853 exclusive: It had just four regular commuters last year – now the Emirates Air Line cable car appears to have NO regular users at all between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, according to figures issued by Transport for London.
No Oyster card holders used the £60m crossing more than five times during one week in October, which would trigger a regular users’ discount.
In the equivalent week last year, four people qualified for the commuters’ discount, while 16 used it regularly enough to get cut-price tickets in the same week in 2012.
Last year’s figures, published at Snipe, were widely covered in London’s media, with an LBC radio reporter even travelling to Greenwich to track down the four commuters. But now, it appears there are no commuters to speak of.
|Sun 12th||Mon 13th||Tue 14th||Wed 15th||Thu 16th||Fri 17th||Sat 18th|
Total Emirates Air Line journeys, starting at north and south terminals, 12-18 October 2014. Source: TfL
For the third year running, I used the Freedom of Information Act to get the figures from TfL, asking for hourly usage figures between Sunday 12th and Saturday 18th October.
Mayor Boris Johnson has called the link, which he opened in 2012, a “howling success” and insists it is a vital tool for regenerating the area. But critics have pilloried the cable car, which charges premium fares and does not accept travelcards, as a vanity project.
But while the cable car has clearly failed to attract regular customers – and ticket sales remain well down on its first year of operation – its overall usage figures are slightly up on last year, suggesting it has achieved some level of success with tourists and occasional travellers. 25,271 journeys were made during the week, compared with 23,029 the previous year and 42,463 in 2012.
Since last October, Transport for London has instigated a number of promotions to try to boost tourist usage of the cable car, including giving an audio commentary on routes; opening a promotional booth at North Greenwich station; and spending £1,200 on an electronic ad board at the station’s gateline. This month, the Greenwich Peninsula terminal has been turned into a “magical Christmas experience” as part of a tie-in with The Snowman and The Snowdog film.
One scheme, which offers discounted tickets to Newham and Greenwich borough residents, accounted for 106 ticket sales across the week, while 5,292 “full experience” tickets – offering a souvenir guide and admission to the neighbouring Emirates Aviation Experience – were sold.
28 multi-journey passes – a ticket valid for a year which offers 10 trips at a discount – were sold during the week, compared with 18 last year. (See update at foot of story for more on these, as regular travellers could be using these and not Oyster.) 354 children travelled for £1 each with a schools’ scheme, with 47 adults accompanying them for free – down slightly on on 2013’s figures.
Two parties booked private cabins for themselves, at a cost of £88.
Emirates Air Line passengers, hour by hour, between Sunday 12 and Saturday 18 October. Source: TfL.
See equivalent data for Tube journeys from North Greenwich to nearby DLR stations.
Closer analysis of the figures over three years show that already-weak weekday usage of the Emirates Air Line is down slightly on 2013. But passenger numbers continue to show relatively high numbers in the evening – suggesting the cable car could benefit from opening later than 8pm.
Saturday figures are slightly up on 2013…
…but the real growth has come on Sundays.
With figures in the Labour and Conservative parties now starting to talk about who will succeed Boris Johnson in the 2016 mayoral election, the future of the cable car – arguably the most visible legacy to the capital so far from Johnson’s two terms at City Hall – is likely to come under the spotlight.
Green and Liberal Democrat politicians have called for the cable car to be incorporated into the Travelcard scheme to boost its standing as a public transport link – but City Hall currently seems content with operating it as a tourist attraction with premium fares.
Since the opening of the cable car, TfL cash has also gone into other tourist-focused projects. The Garden Bridge between the South Bank and Victoria Embankment is likely to be given the go-ahead from the mayor this week along with £30m of TfL cash.
Also this week, TfL has changed the way its cycle hire scheme charges users, cutting the cost of lengthy hires taken by tourists while doubling charges for some shorter rides.
Wednesday 7.40am update: Thanks to Rob, who tweeted me to say he was commuting on the cable car that week – using the paper multi-journey tickets rather than Oyster, which is says is fiddly to use for regular commuters as it involves obtaining a refund after travelling a certain number of times.
