Next stop, the world: exploring the Royal Docks’ unique transport connections
What has more tube stops than many boroughs, is home to the only airport actually in London, as well as miles of cycle-friendly waterfront and not one but two ferry services? This could, of course, only be the Royal Docks. And we didn’t even mention the cable car.
Whether you prefer to travel by road, rail, river or runway, these transport links open up unique perspectives on London, whether that’s seeing the city from the Thames or walking along miles of tranquil water. As the Mayor of London prepares to move to the Crystal Building on the western end of Royal Victoria Dock, the city’s democratic heart is shifting east. Here’s how to make the most of the Royal Docks connections.
Along the Royal Docks on foot, by bike and by cable car
The Crystal garden is a lovely place to while away time with a sandwich or a coffee from the nearby Goodvibes x Perky Blenders cafe. But an hour’s lunch break is also plenty of time to hop on a rented Brompton bike and cycle down to Thames Barrier Park, just seven minutes away. Or if you fancy a nice long stroll and a dose of dockside beauty, it will take you under an hour to cover the loop from the Crystal along the water, crossing over at the Royal Victoria footbridge (NB: not always step-free), and then back to where you started along the other side.
Starting from the eastern end of the docks, such as the University of East London campus, you can enjoy the vast stretches of Royal Albert Dock on a trip to Connaught Bridge, which has views of the water for miles.
One of the loveliest commutes in London is the river ferry. The Royal Docks is a stop on the Thames Clipper route, picking up passengers from the brand new pier at Royal Wharf.
Emirates Air Line cable car makes a convenient commute into Royal Victoria Dock from the Jubilee line at Greenwich, but it’s also worth the occasional jaunt across the river and back too. A round trip to the Greenwich Peninsula is about 20 minutes, and the views are unforgettable.
Across London by DLR, boat – and soon Crossrail
The DLR wraps around the Royal Docks on nearly all sides, providing convenient links to East London, Canary Wharf and the City. We have 11 DLR stations – 12 if you include Beckton – and plans to upgrade several of them in order to boost capacity. Soon there will be one more DLR station: Thames Wharf station will open on the west side of Royal Victoria Dock.
Already, the DLR gets you from Custom House to Bank in 18 minutes, but Custom House will soon have a coveted stop on the Elizabeth Line when Crossrail opens next year. At peak hours, a Crossrail train will stop in the Royal Docks every five minutes in both directions, taking you to Liverpool Street in just 10 minutes.
One of the loveliest commutes in London is the river ferry. The Royal Docks is a stop on the Thames Clipper route, picking up passengers from the brand new pier at Royal Wharf and reaching London Bridge in 40 very scenic minutes – and the ferry goes all the way to Putney. The Woolwich ferry has also recently been upgraded, bringing pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames on quieter, lower-emission hybrid vessels.
If you’re commuting by bike, Cycle Superhighway 3 has the Royal Docks covered from the north: just head south down Silvertown Way after you reach Canning Town. Once the works are completed to make them less traffic-focused, both the Silvertown Way and the North Woolwich Road will have segregated cycle lanes, which will make it even easier to get to the Royal Docks from the cycle superhighway. The Royal Docks walking and cycling action plan is currently in development, so keep an eye out for even more great options to come.
Around the world by plane
In 2019 the ExCeL, London’s leading conference centre, was the draw for 25% of London’s international business travellers. Many of them arrived at London City Airport, the Royal Docks’ very own airport and the only centrally-located one in the city.
From the Crystal, it’s easy to get to City Airport on the DLR. Right now, you have to change at Canning Town to get there from Royal Victoria DLR, but West Silvertown DLR is just a little stroll away, and if you’re starting out further west, once the Thames Wharf DLR opens, the airport will be literally minutes away. Once inside the airport, its compact size means you’re on the plane in no time, with cities like Paris and Amsterdam less than an hour away.
The Mayor of London’s goal is for 80% of travel in London to be made on foot, cycle or public transport by 2041, and we are aiming for the same in the Royal Docks. We want the Royal Docks to be a place which supports active travel to and through the area. Watch this space for news on our infrastructure improvements.
More routes to explore:
Stories from around the docks
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