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Posted: 04 Nov 2016, 21:12
by DavidC
It's time for another hopefully-inspirational post from a fiftysomething participant who merely walks briskly and on weekdays wears a suit. Earlier this evening (a weekday) I completed the Docklands (DLR) Challenge in 2h13m52s. This was my first completion and roughly what I was aiming for but it still came as a pleasant surprise when it actually happened, and finding that it apparently gives me a top-ten placing was a real shock. I know some parts of the DLR fairly well and had also checked out a couple of other bits, but this was the first time I had visited all of the stations.

In summary, the approach that worked for me is anchored around the only non-DLR bit : the Southeastern train from Lewisham to Woolwich Arsenal. There are some fiddly bits at the western end, and around Stratford, and ensuring West India Quay is visited, and coping with interchanges at Canning Town, but that all pales into insignificance compared to the leap between the two southern branches. I only repeated two short sections : Shadwell/Bank and Stratford International/Stratford.

I began by getting soaked walking from my office to Tower Gateway. I chose to start there because of being in control of the lower frequency than the Bank branch. Cross-platform at Shadwell soon saw me at Bank, and cross-passageway had me immediately heading off to Westferry on an undesirable Lewisham service simply to load the odds in my favour (of the additional chance of a service from Tower Gateway) rather than just waiting at Bank for a direct service to Canning Town. I'm pretty sure it worked and I therefore had a leisurely seven minute stroll through the annoying interchange that is Canning Town to the other platforms before heading to Stratford International.

On a previous visit I had been pleasantly surprised to find that it was far easier to double back than skirt Westfield on foot as platforms 16/17 and 4 are unexpectedly fairly close together despite the numbering. I quickened my pace to ensure that I caught an earlier-than-expected service to Canary Wharf that kept open an option for an even shorter time, but that was not to be.

Terminating in the middle bay at Canary Wharf in slightly over an hour was pleasantly in line with expectations and missing a cross-platform change for a Lewisham train from the western branch by about fifteen seconds had always been quite likely since I had seen it skipping West India Quay ahead of us beforehand. Thinking positively, at least that saved me from a later stressful dash upstairs at Lewisham which I subsequently saw online would have been fruitless anyway.

A relaxed arrival at Lewisham was mildly enlivened by a revenue protection check and learning that there's a small but annoying mismatch between the canopy and the staircase that only matters when it is raining. And it was indeed raining. I had aimed for a pair of services to Woolwich Arsenal only ten minutes apart. The first had unsurprisingly gone but, annoyingly, the second was delayed by a late-running service on the other Dartford branch in-between. The theoretically-good leap between the two stations was still decent, but a few minutes late and a couple of minutes slower than expected, which made me worry about easily dropping a long way down the table if things went badly at Woolwich Arsenal.

My lack of detailed knowledge of the Woolwich Arsenal interchange caused some stress. I somewhat-nervously omitted the back-staircase-and-along-the-road interchange and followed the DLR signs. I was genuinely impressed by the integration between Southeastern and DLR but then chose the wrong set of stairs which left me at the end of a long platform with a shortish DLR train far away in the middle ready to depart. Fortunately the train attendant showed me pity and allowed me to exert myself enough to leap aboard just in time.

After that it was a boring run to Canning Town and an unexpectedly-crowded transfer to the other platforms again in reverse. The evening rush hour was building and I was immensely relieved to make it to the Beckton train in time despite a perfectly reasonable theoretical window. From there it was another boring stretch to Beckton on a dark and wet evening to end in 2h13m52s before immediately heading back to the City and a train home.

So, a pleasant surprise at how it was possible to achieve a decent Docklands placing primarily by working around a pair of candidate weekday Southeastern trains. Email to follow.