28 of these paper tickets, which are valid for a year, were sold between 12-18 October. So it’s entirely possible there are a handful of people using these tickets rather than Oyster – again, making TfL’s claim that this is a public transport link rather shaky. However, their usage is impossible to track.
Thanks to Clare Griffiths for putting together the graphs in this story.
Media using this story, please credit Darryl Chamberlain or 853blog.com – thank you.
After the media launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign was hijacked two weeks ago, I’d been wondering how Greenwich Council would try to breathe new life into its campaign to see a third Blackwall Tunnel built.
Here’s how it did it – it called up its mates.
You know when the council’s in trouble – when it issues a press release in time for the local papers to use it. So this image and the following release was issued on Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Friday evening, after deadline time at the Mercury and News Shopper. Nevertheless, you’ll surely see it in next week’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. GT’s been sent a comment from the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign – I’m looking forward to seeing whether it’ll use it.
Among this crowd are some of the people who have the greatest influence over how Greenwich Council works. They include figures from O2 owner AEG, property developer Berkeley Homes and West Properties, which promised to build a cruise liner terminal for the Olympics but has so far failed to deliver.
Below is the press release, with some comments on those who took part. Wednesday’s photocall ties together heap of stories proving just how dependent Greenwich Council has become on a handful of large firms – shutting out even members of its ruling Labour party from decision-making. But both MPs and rank-and-file Labour members are revolting against the council’s stance. The fight against the Silvertown Tunnel has a long way to run yet, but another battle is erupting over who actually controls the council.
Considering the handsome salary dished out to Greenwich’s head of press, the council could probably have done without the legend “Softheads” above regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland’s bonce, mind. Whoops.
ROYAL BOROUGH OF GREENWICH
16 JANUARY 2013
LOCAL BUSINESSES CALL FOR BETTER RIVER CROSSINGS
Community leaders, local businesses and entrepreneurs have thrown their weight behind a campaign for more river crossings in East London. The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council are jointly campaigning for a new bridge at Thamesmead and a new tunnel at Silvertown to ease congestion and to promote economic growth. Businesses have now staged a public show of support, saying that the lack of routes across the river in East London is a barrier to economic growth in the area and that new crossings are badly needed to secure future the prosperity of the region.
Actually, no “community leaders” have spoken out in favour – does anyone know any “community leaders”? – and none are in the photo. There’s a few politicians, though. As for Newham Council’s support of Silvertown, it’s lukewarm at best. It told told last year’s TfL consultation on the issue:
“Newham’s support for Silvertown Tunnel is conditional on traffic management and a commitment to a fixed link at Gallions Reach.”
Bear in mind that Boris Johnson is implacably opposed to a fixed link at Gallions, which means Greenwich Council’s campaign would be more likely to achieve only a Silvertown Tunnel, a situation Labour London Assembly member John Biggs told TfL last year would be “unsustainable”. Last week, Biggs told an Assembly seminar into road crossings it would just “funnel more problems into the area”, adding there was a “very deep anxiety in Newham” that it would be lumbered with just the Silvertown Tunnel.
Local politicians, business leaders and community representatives gathered to discuss the issue on a morning which saw severe transport problems in the local area with the Woolwich Ferry closed because of fog, interrupted DLR services south of the river and incidents in the Blackwall Tunnel and on the A2.
Again, no “community representatives” in sight there. Of course, an incident on the A2 would still hold up access to the Silvertown Tunnel.
Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said:
“It’s no surprise that there’s such strong support amongst businesses for our Bridge the Gap campaign. Providing new river crossings is absolutely essential to solve the serious congestion in this part of London and to unlock the development potential of some 40 sites both north and south of the Thames. The value of land and property is determined by access to it and it’s essential for both our businesses and our residents that we are no longer pegged back by the river being such a barrier here. While we obviously work hard to promote walking, cycling and using public transport, new river crossings are needed to solve the existing congestion issues and to bring better jobs and prospects for our local residents and businesses”
Do businesses and residents benefit from high property values? Or do existing landowners and property developers benefit? There’s also no proof that new road-building solves congestion issues – in fact, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Toronto have found otherwise.
Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich said:
“For too long, Greenwich and Woolwich have suffered from inadequate provision for river crossings. Severe congestion at Blackwall, and also queues of lorries waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, are not just inhibiting economic development; they are also causing serious pollution. That is why we need new river crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach, imposed traffic management through the introduction of smart tolling, and improvements in transport access, together with enhanced environment safeguards particularly along the A102”.
Nick Raynsford’s connections with the construction industry are well-documented. Of course, he infamously backed the universally unpopular redevelopment of Greenwich Market, since scrapped. He even backs the ‘Boris Island’ scheme to build an airport in the Thames Estuary.
Also among those gathered this morning, Rebecca Kane, General Manager of The O2 said:
“At The O2, AEG has created the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue, attracting more than 40 million visitors since it opened in June 2007. Throughout this time congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel has been an inherent problem for our customers, tenants and partners. AEG strongly supports the proposal for a tunnel crossing at Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach. This will provide much needed relief to the area, support AEG’s next development phases on the Greenwich Peninsula and indeed stimulate similar growth on both sides of the river”.
Most O2 visitors arrive by public transport – the bigger threat to the O2 was the botched Jubilee Line resignalling project. Since 2007, AEG has done nothing to help ease the traffic congestion caused by the O2 arena outside North Greenwich station. Perhaps it might look after its own backyard first? AEG’s development plans include a controversial hotel scheme which has had council approval since 2010, when the planning board split on party lines, with Labour councillors voting for it. Which it’s believed locally that it’s behind the mysterious appearance of an open-air stadium in the council’s Greenwich Peninsula development masterplan. AEG representatives are regularly invited to the council’s functions, while the council rents a hospitality box in the O2 arena.
John Anderson, Chairman of Berkeley Homes said:
“Berkeley is very supportive of the two new River crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach Thamesmead which are essential for the continued growth and regeneration of this strategically important part of South East London.
We strongly believe that in order to gain the maximum sustainable benefits the Gallions Reach Crossing must be a bridge link and not a ferry.”
The links between Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes are well-known. Council leader Chris Roberts even bought a flat in the Royal Arsenal from Berkeley for £270,000 in December 2009. Meanwhile, Berkeley has been doing its bit for the local housing crisis by, um, hawking homes in Kidbrooke Village – the old Ferrier Estate, handed to it by Greenwich Council – to Malaysian investors. It’s also been trying to wriggle out of paying for the fit-out of Woolwich’s Crossrail station, which sits inside the Arsenal development – the deadline for which is weeks away.
Berkeley Group chairman (and Conservative Party donor) Tony Pidgley was knighted in the New Year honours list. He’s called for homebuilders to be given spare government land cheaply. Berkeley are also regularly invited to council functions.
Donal Mulryan, CEO of West Properties said:
“This area has such huge economic potential which is already being realised to some extent, but it’s essential to future prosperity that we get a new river crossing in this part of London. It would be of great benefit to properly connect north and south here and will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment to this area”.
West Properties promised to build a cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich in time for the Olympics. There’s been no sign of it yet, and so far has brought no new jobs or investment to the area. The company, which also hit problems with developments in Manchester after being caught up in the Irish property collapse, is also regularly invited to council booze-ups.
Roger Arnold, of Arnold Martin Associates said:
“East London has suffered historically, both economically and socially, due to the lack of connectivity between the two sides of the river. With the success of the regeneration of the Olympic site in Stratford and the commitment to Crossrail, this is an opportune moment to secure the future of East London and the campaign must be supported by local residents, communities and businesses to enhance the further potential of East London and the Thames Gateway.”
Martin Arnold Associates – yep, the council got the firm’s name wrong – are chartered surveyors and construction consultants involved in the redevelopment of the Olympic Park. It’s also supported the council’s Greenwich Starting Blocks charity for young athletes.
