimatsu boring the tunnels under the Thames using a slurry-shield TBM. WS Atkins acted as design consultant to LRG Contractors, with the electrical infrastructure designed and installed by London Electricity Contracting.

Alcatel Canada Inc installed the signalling equipment for Mowlem, and under a separate contract awarded by DLR Ltd upgraded the Seltrac hardware and software that controls the network. Schlumberger has supplied 92 ticket vending machines and a central management system, including 23 TVMs for the extension.

CGL Rail will maintain the Lewisham extension, with electrical equipment the responsibility of London Electricity Services Ltd. Until 2009, CGL Rail will be paid an availability fee by DLR Ltd. From 2009 until 2021, when the extension and all its assets transfer to DLR Ltd, CGL Rail will be paid a usage fee tied to passenger numbers - the stations are equipped with an infra-red passenger-counting system.

Operation of the DLR, including rolling stock maintenance and revenue collection, is undertaken by Docklands Railway Management Ltd under a seven-year franchise which began on April 6 1997 (RG 4.97 p207). Using the existing DLR fleet of 70 two-car units, trains will run from Lewisham to Bank or Stratford every 6min at peak periods, and every 8 to 12min off-peak.

As traffic builds up, the peak frequency is due to increase to every 4min. DLR Ltd has modified 20 trainsets to provide 20% more capacity, and has secured funding to order 12 new trains for introduction in 2002 with an option on a further 12. An additional £20m in government grant was announced on September 29 1999, when plans to charge passengers an extra 50p each way for using the tunnel between Island Gardens and Greenwich were scrapped.

Equipment suppliers

Rail Corus (British Steel)

Baseplate pads Getzner

Noise barriers Gramm Barrier Systems

Signalling Alcatel Canada Inc

Optical fibre communications ONL

Radiating cables, antennae, station radio Simoco

SCADA system Transmitton

CCTV, public address Optical Networks Ltd

Lifts Elite

Escalators O&K

Ticket machines Schlumberger

Passenger counting system Acorel

CAPTION: Above: Elverson Road station between Deptford and Lewisham

Below: The new Mudchute station, with Canary Wharf behind