New DLR Trains: When Are We Getting Them? What Do They Look Like? Are They Driverless?

New DLR Trains: When Are We Getting Them? What Do They Look Like? Are They Driverless?

Something about new DLR trains sound vaguely familiar to you, but not quite sure what's happening when? Here's the need-to-know.

One of the new DLR trains being tested in Spain. Image: TfL

Sorry, what's the DLR when it's at home?

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was opened in August 1987, breathing new life into the neglected Docklands. The initial route ran between Stratford/Tower Gateway to Island Gardens, covering just 15 stations. It's since spread its wings to Lewisham, Woolwich and Beckton, and now has 45 stations. There are two things Londoners will instinctively say to you about the DLR: 'front seat' and 'no drivers'.

And what's all this about new DLR trains?

It's high time the DLR had some new rolling stock. Though none of the original 1980s stock is still running in London, many of the current trains go waaay back — some have been in use since 1991. In 2019, TfL announced it was ordering 43 new trains to replace the oldest stock on the DLR. The trains are being produced by Spanish company, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A, hence why the press pics in this article look like a DLR train's holiday snaps.

(BTW, if you're wondering where the original DLR trains ended up, you'll find the answer in Germany).

Queen Elizabeth II rides on the DLR in 1987
"One shotguns front seat!" Queen Elizabeth II rides on the DLR in 1987. Image: TfL

What's special about the new DLR trains?

Like other recent TfL stock, the new five-car DLR trains will feature walk-through carriages, real time travel information and air conditioning. There'll also be charging points for your phone. The trains won't be red, black and blue, like the current DLR stock, either. Instead, they're turning white and DLR-line turquoise (which in our opinion ties the brand together nicely). More fold-up seats will increase capacity by around 30%, and make it easier to fit wheelchairs, buggies, bikes and baggage (the latter especially handy for people using London City Airport). Ian Visits took a closer look at a mock-up train back in 2020.

Will the new DLR trains be driverless?

Of course! Just like their forebears, the new trains can be operated in fully automatic mode, with a train guard. What's more, they can be operated remotely, WITHOUT a train guard too (although we'd guess for the time being, this would only be used in emergency situations). To answer the question you're all gagging to know the answer to: yes, you'll still be able to sit at the front and pretend you're driving. Although only the very front/back seats will now face in the direction/opposite direction of travel.

A DLR t shirt with 'shotgun front seat' on it
Is this a good place to advertise our DLR t shirt?

When will the new DLR trains start running?

It was supposed to be 2023 — but now the official line is that they'll be rolled out sometime from 2024, with the whole lot of them on the DLR network by 2026. It's worth pointing out that the 43 new trains will replace 33 of the oldest stock — with the extra 10 boosting capacity. There'll still be some old-but-not-too-old DLR stock left running too.

Anything else exciting happening with the DLR itself?

Apart from that boosted capacity, TfL says it plans to build a DLR extension to Thamesmead between 2026 and 2030 (although there are doubtful mutterings from commentators elsewhere, who know how tight TfL's finances are). We'd certainly be excited to hear the new trains will have a fresh bit of track to run on — and no doubt the inhabitants of oft-spurned Thamesmead will concur.

A new DLR train in front of a white sun drenched station in Spain
The train in Spain runs slower than a plane. Image: TfL

Any other new trains for London I should be aware of?

If you've made it this far down this article, then these futuristic deep-level trains, touted to be running on the Piccadilly line by 2025, should ruffle your truffles, too.

TL;DR

43 fancy new walk-through DLR trains will be rolled out from 2024. You still get to pretend you're driving.

Last Updated 22 December 2022

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