As for the other outfits featured, they include council building contractor Lakehouse; London Stone Properties, which flogs properties on the Arsenal; construction logistics firm CSB; Plumstead minicab firm Abbey Cars; printers SMP; Woolwich-based printers Scorpion Press; Woolwich diner Favourite Inn; solicitors Grant Saw; Murphys Waste, whose trucks regularly thunder through Greenwich; and, bafflingly, the Woolwich Grand Theatre. I wonder how many of the smaller firms without a direct interest in construction or property actually realise what they’ve signed up to? I’ve asked the Woolwich Grand Theatre and am waiting for a reply.
Why only one MP? While Nick Raynsford was happy to be at the launch, where was Eltham’s Clive Efford? Clive seems to be pushing his own scheme – a Silvertown Tunnel and DLR extension (which TfL isn’t consulting on). That’s the infamous “DLR on stilts” scheme, which Greenwich Council is spending £70,000 on a report investigating. Nothing about Gallions Reach – it’s believed Efford is vehemently against a bridge there, fearing it’ll eventually end in a return to the axed East London River Crossing scheme, which would have driven a motorway through Oxleas Wood. Sadly for him, his constituency now includes Kidbrooke, which would be badly affected by extra traffic on the A2. He’s in a no-win situation. Meanwhile, Erith & Thamesmead’s Teresa Pearce doesn’t seem too keen on Silvertown, judging by this tweet.
TfL says Silvertown WILL increase A102 traffic: TfL’s head of borough co-ordination Colin Mann admitted to a panel of Greenwich councillors last November that Silvertown was “likely to attract a lot of traffic” to the A102, and that no environmental impact assessment had been carried out.
Local Labour parties revolting over Bridge The Gap: Labour parties are tight-knit organisations which wouldn’t even tell you which brand of biscuits (Co-op, of course) they serve at their meetings. But Blackheath Westcombe Labour Party passed a motion condemning the Silvertown Tunnel scheme last week, and I’m told the Peninsula ward party tore a strip off Denise Hyland when she turned up there last night. Understandably so – there’s an election coming up next year, and marginal seats are under threat as residents discover what the council wants to do. More resolutions are planned in other local parties, including one for the whole Greenwich & Woolwich party, which is guaranteed to result in fireworks. Its chair, David Gardner, has already signed the petition against Silvertown, as have other members. Who runs Labour in this area – property developers, or local members? We may find out in the coming months.
Councillors admit air quality an issue: At last week’s planning meeting into opening a new Sainsbury’s in Charlton, three councillors – Clive Mardner, Hayley Fletcher and, unbelievably, Denise Hyland, brought up air quality along the Woolwich Road as an issue. Fletcher even voted against the scheme after calling the data “frightening”. Yet all three councillors are part of a Labour group which voted behind closed doors for a scheme which would make air quality much, much worse. Strange.
Council’s case ‘conjecture’, admits transport planner: At the London Assembly seminar on river crossings last week, Greenwich Council’s transport planner admitted that without evidence of the benefits of more crossings, the debate was mostly “conjecture”. Interestingly, the RAC Foundation’s David Quarmby observed that TfL wasn’t promising Silvertown was about regeneration – but according to Greenwich, it is. You can watch it here – including the ex-GLC transport chief who said Silvertown would cause “critical” congestion as it “put all the eggs in one basket” – but unfortunately you have to sit through all 150+ minutes of the meeting.
Council silent on A102 widening: A token letter against Silvertown made its way into Greenwich Time this week. No answer to the question, though, just like we’ve had no answers throughout this bizarre, and shaming episode.
City Hall has now placed some more data about crossing plans online, and there’s a detailed discussion at Greenwich.co.uk, although it’s the questions that have been detailed, not the answers. There are also meetings in Poplar and Greenwich to be held by Friends of the Earth, which is against both crossings. No public meetings from Greenwich Council, sheltering behind its developer friends and propaganda newspaper.
(Post updated Friday 12.05pm, to include TfL quote on Silvertown and petition quotes below.)
