Posts Tagged ‘silvertown’
The cable car was a year old last Friday, and almost as if to celebrate, I saw an unusually large number of people using it as I passed underneath it on my way to North Greenwich station at about 9.15am. Yes, a whole SIX passengers were using it – up on one passenger on the previous Tuesday, and nobody at all on the Monday.
To mark the anniversary, TfL issued a press release, entitled “One year after opening the Emirates Air Line is bringing jobs and growth to east London”. But the only growth industry sparked by the dangleway is that in increasingly desperate PR.
Well, I don’t know about east London, although the Siemens Crystal, which opened next door to the cable car’s northern terminal last autumn, was already going through the planning process at Newham Council when TfL announced its plans to build the cable car in July 2010.
As for south of the river, I’m pretty much certain that with the exception of the cable car’s own staff, contractors and associated workforce, and the tea van that pops up next to it, the Emirates Air Line has not created a single job in Greenwich. If you know of any, I’d love to hear about it.
The Emirates Air Line is successfully supporting regeneration and increasing footfall in Greenwich and Newham.
Today marks the first anniversary of passenger services on the UK’s first urban cable car, the Emirates Air Line, and the Mayor says it continues to play a key role in supporting growth and regeneration in east London.
Since opening, the Emirates Air Line, connecting Greenwich and the Royal Docks, has flown more than 2.4 million passengers across the Thames and customer satisfaction remains consistently high. Today, Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that it is working with AEG Europe, the owners of The O2, to make Emirates Air Line boarding passes available on The O2 website from August. That means passengers will be able to buy e-tickets for a flight on the Emirates Air Line at the same time as they book their visit to The O2, or their Thames Clipper travel.
The Emirates Air Line was built to support current and future regeneration in east London and the balance between leisure users and regular users will change as this takes place. The popularity among leisure users means the Emirates Air Line is covering its costs while encouraging people to visit Greenwich and the Royal Docks.
Those running costs, incidentally, are about £5.3 million a year – or £14,600/day – judging by the answer to a Freedom of Information request put in by Poplar-based campaigner Alan Haughton. At 2.4 million journeys since opening, it probably is covering its costs.
Remove last summer’s Olympic/Paralympic traffic (worth at least 200,000 journeys) and the novelty factor, though, and that business plan starts to get as wobbly as a gondola in the wind.
Of course, there’s still a £16m black hole where Emirates’ sponsorship (£36m) and European funding (£8m) haven’t covered the £60m cost of building the cable car.
“Regeneration of the area is already well under way as illustrated this month when the Mayor of London announced a £1.5bn deal with the Silvertown Partnership to transform Silvertown Quays in London’s Royal Docks into an innovative new quarter that will be able to accommodate more than 1,500 new homes, restaurants, cafes, galleries and leisure facilities both on and off the water, making it a thriving destination for Londoners and visitors to live, work and enjoy. Work on the first phase of the site is expected to begin in 2014/15.”
All very well, but development at Silvertown Quays – which will involve the demolition of the landmark Millennium Mills – hardly depends on a cable car from Greenwich. Instead, it’ll cling to Crossrail for life, and its central proposition – a park of “brand pavilions” – seems to be the sort of development that could be used to try to justify the Silvertown Tunnel.
Other exciting developments coming to the area include a new 452-room hotel next to The O2 with residential apartments in 2015. All of this development will directly benefit from the convenient and direct river crossing the Emirates Air Line provides.
That’ll be the hotel that’s been planned since at least 2009, then.
So, with the cable car having attracted precisely nothing to the peninsula, its sponsor is stepping in.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘The Emirates Air Line is doing exactly what it set out to do and supporting regeneration of an area with huge potential to provide new jobs and homes. The £1.5bn deal to transform the Silvertown Quays in London’s Royal Docks is a superb illustration of how providing new transport links like the cable car can be the perfect spur for economic growth.
‘As the customer satisfaction scores show, Londoners and visitors from around the world thoroughly enjoy using this innovative transport experience and the new and exciting Emirates Aviation Experience opening in July next to the Greenwich terminal will be yet another fantastic reason to visit this rapidly developing area of London.’
Yep, the Emirates Aviation Experience, which has appeared in what were meant to be retail units inside the Greenwich cable car terminal, featuring two flight simulators in a “fun, yet educational, overview of just what it takes to successfully get a 560 tonne aircraft off the ground and 40,000 feet into the sky”. PR agency Pulse (“creating happy humans”) has been recruiting for it. So the first jobs to be created by the Emirates Air Line are being created by… Emirates itself.
I heard a whisper that Boris was due in Greenwich to open it today, incidentally, presumably to thank his sponsor for doing him a favour.
Of course, none of this desperate justification would be needed if the cable car had been built as proper public transport, integrated into the Travelcard scheme and charging normal zone 3 fares, instead of £3.20 each way. There’s no press releases claiming the London Overground covers its costs – it’s accepted that throwing a billion pounds at railways in north and east London is a price worth paying for a better quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people each day. Because the cable car has been built as a tourist attraction, it has to be seen as covering its costs.
A year on, the cable car just sits there for its 16 commuters, like a strange Christmas present bought by an in-law that you can’t decide what to do with. It sits there, heading off in the wrong direction, as a monument to the failure to plan Greenwich Peninsula’s growth properly. When North Greenwich station, already creaking at the seams, can’t cope with the peninsula’s growing population, the cable car will still be sat there, useless.
And it’ll be a headache for whoever’s (un)lucky enough to succeed Boris Johnson as mayor in 2016. What should he or she do? I’d be interested to hear what you think – please assume there’s no cash to do anything like building foot/cycle bridges or moving to to Canary Wharf.
Or, if you have an even better idea, share it below…
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.