Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thames Cable Car (Emirates Air Line)

Yesterday was our first visit to the new Thames cable car tourist attraction in London. When the project was first announced, I was one of the original skeptic of what I would dub as a vanity project. In fact I still and I will explain why in a moment.

But I also love it.

The Thames cable car service is operated by Transport for London and comprises a 0.62 mile gondola line that crosses the River Thames between dilapidated Greenwich Peninsula to Royal Victoria Dock. It is officially known as the Emirates Air Line for sponsorship purpose, but like every sponsored infrastructure in London, the original name sounds better.
Like so many London vanity project (the Olympics spring to mind), the Thames cable car services no purpose other than to fleece your hard earned tourists money. Despite being managed and operated by Transport for London, the cable car isn't actually integrated into London's transport network ticketing system. While you can use your Oyster card to pay for the ride, the service won't be part of your Travelcard. Which is a crying shame as it would make a heck of a commuting system.

Still, it runs from the dreadful area known as Greenwich Peninsula, about a 100m walk from that other mega project known as the Millennium Dome, hardly an area in desperate need for congestion relief. Why, for example, isn't a new pedestrian Thames bridge east of Tower Bridge being planned? It would get people off their fat arse for once. But that's another rant to be blogged about another day.
In any case, I truly enjoyed the ride up the Thames cable car. The journey lasts a quick 10 minutes, during which you can enjoy the panoramic view of East London. On a clear day you can see the Thames Barrier, Stratford, the City of London and even Wembley Stadium. While we had fun, I can't see myself using it regularly apart from those rare times my tourists family and friends drop by, or if I wanted to do some crazy photoshoot. A round trip will cost £6.40, more than half the price of a visit to the London Eye but still rather expensive for commuters.

Like the London Eye, the Thames cable car is worth visiting at least once, but unless TfL integrates it into the network, I can't see it more than yet another tourist trap.

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