Greenwich cable car "Emirates Air Line" opens

Marge: And that was the only folly the people of Springfield ever took on... Except for the Popsicle stick skyscraper, and that 50 ft magnifying glass, and the escalator to nowhere.
- The Simpsons, Marge vs The Monorail

The new cable car connecting the O2 to the ExCel conference centre opened to the public today, with a single fare on Oyster PAYG costing £3.20 for adults and £1.60 for kids. The journey takes as little as five minutes, although the system can only handle a relatively meager 2,500 people an hour. TfL says:

The cabins provide 360 degree views taking in the City, Canary Wharf, historic Greenwich, the Thames Barrier and the Olympic Park. Having taken just under a year to complete main construction works, the Emirates Air Line has a cable span of 1,100 metres boasting three soaring helix towers.

Passengers will cross the River Thames travelling at heights of 90 metres between two brand new terminals (Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks), improving connections between two world class attractions - the O2 and ExCeL, whilst in close proximity to existing Tube and DLR systems.

Journey times during commuter hours (07:00 to 10:00 and 15:00 to 21:00 during the summer) are approximately five minutes. TfL recognises that some visitors will want to experience the journey for as long as possible so the scheme will operate at slower speeds during non-commuter periods meaning a single journey could last up to 10 minutes.

Others will argue the toss over value for money and whether we extracted a good deal from Emirates, whose  rights make the Barclays bicycle scheme look modest and unobtrusive. But BC loves the cable car because any new river crossing in the east of London is to be welcomed and we always welcome a good folly. People who had other priorities, like buses or trains, should have written a song about them.

Photos coming soon...

28 comments:

CableCurmudgeon said...

I wish I could share your joy at this massive waste of money. It is using public money as well as the Emirates contribution. It's purely a vanity project for Boris in my opinion. Yeah it might be fun, but there are lots of fun things in London already, and many many better ways to spend money on transport / infrastructure.

Brockley Nick said...

What would you have done with the money instead?

I agree there's a cost benefit analysis to be done, but the cost of this to the public purse is about the same as a few small station refurbishments, no?

Anonymous said...

A bungee catapult?

Anonymous said...

Why didn't they take the DLR to North Greenwich from Lewisham.

It was very frustrating trying to commute the EXCEL and 02 recently.

Anonymous said...

It is useful for cycling around this part of london. eg cycling from brockley to upton park

Faux Berry said...

Will travelcards be valid?

Still a CableCurmudgeon said...

I would prefer some station refurbishments I think. Would impact on more people, and better to improve some grotty / old / unsafe existing places than introduce a fairly pointless ski lift. Put it towards a new road bridge over the river? New DLR station? Building a new platform at Brockley so the Crofton Park trains can stop there?

No travelcards are not valid... for more details on how it is all organised see 853 blog and also London Reconnections which is linked from 853

http://853blog.com/2012/06/19/no-travelcards-on-the-two-speed-thames-cable-car/

Brockley Nick said...

"I would prefer some station refurbishments I think. Would impact on more people, and better to improve some grotty / old / unsafe existing places than introduce a fairly pointless ski lift."

Or, you could argue, better to create an entire new cross-river travel link that will give millions of people joy than tart up a few perfectly functional stations.

"Put it towards a new road bridge over the river?"

£24m is a rounding error for such a project. Consultancy fees would eat that up in no time.

"New DLR station?"

Along an existing route? They're all about 20 feet away from each other as it is.


"Building a new platform at Brockley so the Crofton Park trains can stop there?"

Is that all it needs? A new platform? I don't really understand how that would be beneficial.

If that's what the money could have been spent on, I am happy with the cable car as an alternative.

I agree that we should be pouring lots of money in to lots of these projects, but I don't think we should be too curmudgeonly about new infrastructure.

There's been lots of snarking about the lack of a "business case" for this project. This snarking is coming from lots of the same people who usually criticise government for being too short sighted and lacking imagination when it comes to transport investment.

This is cool. It's cheap. It's an experiment that might turn out to be hugely useful. It's going to improve access to two major London attractions and help people get across the river on foot or bike.

Let's welcome it.

Anonymous said...

This is a tourist attraction rather than a mode of public transport. There is nothing wrong with this and it should be welcomed if it had been funded by private money, however I believe it is wrong to spend public money on it dressing it up as a mode of public transport and including it on the tube map as though it were a valid mode of public transport when it is no such thing.

Travelcards are not valid and the journey can be completed quicker using the DLR and Jubilee line.

Brockley Nick said...

The journey takes five minutes. How can you travel from Greenwich peninsula to the Excel quicker using the DLR and Jubilee Lines?

Also, since when can't we spend public money on tourist attractions? Don't want we want to invest to attract tourists? They do support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the capital and tourism is (I think) the second largest sector of the London economy.

Should we not have used public money to build the wobby bridge because it was "just a tourist attraction" and there are lots of other nearby bridges?

Or was it a cool, beautiful addition to our city that Londoners and tourists alike get pleasure from on a daily basis?

david said...

It reminds me of when I was a kid and we used to go to Birmingham International Station to ride the mag-lev the 300m to the airport just for kicks. Ah, those were mighty fine Saturday afternoons out in suburban eighties Brum.

Anonymous said...

