London at 300 feet

On Tuesday we travelled on the latest addition to London’s transport network, the Emirates Air Line. This is the rather confusing name given to the cable car that runs over the River Thames between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Victoria Docks (thus connecting two major event  venues, the O2 Arena and ExCeL – both coincidentally being used for Olympic events this summer.)

View from the Emirates Air LineOpened on 27th June, the Emirates Air Line was built within a year at the cost of about £60m – making it the most expensive cable car system ever built. Apparently Emirates put in £36m for a ten year sponsorship deal, which sounds a lot, but considering that the name Emirates appears on every London Underground map is undoubtedly a good deal for the airline.

So what’s it like to ride on the Air Line? While I was busy taking photographs of Emirates Greenwich Peninsula station – sorry, terminal – Mary Ann started queuing up. She hadn’t noticed that if you have an Oyster card you can go straight to regular Oyster card gates just like the ones at a Tube station. It doesn’t help that, continuing the airline terminology, tickets are called ‘boarding passes’.  The fare is £3.20 with an Oyster card – unfortunately this is not included in the daily price cap.

When we travelled (flew?) on a wet Tuesday afternoon there was no wait to get on. The staff are young and friendly. Each cabin can take up to ten people, but there were only six in ours, which was enough.

The Air Line rises to a maximum height of 300 feet (90 metres). To the West there is an impressive view of Canary Wharf; to the East the Thames Barrier. The ride takes about ten minutes.

Emirates Air LineWhether the Emirates Air Line is a totally practical form of transport remains to be seen – after the Olympics have finished, will it be used much by anyone but tourists? We travelled from south to north, but if I were riding flying again as part of a day visit to East London, I would go in the other direction; partly because the view is better and partly because there is a lot more to do on the Greenwich Peninsula side – have something to eat in the O2 (we had a £5 lunch special in Thai Silk)  admire the public art, visit the Peninsula Ecology Park, then get a bus to Maritime Greenwich. You can even go for a walk over the top of the O2 if you like. Of course you could always take a return journey, but at £7.20 (Oyster) or £8.60 (cash fare) it’s getting a bit costly. Still, it’s a lot cheaper than the London Eye (cheapest standard ticket £15) though arguably the view over Westminster is more interesting than East London.

(By the way, when checking out the price of the Eye, I notice that since the British Airways London Eye became the EDF Energy London Eye, one no longer takes a ‘flight’ but has an ‘experience’. ‘Taken for a ride’ is more like it.)

More pictures here.


About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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