PS. Here’s some quotes from the petition so far:
“We should not add to traffic and pollution on A102 until all other possibilities have been properly investigated and implemented” – Richard Dinkeldein
“Emissions in the area are bad enough already this will make things far worse. Shame on you Greenwich Council.” – Tessa O’Connor
“I live close to the A102 and a family member’s asthma will only get worse with more traffic on the route.” – Stephen Craven
“More ways to cross the river in the East are needed. This however, is not the solution in an already congested area.” – Matt Drewry
“I live in the shadow of the Woolwich Road flyover and experience the fumes from the amount of traffic passing 24 hours a day and the sooty fallout on the windowsills etc. I suffer with asthma.” – Linda Brittin
So far, Greenwich Council is up to 554 pledges on its campaign to bring more traffic jams and pollution to local streets with a third Blackwall Tunnel.
The figure was released last week at a council meeting, which included 260 paper responses to its Bridge the Gap campaign, leaving 244 online sign-ups.
The council had been collecting signatures from shoppers in the centre of Woolwich in the run-up to Christmas – indeed, Greenwich Time showed regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland (the woman who blamed the delays to Greenwich Foot Tunnel on non-existent “hidden structures”) outside Tesco. Wonder why she hasn’t taken her campaign to Greenwich itself yet?
In last week’s meeting, Hyland also branded those who hijacked the council’s attempt to spread its campaign across Twitter as “juvenile individuals”. The quality’s dreadful, but you can hear her talk about it here:
But she insists the names of those who have signed the council’s pledge will remain “confidential information” – despite the fact that this is being used to demonstrate “public support” for the council’s wheeze.
Of course, there’s been no evidence produced by the council for the benefits of a such a tunnel – just a claim that “business and civic leaders” support it, and quotes from cab drivers. Forget kids’ health in Greenwich, a minicab firm in Plumstead can get to London City Airport five minutes quicker!
Yet more of this rubbish is to come, despite the obvious damage to east Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham more traffic on the A102 and A2 will cause, with whispers that a formal launch is planned for the new year.
Apart from rumours of unhappiness in local Labour parties – will they have the courage to go public? – no politician and no pressure group has stepped forward to champion the cause against the Silvertown Tunnel. Yet every time I’ve mentioned Silvertown on this website, nearly every commenter comes out against it – something that surprises me. Nearly a year ago, 88% of voters came out against the plan in a poll on this website.
What this area needs is a strategy to funnel traffic away from the A2/A102 – not force more traffic up it, through pollution blackspots such as the Woolwich Road flyover, Kidbrooke, and Eltham stations. That could come in various ways – but our first concern should be to protect our neighbourhoods. If nobody else will, then we, the people who’ll have to live with a tunnel, have to do something instead.
I’ve teamed up with Kidbrooke Kite‘s Adam Bienkov, and today, we’re launching the No to Silvertown Tunnel petition at. Please read it, sign it, and share it with friends and family – www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.
Please also fill in the TfL consultation. I must stress this isn’t a petition for or against any other road crossing, such as a bridge at Thamesmead, axing Dartford tolls or building public transport or cycle/foot crossings. If you have views on those – and hell, there’s loads more sensible ways to solve this problem than the crock Greenwich Council expects us to swallow – then tell the TfL consultation.
No to Silvertown Tunnel is merely to show the Mayor of London that the people of Greenwich and the surrounding areas do not want more traffic on the A102 and A2. It is also to show Greenwich councillors that their Bridge The Gap campaign does not speak for local people. Your name will appear on the website if you wish it to, it won’t if you don’t wish it to. To verify your signature, you’ll need to sign up for a change.org account, although this won’t take a second.
Signing the petition will also generate emails to the mayor, TfL’s consultation team, Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales and cabinet members in both boroughs.
Please, don’t just think “umm, this is a good idea”. Take a couple of minutes to do something. And if you can spare expertise (poster design, web design) and/or time to spend campaigning in person, then we’d really love your help – email silvertowntunnel[at]yahoo.com. We need all the help we can get against the well-funded Greenwich and Newham council PR machines.
