The Anonymous Widower

Cinderella Will Take You to the Ball!

If ever there was a railway that was built on the cheap and was very much an ugly duckling, that has metamorphasised into a swan, it is that Cinderella of London’s transport system, the Docklands Light Railway.

It is a unique concept in the United Kingdom, in that the small trains are driverless and generally run between unmanned stations, to cut down both the capital and running costs.  Each train  has an onboard customer service representative for security as well as dealing with the passengers, He or she can drive the train in an emergency.

It may in some ways be a Cinderella, but over the twenty years or so it has been running, it has grown like Topsy from its original routes linking the City, Canary Wharf and Stratford to serve Lewisham and Woolwich south of the Thames and the City Airport and other places to the east.

Docklands Light Railway at Canary Wharf

Now that the Olympics are just two years away, this line has new and larger trains and will play a major part in moving people to and from that big party in Stratford. Even now, some of the best views of the Olympic Park are from the DLR.

Olympic Park From the DLR

I travel the DLR a lot if I can, as it is the best way to explore the east of London.  Views are superb, as unlike the Underground, very little of the line is in tunnels and much of it is on viaducts or bridges raised above the ground.  No trip by a tourist to London is complete without using London’s most unusual and unique transport system.

I can’t understand, why the concept has not been copied elsewhere.  I feel that the badly-designed, implemented and built Cambridge Busway could almost now have been built as a smaller version of the DLR. Trains might be just two coaches and running at ground level from Trumpington, via Addenbrookes and the city centre all the way to Histon, Long Stanton and St. Ives.  The DLR has shown that such a concept will work and in the end, people get to love it.

July 25, 2010 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. The DLR is quite spooky isn’t it? There should be more of them I agree. We’re getting silly trams in Edinburgh soon, a monorail would be better.

    Don’t be lonely, come and connect with me and other travel bloggers, they’re a friendly bunch on the whole.

    all the best

    Comment by joolsstone | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. I was talking to a friend in Edinburgh last night and she was saying as a child, there were all sorts of trains over tyhe city. The lines have now been turned into cycle ways, wheras in London, a lot ended up as DLR routes.

    Comment by AnonW | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. I disagree about the DLR being spooky though. I find it rather friendly and the staffing model makes it work safely.

    Comment by AnonW | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. It’s just a bit disarming when you first use it, but it’s a fantastic piece of underused transport. I used to work near Canary wharf and always remember the then rather grim landscape as you pass aptly named Mudchute!

    I didn’t know the old lines had been turned into cycle lanes, interesting.

    Comment by joolsstone | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  5. That was my information from an impeccable Scottish widow, who’s lived in the city most of her life!

    I’m in Edinburgh from the 11th of August to see Jarlath Regan on the 13th at the Gilded Balloon.

    Comment by AnonW | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  6. Incidentally, I know the DLR Is bigger but it has an average daily ridership of about 175,000 people. The Manchester Metrolink has 55,000 for comparison.

    Some Cinderella!

    Comment by AnonW | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  7. It’s also a very impressive exp for tourists I think. Say hello when you’re up in Edinburgh and enjoy the Fest!

    Comment by joolsstone | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  8. As you can see from my other posts, I tend to think that the two main Overground routes, East and North, together with the DLR are great tourist lines. They link the Thames, the City, Kew Gardens, Hampstead Heath, Victoria Park, Woolwich Arsenal, Crystal Palsce, The Tower, and Greenwich together very simply and quickly, with modern trains. You can also walk from Whitechapel to Shoreditch and buy some of the best curries in the world!

    Comment by AnonW | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  9. The Silverlink? That’s true though the trains themselves were very shabby last time I used them, a good 10 years ago now.

    Comment by joolsstone | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  10. […] growing and earns a big place in the hearts of those who use it.  It will also play a big part in getting people to the Olympics. 52.245212 […]

    Pingback by The Golden Age of Tunneling « The Anonymous Widower | December 28, 2010 | Reply

  11. […] was on the DLR yesterday at lunchtime and it wasn’t very busy. Cinderella is certainly going to be the star of this ball. Who’d have thought this stop-gap railway […]

    Pingback by Olympic Travel Directions « The Anonymous Widower | July 30, 2012 | Reply

  12. […] referred to this line as Cinderella before, as in the current vogue for grand railways and other schemes, she seems to get forgotten, as she […]

    Pingback by Cinderella Is My Friend « The Anonymous Widower | December 1, 2013 | Reply

  13. […] felt and I probably will agreed with him, that the DLR overperformed in the Olympics and dear old Cinderella didn’t miss a beat. I suspect though that to many she has more than a touch of Minnie Mouse, but to East Londoners and […]

    Pingback by The High Meads Loop At Stratford « The Anonymous Widower | May 26, 2015 | Reply

  14. […] 2010, I wrote Cinderella Will Take You to the Ball!, where  I was looking forward to the […]

    Pingback by The Bank Station Upgrade And The Western Extension Of The DLR « The Anonymous Widower | December 2, 2018 | Reply

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