In Praise of the Cable Car



TfL have announced plans to consider a cable car scheme to run between the Greenwich Peninsular and Royal Docks, linking Olympic venues.

This is not the first time that TfL have considered such a scheme - in 2008 cable cars were one of the options floated for the crossing between Beckton and Thamesmead, and a similar proposal was raised again in 2009. The then-Mayor's architectural advisor, Lord Rogers, even turned from sceptic to advocate, suggesting a Canary Wharf 'docking tower' for the Thames Gateway network he proposed.

The benefits of a cable car system are obvious to cash-strapped TfL. It offers a cheap and inspiring way of transporting significant numbers of pedestrians (initial plans discuss 2,500 passengers an hour in each direction) across the Thames at relatively low prices. For the Olympics, they provide fast transport between venues and act as a tourist attraction in the process.

The Mayor waxes-lyrical about the project in a statement to the press:

"A cable car spanning the majestic Thames would not only provide a unique and pioneering addition to London's skyline, but also offer a serene and joyful journey across the river.

"Passengers would be able to drink in the truly spectacular views of the Olympic Park and iconic London landmarks whilst shaving valuable minutes from their travelling time. It would also provide a much needed enhancement of cross river options to the east of the city."

His enthusiasm is unsurprising, especially given that his plans at this stage are for the £25m scheme to be privately funded.

Still, a five-minute journey across the Thames on an iconic mode of transport at a time when the rest of the world is watching? It sounds like exactly the sort of thing which this Mayor would (and in our opinion, should) support. Hong Kong, New York, Barcelona, Cologne, Lisbon and Singapore all already sport cable car systems and show that they can work - both for practical day-to-day use, and as tourist attractions. Perhaps it's time for London to get in on the act?

Londoners will have until 2nd August to give their views on the proposals in a - still to be launched - consultation run by TfL and the LDA.

UPDATE 06/07/10: The consultation is now open here.

UPDATE 13/07/10: Both Dave Hill and London Reconnections have posted excellent articles on the scheme - well worth reading.