This is going to be a big task – but if we can work together, we can stop this crazy idea. Please sign, wherever you are. If you don’t like it, well, your money’s paying for another petition…
Monday’s confirmation that Lewisham Hospital A&E may close made it a very good day to bury news in SE London that some people might not want to hear.
So, on Monday, Transport for London launched its consultation into building a third Blackwall Tunnel – the Silvertown Tunnel. I’ve dealt at length before about why sending more traffic down the A102 will only move the tunnel bottleneck further south as more traffic seeks to use it.
Naturally, Bexley Council, from whose borough much of the traffic will come, backs this – it shoves the problem out of the Conservative council’s backyard, after all. But so does Greenwich Labour, with both council leader Chris Roberts and Eltham MP Clive Efford speaking up in favour of sending more traffic through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath.
But there’s a shock in store for some of those supporters – TfL, which doesn’t have the money to start digging, proposes tolling the Blackwall Tunnel to pay for it:
There is currently no funding set aside in TfL’s budget for the major infrastructure projects outlined in this consultation. This means that in order to deliver them we would need to identify a means of paying for them.
We believe that the most appropriate way to fund the projects would be to charge a toll for using the Silvertown Tunnel and any new crossing linking Thamesmead and Beckton. Tolling would provide a new revenue stream to pay for the crossings, and would ensure that those who benefit most from these new projects – by using them – help to pay for them in return.
Because the Silvertown Tunnel and the Blackwall Tunnel are located so close to one another and share common approach roads, if the Silvertown Tunnel is built and subject to tolling, the Blackwall Tunnel would also need to be tolled – otherwise there would be serious delays at the Blackwall Tunnel as so much traffic would wish to use it.
The charges are likely to be similar to the tolls charged on the Dartford crossing (which are now £2 for cars £2.50 for two-axle goods vehicles, and £5 for HGVs). Charges at around these levels should help to manage traffic while not constraining economic activity and growth.
That wasn’t in Boris Johnson’s election manifesto in May, and won’t go down very well in Bexley, many of whose residents think it’s unfair they have to pay to use the Dartford crossing. (To be fair, if they got it for free, it might take some of the load off Blackwall.) Maybe he should have kept the congestion charge in Kensington and Chelsea after all. The consultation also makes it clear the Thames Gateway Bridge at Thamesmead isn’t dead, either.
Sneakily, there’s no indication in the consultation of the huge construction work that’d be needed on the Greenwich Peninsula, effectively cutting off the O2 from the rest of the peninsula. Check out the size of the planned approaches on the Canning Town side.
Of course, we’ve been here before – the last politician to suggest charging at the Blackwall Tunnel was none other than… Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, five years ago, when proposing a congestion charge for SE10, a bizarre idea which seemed to have died a death when Boris Johnson was elected.
Now it’s back – but would a toll make the Silvertown tunnel any more palatable? You can contribute to the consultation here.
PS. Some of this stuff might be on the agenda at a meeting of Greenwich Council’s transport scrutiny committee on Thursday (6.30pm, Woolwich Town Hall) where representatives of TfL and Southeastern will be quizzed by councillors. It’s open to the public.
Well, there’s a reason to take the cable car from North Greenwich now London 2012’s over – The Crystal was launched this week, right next door to the north terminal at the Royal Docks. It opens to the public on 29 September, but I got a peek last night.
Backed by Siemens, it’s a visitor centre dedicated to promoting urban sustainability, and it’s full of exhibitions and touch-screen displays exploring how cities, buildings and people can make less of an impact on the world around them.
The Crystal’s developed with business partly in mind, so it’s probably not one for the kids (unless they’re studying this sort of thing) but it’ll leave most people with something to think about.
But for me, the exhibition only touched on the kind of changes cities need to make – there was lots about sustainability, but little on liveability and nothing on how congestion and the poor design of our cities affects our day-to-day lives.
