London cable car

London cable car carries first paying passengers

London’s new cable car, crossing the River Thames, has opened to the public, providing an important additional transport link for the city ahead of the Olympic Games.

The 1.1km long Emirates Air Line can carry up to 2,500 people an hour in each direction, in 34 cars at heights up to 90m above the river. The cables are supported by three soaring helix towers.

Terminals at Greenwich Peninsula Royal Docks) serve the O2 and ExCeL, which are both Games venues, and provide connections to the Tube and Docklands Light Railway.

Offering spectacular views, the crossing is expected to be popular with tourists, but a ‘frequent flyer’ boarding pass costing £16 for ten journeys makes it a realistic public transport option for people living and working in the local area.

The journey time during commuter hours is about five minutes, but Transport for London (TfL) says it recognises that some visitors will want to experience the journey for as long as possible so the speed will be reduced in off-peak periods, meaning a single journey could last up to 10 minutes.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The Emirates Air Line is a stunning addition to London’s transport network, providing a much needed new connection across the Thames.

“We said we could deliver this travel link in quick time, and today we have shown that this city is capable of attracting serious investment to deliver world class infrastructure. As the world’s eyes focus on our city, I can think of no better message to send out across the globe.”

Proposals for the scheme were put out for consultation in July 2010 and main construction works were completed in just under a year. A £36m, ten-year sponsorship deal with Emirates, one of the world’s leading airlines, covered a large part of the construction costs.

Design, build and operating contractor Mace worked with a consortium of cable car specialists including Aedas, Wilkinson Eyre, Buro Happold, Expedition, Doppelmayr and URS in the construction delivery. Mace Macro is employing over 50 people to operate the line.

Peter Hendy, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: `The Emirates Air Line has been delivered in just two years, an incredibly short amount of time for the capital’s newest mode of transport to be up and running.

“The engineering achievements that have been delivered have been no mean feat and I’m delighted to have been on board for the first flight.”

Stephen Pycroft, chairman and chief executive of Mace, said: “The Emirates Air Line represents one of the most exciting and technically challenging projects Mace has undertaken. It is a tremendous achievement by everyone involved and we are proud to have delivered the UK’s first urban cable car to exacting timescales and ready for the summer.”

The cable car is the first of several Thames river crossings planned to improve connectivity and ease congestion on the eastern side of London. This week the Secretary of State for Transport designated the proposed Silvertown Tunnel a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’, increasing the prospect that it could be open for traffic by 2021. TfL is also developing plans for a ferry at Gallions Reach.

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