Emirates Air Line (cable car)
Emirates Air Line
The Emirates Air Line logo
|Locale||Greenwich/Docklands, London, United Kingdom|
|Termini||Greenwich Peninsula (west)
Royal Docks (east)
|Opened||28 June 2012|
|Operator(s)||Transport for London|
|Line length||1 km (0.62 mi)|
|Electrification||Electric motor powering cable bullwheel|
|Operating speed||6 m/s|
|Highest elevation||295 ft (90 m)|
The Emirates Air Line (also known as the Thames cable car) is a cable car link across the River Thames in London built with sponsorship from the airline Emirates. The service opened on 28 June 2012 and is operated by Transport for London. It has an average ridership of 31,601 passenger journeys a week.
The service, announced in July 2010 and estimated to cost £60 million, comprises a 1-kilometre (0.62 mi) gondola line that crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. Construction began in August 2011. The cable car is based on Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) technology, a system which uses a single cable for both propulsion and support, such as that used on the metrocable in Medellín, Colombia. The MDG system is reportedly cheaper and quicker to install than a more complex three-cable system which would allow for larger-capacity cars.
On 4 July 2010, Transport for London (TfL) announced plans to develop a cable car crossing over the River Thames. It is the first urban cable car in the United Kingdom. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Expedition Engineering and Buro Happold, it crosses the river at a height up to 90 metres (300 ft), higher than that of the nearby O2 Arena. The cable car provides a crossing every 15 seconds, carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 bus trips per hour. The cable car can also convey bicycles and passengers are able to use Oyster cards to pay for their journeys.
A planning application was submitted to the London Borough of Newham in October 2010 for the "erection of a cable car for the length of 1,100 metres [3,600 ft] over the River Thames from North Woolwich Peninsula to Royal Victoria Dock at a minimum clearance of 54.1 metres [177 ft] above mean high water springs". The application listed the structures planned for the service on the north side of the Thames as an 87-metre (285 ft) north main tower at Clyde Wharf, a 66-metre (217 ft) north intermediate tower south of the Docklands Light Railway tracks roughly mid-way between Canning Town and West Silvertown stations, a two-storey gondola station and "boat impact protection" in Royal Victoria Dock. South of the river there is a 60-metre (200 ft) main support tower and a boarding station within the O2 Arena car park.
When the project was announced, TfL initially budgeted that it would cost £25 million and announced this would be entirely funded by private finance. This figure was revised to £45 million, and by September 2011 the budget had more than doubled to £60 million, reportedly because TfL had not taken account of the costs of legal advice, project management, land acquisition and other costs. TfL planned to make up the shortfall by paying for the project out of the London Rail budget, applying for funding from the European Regional Development Fund and seeking commercial sponsorship. €9.7m of ERDF support out of an estimated €65.56m total budget was agreed on 9 July 2012
In January 2011, News International was planning to sponsor the project but subsequently withdrew its offer. In October 2011, it was announced that the Dubai-based airline Emirates would provide £36 million in a 10-year sponsorship deal which included branding of the cable car service with the airline's name.
Construction began in August 2011 with Mace as the lead contractor. Mace built the cable car for £45 million and will operate it for the first three years for a further £5.5 million. TfL stated that the initial construction funding and Emirates sponsorship will cover £36 million of the cost; the rest will be funded from fares. The cable car is the most expensive cable system ever built.
In May 2012, TfL said that the cable car would be ready for people to use by the summer of 2012, and that while there were originally no plans to have it open before the 2012 Olympic Games, there would be plans in place in case it was opened in time. The public opening took place at 12 noon BST on 28 June 2012. TfL reports that the total cost of the project was about £60 million of which £45 million went towards construction. It estimates that the service can carry 2,500 people per hour.
There are 36 gondolas, of which 34 are in use at any one time, with a maximum capacity of 10 passengers.
The Emirates Air Line route was introduced onto the London Tube map in June 2012. It is the first sponsor to feature a company logo on the map. Similar to the presentation of the Docklands Light Railway, the cable car is represented on the map as a triple red stripe rather than a solid line, to distinguish it from London Underground lines. The official logo is a red cartouche shape containing the Emirates logo and the TfL roundel, to reflect the corporate sponsorship by the airline. As with the marketing of the London Eye, the transit of the cable car is referred to as a "flight" and marketing literature borrows language from the airline industry, such as referring to tickets as "boarding passes".
The wraps were designed by Brighton based advertising agency, Studio Am. Each cable car represents a different destination that Emirates flies to, with the graphics based on abstract photography to depict the different cities.
At opening, the fares were £4.30 for a single boarding pass, or £3.20 when paid with an Oyster card. Travelcards are not valid on the service. While the cable car is not fully integrated into TfL's ticketing system, discounts are offered to Oyster and Travelcard users in a similar arrangement to the ticketing system on London River Services. To encourage use of the service for commuting, further discounts are offered with a "frequent flyer" ticket available which allows 10 journeys within a 12 month period. The London Assembly and the Liberal Democrats have called for full fare integration.
|Cash single fare||Oyster or Travelcard user||"Frequent flyer"|
Royal Docks 
The eastern end of the cable car line (Royal Docks, home to the ExCeL Centre, which hosted a number of martial arts, boxing and weightlifting events during the 2012 London Olympics. The closest interchange to the Docklands Light Railway is at Royal Victoria station.) is at the
Greenwich Peninsula 
The western end of the cable car line (The O2, the venue for artistic gymnastics and basketball events of the 2012 Olympics. The closest interchange with the London Underground is at North Greenwich. The nearest London River Services is at North Greenwich Pier.) is within walking distance of
Usage data 
As of 9 February 2013 there have been 1,815,212 passenger journeys since opening. The average passenger journeys for the period between 16 September 2012 and 9 February 2013 has been a mean of 31,601 a week and a median of 30,667. The highest usage during that period was an outlier of 70,704 for week ending 3 November 2012 and the lowest usage was 14,755 for week ending 2 February 2013. The trend over the period is downwards.
Critics of the cable car have dismissed it as an impractical solution, which will appeal to tourists at peak times but is unlikely to attract a large number of cross-river locals or commuters due to its location and costs. Further criticisms surround the project's £24 million-plus cost to taxpayers, caused by a budget overrun. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, had originally said the cost of the scheme would not be underwritten by taxpayers. Advocates of walking and cycling favoured a Sustrans-sponsored plan for a walking and cycling bridge east of Tower Bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.
After the Olympics, passenger numbers have been less than 10% of capacity. Less than 1% of journeys made are on regular travel tickets which are designed for commuters.
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