Curiously, the Crystal was opened on Wednesday by Boris Johnson – who cancelled sustainability and public transport measures when he took office, and plans to build a new road tunnel close by. Copies of a Siemens magazine containing a sycophantic feature on the mayor were everywhere. Indeed, considering Boris’s record and comparing them with the fine ideas on display, the whole thing seemed nauseatingly hypocritical.
Last night was an event held by the UN Habitat programme, with a guest appearance from An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, and showcasing short films made as part of a Siemens-backed project.
As the booze flowed, the MC struggled to make herself heard as she introduced the movies. Maybe the message that sustainability is also about consuming less hadn’t quite got through. As planes from City Airport roared overhead, I left for a lonely ride on a chilly cable car home. Lovely idea and worth a visit if you’re into this sort of thing, but with the current shower in charge of London, its ideas remain a long way from reality.
So London’s most baffling piece of public transport will open to the public a week on Thursday, with many unanswered questions about quite what it’s there for. London Reconnections has done a sparkling job on bringing together all the info on the Thames Cable Car, and last night the station was proudly displaying its EMIRATES GREENWICH PENINSULA signage.
But why, and what on earth is it for? Here’s some discussions you’ll be hearing more of over the next couple of weeks.
The fares. £3.20 with an Oyster card, £4.20 in cash (£1.60 and £2.20 for children); Travelcards and Freedom Passes not valid. If it doesn’t accept Travelcards, then it isn’t part of the London public transport network, surely? But then there’s also a 10-journey “frequent flyer” rate at £16. It’s clear this is like the river buses – not quite part of the public transport system, but somehow fudged into it. But unlike the Thames Clippers river buses, this is owned and run by Transport for London. So why are we paying for its construction, then paying a premium rate to use it?
The operating hours. Last journeys are at 9pm – with “extended hours” promised when there are “events at the local venues”. Does that mean all O2 shows or just high-profile ones? What about busy Friday nights when there’s just something on in the smaller Indigo2 venue? Or when an O2 act stays on stage well beyond time?
Two speeds. Journeys will take five minutes in the mornings and evenings – but 10 during the daytime. Sorry, shift workers, you’re stuck on the slow tourist special. Tourist wanting to see a leisurely sunrise or sunset? Forget it. So here’s the baffling thing…
Public transport or tourist attraction? It’s clear TfL is trying to have its cake and eat it. It’s obviously going to be a big hit for the first year or so, as public curiosity tempts the masses into having a go. But as a piece of public transport? This remains a journey that very few people actually need to make – myself, I’ve only had to visit ExCeL twice, and one of those was for a cable car press event.
Sure, the Thames Clippers are reasonably successful, but they span a wider area and attract a different clientele – people who both live and work near the piers who are happy to trade in the speed of rail or Tube for a higher level of comfort (and a drink at the bar) for a price. The cable car offers a view – but so do other forms of public transport, and they don’t demand a surcharge on your Oyster card.
The website. Just for a laugh, take a look at its official website – www.emiratesairline.co.uk. South London attractions include, er, Brixton, Hampton Court Palace and the London Eye, none of which are anywhere near Greenwich. As for the “North London” attractions – Little Venice, the Albert Hall, and, er, the Millennium Bridge. Not that the cable car even goes to north London. All this on a website which carries the TfL roundel.
Anyhow, what do you think? Time for a couple of polls – I’d be interested to see what you think of the cable car and its split personality.
PS. As ever, Diamond Geezer has nailed it.
11:35pm, Friday night: Coming home from North Greenwich station, there’s still work going on in the cable car station. The word “Greenwich” has appeared on the front, much of the internal signage is up, and (out of sight) there’s a video wall at the entrance.
9:05pm, Sunday evening: Still hard at work. The hi-vis chaps in the centre look like they’re preparing to attach the word “EMIRATES” to the entrance sign. Hopefully the sponsors are coughing up for the overtime.
Monday update, 00.30am: BBC London’s Tom Edwards has tweeted…
This compares with original estimates of fares provided 18 months ago to Greenwich Council’s planning committee of £2.50 for Oyster users and £3.50 cash. I think I’ll stick with the Tube or Woolwich Ferry instead…