Teddy and the Cable Car

The obligatory “one foot in each hemisphere” shot standing on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich at 0 Degrees Longitude (the home of Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT).  While standing in the queue to take this picture, it started to pour!

I will just skip the apologies that I should make for the lack of posts here to tell you that we are 2/3 of the way through my brother Teddy’s visit here in London and doing well!  So far we’ve visited a lot of different places in London (including Greenwich, above), took a day trip to Brighton, and an overnight trip to Portsmouth.  Hopefully we will post a bit about that later.

Today, however, I heard that the new cable car over the River Thames in East London was scheduled to open, so we decided to go ride it on the first day.  We took the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich Station, emerged into the bright sunshine, and made our way to the river’s edge.  One benefit of an aerial cable car is that you can fairly easily locate it!

This is the station on the South Side of the Thames, although as the Thames is really curvy here it is practically west of the river.

This cable car was first announced about 2 years ago as a new way to connect the new development on each side of the river here, capable of transporting bikes and pedestrians.  There has been a lot of talk of need for a new river crossing in this general area (usually a road bridge), as east of Tower Bridge there is only the Rotherhithe Tunnel and then a highway crossing way out in Dartford (although there is the Jubilee Line  of London Underground and a couple of Docklands Light Railway crossings as well – all built in the last 10-15 years).  Construction finally started last August, and in a will-they-make-it cliffhanger they have now finished it just ahead of the Olympics – they had avoided announcing any specific opening date so as not to be embarrassed if it wasn’t ready in time.

Here I am in the hot sun – today was probably the hottest day of the year here, reaching about 85F with bright sun and a fair amount of humidity (tomorrow is forecast to be back down to about 72F).

This project has gotten a fair amount of bad press here, mostly being labeled as a vanity project of the mayor (Boris Johnson), both because of its cost (about £45 million for construction and £60 million in total) and because of its relative lack of utility – it doesn’t really connect any places where there is that much demand, at least for the moment.  There is actually a bit of a trend around the world to build “urban” cable cars (including in South America), so it appears that maybe Boris jumped on that bandwagon.

Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, has paid £36 million over 10 years for the naming rights and branding of the cable car, and have gone all-out (here you can see ads for their first-class service on the Airbus A380 – complete with on-board showers – as well as their service to Washington DC).

You may have noticed the word “Emirates” in the station picture above.  The cable car is officially called the “Emirates Air Line” (not to  be confused with Emirates Airline, the largest of the fast-growing global airlines from the Gulf region and flag carrier of the UAE).  Ha!  See what they did there – they made a real funny!  They’ve also managed to apply the same theme throughout – the tickets are not merely tickets, they are boarding passes!  The ads claim that there are two new destinations (the north and south sides of the Thames) being added to Emirates’ 120 destinations on six continents.  Ha again…well, you get the picture – you can see more of this branding at the Emirates Air Line website.  There is a lot of skepticism (at least among transport purists!) about introducing branding to what is claimed to be a part of the public transport network – this is shown on the Tube Map, after all.

The trip is about 1 km (0.62 miles), reaching a maximum height of about 300 feet, and the cabins can be as frequent as every 15 seconds, they claim. The technology is pretty standard single-cable gondola style, I believe.

Teddy enjoying the view…on the left is the O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome, and a major Olympics venue as well).  Behind me you can see the Thames Barrier.

The northern/western terminal is at the Royal Victoria Dock, near the ExCel Exhibition Centre (London’s largest convention centre, and a major Olympics venue). The funky building under construction to the left is the Siemens Sustainability Centre, a new project sponsored by the German conglomerate to showcase green design and sustainability.

The ride across the Thames took only about 7 minutes or so, I believe, and we walked over to the Docklands Light Railway on the far side.  We will have to see if this becomes a useful transport link or just a slight tourist attraction.  Although it is on the tube map, it is not covered in regular transport passes; we each had to pay £3.20 one-way to ride, and it will close at 9pm normally.  Still, I think it is impressive that this went up so quickly and is now open, well in time for the Olympics.  If only the same resolve and determination could perhaps be applied to more useful or important projects as well!


Posted on 28/06/2012, in travel, Within London and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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