Emirates Air Line

Just four regular commuters are now using the Emirates Air Line cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, down from 16 last autumn. Hop over to The Scoop to find out more.

TfL is still claiming the cable car “continues to play a key role in attracting investment to this strategically important part of the capital”. Yet the only growth industry around North Greenwich that hasn’t been planned for years seems to be in takeaway outlets at the tube station. Is there any sign of a cable car-related boom on the peninsula?

20 replies on “Emirates Air Line commuter numbers drop to four, TfL admits”

  1. With the ever increasing crush to get on a westbound train at North Greenwich in the morning (only going to get worse with all the new development now going on all around Greenwich) I’d certainly like to know whether every avenue was explored before they decided to make it run to the royal docks rather than the Isle of dogs. Even though we live nearby and have 10 journey ‘season ticket’ numbers 1 and 2 we have still only used about 8 times ever. It’s really cool but clearly doesn’t go anywhere particularly useful unless you live at royal docks and fancy dinner at a chain restaurant at the o2.

    Now if there were Boris bikes at each end it would make a bit more sense but that seems unlikely any time soon. At least it was relatively cheap – doubt you’d get more than 10 metres of the HS2 line for the taxpayer cost!

  2. Darryl,

    is there a post which tries to explain the costs fairly clearly somewhere? The figure of £60million is frequently quoted, but is this just the capital cost or does it include the running costs? If its the capital costs does it include the interest that must be being paid on the money borrowed to build it, because the Emirates contribution (of £36m) is only coming in at a rate of about £3m a year between 2011 and 2021 isn’t it?

  3. If it’s of interest, the original cable car planned pre-MEX in around 2006-7 was proposed to connect to East India Dock station which is at least a little closer to the Isle of Dogs…


    A further plan even envisaged a system running along the Thames Path from Greenwich…


    Weird.. my keypad just mis-typed ‘Fogs’ there.. singularly appropriate for this picture!

    My take on this is that the problem is more that the property developers have been dragging their heels for 10 years, not the fact that the cable-car was built in the first place. Looks like the change of land ownership from Lend Lease and Quintain may have finally put that whole process in to gear.

  4. Well, there’s a nice ice-cream stall next to the cable car station. I’m guessing that they don’t get so many customers at this time of year….

  5. I believe that ice cream stand is the only development on the peninsula that’s a direct result of the cable car.

    As for figures – off the top of my head, it’s £36m from Emirates over 10 years and about £9m from the EU, with the remaining c.£15m coming from TfL’s rail budget.

    Running costs – £14,600/day:

    I’ve heard it said the Emirates sponsorship money brings in more cash than fare revenue.

    Alternatives – the 1990s cable car to East India got planning permission, but the promoters fell out with the Dome operators.

    Somewhere online there is the assessment of options for what became the Emirates Air Line which includes different route options and a bridge to Canary Wharf. Will try to find it when I have more time.

  6. I see they are building a new bridge across the Thames near Battersea. Tha’ts what we need.
    A nice foot/cycle bridge across the Thames from North Greenwich to Canary Wharf.

  7. An astoundingly short-sighted venture. Connecting the O2 with somewhere nobody wants to go to. O2 to anywhere near Canary Wharf would have made sense. Massive white elephant. Will be quietly torn down in a short time I suppose.

  8. @JohnNorman. A new bridge is a lot more difficult at this end of the river – the Thames is still navigable and open to ocean-going shipping. A bridge would have to be extremely high, to permit clearance.
    Not that this excuses anyone from putting the Dangleway in such a pointless location.

  9. John, I’m guessing that the height required for such a bridge, to allow the ships that come up the Thames to pass underneath, is the reason that a bridge is impractical

  10. Yep – retractable, or like tower bridge or swing bridge – I am sure modern tech can produce a bridge that can open for shipping.
    Or, make it high enough for barges and other mass transport to pass- which seems like a good use of the Thames, but I dont think it needs to be higher. What is the economic advantage larger vessels to London going so far up the Thames vs the benefit of more bridges?
    (thats a question – I don’t know much about shipping and the Greenwich part of the Thames)

  11. Apart from the Pool of London, with a large vessel, HMS Belfast, already located there, there is a deep water berth at Greenwich Tier that is currently frequently used by both naval vessels and liners, but also work has just begun on a new liner terminal at Enderby’s Wharf. There is also the Victoria Deep Water Terminal site at the point where possibly the most sensible crossing might be located as far as usage from both banks is concerned. A bridge in the proposed location, whether lifting or not, could seriously hamper movements relating to this berth.

  12. If we ignore the problem of Boris for a second, is there no scope for combining problem A – ‘lack of a cycle/pedestrian crossing in the area and problems with building a bridge high enough’ – and problem B – ‘the very high up dangleway has 4 regular customers’ – to come up with a creative solution? What if a significant amount of the cable cars were turned into cycle friendly pods (rip the seats out basically) that could transport cyclists (and pedestrians) across the river? Obviously the drop-off point isn’t ideal – and I am no cyclist so tell me if I’m wrong – but looking at a map it doesn’t seem that much a detour to get to say Canary Wharf from where the dangleway sets down. And perhaps there is scope for working on segregated cycles lanes in what seems a fairly underused part of London around Royal Docks?

    The germ of this idea was planted when Annie Keys suggested cyclists could go free on the dangleway. I don’t imagine that is an easy task politically but Boris won’t be around forever and Emirates or whoever may prefer a cash-losing cycling success story to a cash-losing white elephant embarrassment. At the very least the journey could be made very very cheap for cyclists/commuters. And it would be a great way to do part of your commute.

    *dons tin foil hat*

  13. They are already very accommodating to bikes and the seats fold up, but not many people seem to know this. Ok it’s not free, but it’s not all that expensive on a season ticket at 1.60 each way. Trouble is you’re still quite a way from canary wharf and unless you live at GMV or tunnel avenue I think it’s quicker to go via the foot tunnel.

    It should be free 7am to 9.30am and 4 till 6pm Monday to Friday. Anything that pulls people off the jubilee line or dlr and gets a few more bike journeys is worth a shot, and wouldn’t hurt the tourist revenue much at all.

  14. Nice idea Omar, free at peak times for commuters would be simple to police and hopefully more palatable to the powers that be than ‘free always’. I didn’t know about the seats folding up either.

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