Teddy and the Cable Car
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 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.
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.
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 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!