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Mike Warwicker, DLR conductor
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a DLR operator

James FitzGerald

…according to Mike Warwicker, 56.

The DLR isn’t really driverless

‘While our trains are mostly automated, a passenger service agent like me drives them to and from the depot and has to operate them manually if they break down. There are hidden controls at the front, where everyone wants to sit. I’ve heard whispers that something extra might be put in the next trains for kids who like pretending they’re driving, like a steering wheel or joystick. But that’s not official yet!’

You can see some surprising things on a train through Docklands

‘People think of the DLR as a destination itself. You can see so much of London from it: The Shard and Canary Wharf, of course, but plenty of unexpected things too. I can remember one year being able to observe a group of swans grow day by day down in the creek at Deptford. You can’t spot that from your car window.’

DLR staff are encouraged to entertain

‘I’ve been nicknamed “The Weatherman” because I like to give my passengers a long-term forecast. Or I’ll crack jokes based on what’s happening that day. Sometimes it does go wrong: once I made an announcement about National Melon Day and accidentally told passengers at Stratford to get their melons out. Fortunately the bosses encourage us to entertain people!’

Trains can bring change, for better or worse

‘The DLR has provided a lifeline around here. When I lived around Deptford and Lewisham at age ten or 11, there was just lots of rubble from broken-down buildings. When I was old enough, I realised there was more to life than south-east London and moved out. Then the DLR was built and the area became so popular that I couldn’t afford to move back here even if I wanted to.’

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