At Stratford station in London (the domestic one, not the bland-box International one) you’ll find the last in a line of architecturally adventurous stations built for the Jubilee Line Extension in the late 1990s. Many of them have featured in these pages before, and the station at Stratford was designed by WilkinsonEyre. But as this blog is nothing if not wilfully contrary, this week’s transport beauty is a different part of the station entirely, the high level platforms occupied by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).
The DLR’s platforms 4a and 4b opened in 2007. In stark contrast to the muted steel and grey finish of WilkinsonEyre’s JLE station to which they butt up, the DLR platforms are a riot of colour. It’s what you’d expect from architect Will Alsop, earlier responsible for North Greenwich station on the JLE and Heron Quays on the DLR. Both are playful but highly technically adept stations, with intriguing structural details on show and vivid colour used to highlight various elements of the stations.
Stratford DLR is an evolution of this approach. North Greenwich’s colour palette is primarily cobalt blue added to the typical grey and silver of the JLE stations. Heron Quays uses several colours to brighten up a station tucked underneath an office block. Stratford DLR employs sunlight to brighten and colour the passenger experience. Screens made of panes of coloured glass cast coloured light onto the platforms.
Supporting columns are brightly coloured, and there’s an echo of Olaias metro station there, I think. Above the platforms (or platform; it depends whether you think an island platform is two things or one) a metal roof undulates along the entire length of the platforms. This is an all-too-rare example of a full length station canopy, and encourages passengers to spread themselves along the length of the platform as they wait for their trains, making train loading quicker even in bad weather. I wish it were a design concept copied more widely. The canopy, covered in triangular panels, includes skylight sections for the daytime illumination, and lights for nighttime illumination.
Signage, needless to say, follows TfL’s design guidelines for the DLR. The signs use the DLR’s key colour of turquoise, one of my favourite shades on the TfL network, while lettering is in New Johnston (though one assumes that the new Johnston 100 variant will be used in signage from now on).
Passive provision was made for an entrance to platforms 4a/4b off Gibbins Road, which would have provided a very useful south-western entrance to Stratford station and considerably reduced walking distances for people trying to access the station from that direction. Unfortunately, the entrance has yet to be opened to the public. Access to platforms 4a/4b is instead via the main station and a new opening knocked through the side of the JLE station building. This is perhaps the least satisfactory element of the whole scheme, compromising WilkinsonEyre’s original vision for the JLE building by destroying what had previously been an uninterrupted glass wall providing excellent views.
Stratford is one of those gloriously complicated stations, built and rebuilt so many times that you could write an entire book just on the history of all those changes. Probably someone already has. Thanks to its rapid expansion, the DLR has a construction history nearly as complicated, despite being a relatively recent addition to the London rail scene. The two stories come together at Stratford. The DLR’s platforms 4a and 4b are essentially brand new, inheriting their number from the original platform 4 used by DLR trains at its opening in 1987. In those days, the DLR was a much more small-scale operation, built down to a cost. Serving the existing but unused small bay platform 4 at Stratford was part of that strategy. The DLR subsequently proved to be a great success and increasing passenger numbers, longer trains and increased frequencies meant that a narrow bay platform with a single face became increasingly untenable.
Shifted to the south, the DLR’s new platform is longer, has two faces (hence 4a and 4b), and two tracks (see this map for details of the relocation). DLR trains from 4a/4b serve the route from Stratford to Lewisham; the original platform 4 is now disused again.
After the opening of platforms 4a and 4b, the DLR expanded further in 2011, taking over part of the mainline railway’s North London Line. The North London Line’s through platforms were/are alongside the Jubilee line’s terminating platforms at a low level. They’re now served by DLR trains (platforms 16 and 17) on their way between Stratford International and Beckton/Woolwich Arsenal, so there are two entirely separate DLR routes served by two different sets of platforms within Stratford station as a whole. Don’t agree to meet a friend at the DLR platforms at Stratford without agreeing whether you mean the high or low level ones…
Bibliography and Further Reading
AllDesign project page for the DLR platforms, here
Jolly, S. and Bayman, B (1988): Docklands Light Railway Official Handbook. Crowthorne, Capital Transport Publishing
…and anything linked to in the text above.