Point taken, if your commute happens to be Royal Victoria to Greenwich peninsula (or vice versa), however I suspect this isn't a huge number of people.

If, however, you need to travel across the river as part of a longer commute which will be the case for rather more people, you will be quicker going via DLR and Jubilee line once walking times, exiting and entering stations and waiting for trains/cablecar is taken into account.

Nothing wrong with spending public money on tourism, although I think the prvate sector tends to deal with tourism/entertainment more effectively, however there is something wrong with spending TfL money on tourist attractions when it should be allocated to public transport.

Lets put it this way, do you think TfL should have coughed up cash for the London Eye? Of course not, so why should they spend money on the cable car?

The wobbly bridge is both tourist attraction and useful bridging point. The cable car only fulfils the first description.

Brockley Nick said...

London Eye - no, not a mode of transport. Wobbly bridge - yes, a mode of transport and a pleasure. Like the cable car.

I don't pretend it's a hugely useful means of getting about the city, but it has some practical uses and - like the DLR, which was dismissed as a toy train to nowhere when it was first built - people will discover and build upon its practical benefits over the medium to long-term.

None of this is to excuse TfL from building a proper river crossing or extending the Bakerloo line (etc).

Brockley Nick said...

Another good comparison would be the amount of money TfL spent on the Jubilee Line stations, many of which were works of art that could have been built more cheaply and in a utilitarian fashion. But TfL said it's not all about function, it's also about form. That public sector projects can and should be about more than just getting people from a to b. That they can add to the joy of living in and visiting the city. Public transport fans ate those stations up and bemoaned the fact that LU couldn't be more like the Moscow underground.

Now (I suspect because this project is so closely associated with Boris), they are bitching about investing in something for the joy it will bring.

That Jubilee station building programme cost much more than this trifle.

Anonymous said...

The DLR takes ages, this takes five minutes.

Very good for getting to the Excel centre. Visitors now have the opportunity to stay in Greenwich rather than close by the Excel when a show is on. Very good for people going to gigs at the 02.

Despite its cost, it is pretty small potatoes for a cross river link.

I shall certainly be taking a lot of visitors on it, the views sounds quite spectacular and the fare is reasonable.

This is a welcome new addition to the transport system, pity it could not have gone further into Greenwich.

I wonder what is to explore on the other side, it is not a part of London I am familiar with.

Anonymous said...

Good points, as always, Brockley Nick. I think it sounds fun and any new way to cross the river is a welcome addition. And as for the £24mn, that's not even worth picking up the phone to Tony the libor trader for.

Anonymous said...

Trouble is the cable car is all about form and nothing about function. If it was worth doing then the private sector would have coughed up. Neither the O2 nor ExCel were hugely keen on the project which speaks volumes.

The Jubilee line stations should have been built more cheaply and the cash saved invested in providing a line with wider tunnels and National Rail-standard loading gauge rolling stock.

As it is, we have futuristic stations and tiny, cramped, Victorian-size tube trains. Utter madness.

A classic example of style over substance. This applies to politicians of all colours, not just Boris.

Mb said...

Quick point about the JLE. It's an extension, to make tr jubilee line NR gauge would have meant reboring, rebuilding and realigning the entire line to stanmore. Could have built the JLE larger but it woul have been standalone not part of the original line. So greater capacity bu less connectivity. Crossrail is standalone (I we discount the station mods) so is being built "Full size"

Al Shaheen said...

What a relief.

I've been looking for the most glamorous way to travel between the dead zone of North Greenwich and the deader zone of Victoria Dock.

Rational Plan said...

There was nothing wrong about most of the decisions about how they built the Jubilee line extension. I could write essays on it as I did part of my dissertation on it in the mid 90's as it was being built. The East London Rail study is an in depth analysis of all the alternatives.

The chief problem with the Jubilee line was it's construction due to having to abandon the new austrian tunneling method following the collapse of the heathrow express tunnels and the fateful decision to build the Dome at North Greenwich which left the project hostage to a deadline that could not missed.

As for the Cable car, this is sofa change money as far as the TFL budget goes. It's nice shiny bauble that has far more attention paid to it than it should. The TFL budget is £5 billion a year

Electric commuter trains cost £1.5 million a carriage these days so this system is the equivalent of two trains.

Anonymous said...

How much would a foot tunnel cost to build between the o2 and Excel?

Anonymous said...

Can I take a bike on the ski lift, do dogs go for free what about sheep?

Tamsin said...

It's fun and I'm looking forward to having a ride, if I can face elbowing my way through the tourist hoards in Greenwich.

And tourist traffic is "real" traffic - think of the Settle-Carlisle railway, and the way they tried to close that just as passenger numbers were steadily increasing because it had become an attraction in its own right.

HeckMcBuff said...

I think you can take a bicycle on it and imagine that dogs would also be permitted.

Lou Baker said...

The cable car is a wonderful thing. I think
it will be a great success and I predict there will be many more. Such a quick, easy and cheap way to provide a river crossing.

Bravo.

Idiotwatcher said...

"....I predict there will be many more..."

*immediatly sells shares in Big Cable Car Co Ltd"

Anonymous said...

Cable car provides plenty of freight traffic like the settle Carlisle railway? Ah no, thought not.
Lou Baker endorses it=doomed to failure

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