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 – 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.

20 replies on “No Travelcards on the two-speed Thames Cable Car”

  1. It seems like a cool thing as a tourist attraction but as a public transport thing it makes less sense. Although I guess it is a new link that more people may take advantage when it is open, given the issues people have had with the foot tunnel over the years.

  2. Sorry, hit post accidentally and didn’t finish. i mean, I have looked for work in the past in North Woolwich because there would have been two options for getting over – if the foot tunnel was shut I would use the ferry. If you live in North Greenwich it gives you the cable car and the tube to get across the river. Whereas if you only have the one mode of transport if something goes wrong you’re buggered.

  3. I wonder if the “no travelcards” also extends to the ones that you get bundled in with any Olympic tickets? Seems pretty pointless to send me a day travelcard to get to Excel if I can’t actually use it to get there on the cable car…

  4. ‘Too slow for shift workers, too fast for sunset-seeking tourists’……they just can’t win, can they!

    I do see this boosting Excel as a venue as it now links to the entertainment options in the O2.

  5. Perhaps ExCeL should be paying for it, then. But you are right, this will do more for the Royals than the peninsula.

  6. The ticketing option that interests me (as a local who has no need to use it regularly) is the 10-journey one. Valid for a year – but can it be used for multiple journeys at the same time? IE, can I buy one, then when my parents come to visit we just tick off three boxes or swipe it three times, carnet-style?

  7. And not quite answering my own question, the pricing PDF is now on the website. The 10-journey ticket is paper, and has to be manually cancelled (so no reason why staff can’t tick off multiple boxes to allow several passengers), but it looks as though the Oyster frequent traveller discount may be awkward if you don’t exactly meet its user profile. 5 journeys in a week (Sun to Sat, so not any 7 day period), charged in full, then refunded any time during the following six weeks, apparently only at the ticket gates for the cable car (or at least, with no indication that it’ll be available from other ticket barriers).

  8. If it’s working mid-September then this might be very useful for cyclists trying to get to & from the London triathlon at the Excel.

  9. Doesn’t say anything about cycles on that site. That’s ominous.

    Meanwhile Sustrans’ idea for a walking and cycling bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf has failed to win support from the mayor.

  10. I don’t see it as a baffling project at all. Cheap by the standards of infrastructure projects, making good use of corporate sponsorhip, it has an immediate appeal as a unique and highly visible tourist attraction for foreign visitors and locals. It’s modestly priced for a London attraction (compare with the Eye), not exactly prohibitive for infrequent users, and offers a signficant discount for those for whom this could be a commuter solution. Commuters might be in the minority initially, but the fact of its existence will almost certainly bring more and create new commercial links across this stretch of the river, which can only be good for Greenwich. I think it’s great.

  11. Seems rather discriminatory against people with Travelcards and Freedom Passes – so they don’t want non-Oyster users, the elderly or disabled on the thing, but these travellers can do so for the cost of a child fare (£1.60) if they are rich enough to cough up £16 in one go. I presume the fares quoted are one-way prices? It’s not much of a public transport system if the last journey time is 9pm – so people from across the river can use it to travel to the O2 for an evening out, but can’t use it for the return journey home unless their evening entertainment finishes before 9 o’clock? Even Cinderella had up till midnight….. :-/

  12. No Travel Cards? Shouldn’t really be on the Tube Map then, should it?

    As a tourist attraction, I get it. But no-one is fooling me into thinking this is actually a transport link. It was only every three stops using the existing network (North Greenwich –> Canning Town –> Royal Victoria).

  13. “…so people from across the river can use it to travel to the O2 for an evening out, but can’t use it for the return journey home unless their evening entertainment finishes before 9 o’clock? Even Cinderella had up till midnight…..”

    The Jubilee line…?

  14. “The Jubilee line…?”
    I was not saying that people would be stranded, as there are obviously other ways they could get home. My point was that it seems a little bizarre that a “public” transport system, in a capital city, in the 21st century, closes down after 9pm.

  15. They may be very good reasons why it shuts down at 9pm. To keep costs down and to avoid cars being used by drunks, for starters.

  16. If you put North Greenwich to Royal Victoria into TFL’s travel planner it says it takes 8 minutes by tube and DLR. But soon you will be able to pay an extra fee to travel for 2 minutes longer on the cable car. Nice

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