Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thames Cable Car Proposals

The idea of a cable car (or an aerial tramway as our American cousins might describe it) linking the Millennium Dome aka the O2 to north of the river is not new as Darryl at 853 has pointed out.

The Transport for London (TfL) consultation page and accompanying leaflet (pdf 520KB) promoting the idea are both a bit vague.

The consultation webpage firstly tells us "Crossing the Thames east of Tower Bridge on foot or by bike can be difficult." and then "A solution is a cable car to link Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks." A quick glance at TfL's journeyplanner reveals average daytime journey times between North Greenwich and Royal Victoria stations of six to nine minutes (including changing at Canning Town). A five minute journey by cable car, not available in bad weather, is hardly a significant improvement. The page goes on to tell us that TfL are seeking private investment as their funds are already tied up. The leaflet tells us that discussions are taking place with interested third parties, but omits to mention whether TfL have told potential financiers that the Port of London Authority (PLA) firstly charges for structures in or over the Thames and secondly might want some sort of realistic guarantee that sufficient funds are in a reserve to remove the cables from over the river if the project fails.

The leaflet lists "significant benefits" but fails to comprehend that O2 to Excel would still be quicker by train. We are told that a planning application could be made in the autumn and, if granted, construction could start in 2011. The application would have to be made to both Greenwich and Newham and the boroughs would have to carry out a full Environmental Impact Assessment, including looking at construction impacts and the consequences should such a speculative project fail.

Even if planning permission is granted a River Works Licence would still be required from the PLA. The Dartford Bridge is just over 60 metres above the Thames and the cable car at a height of 50 metres would represent a restriction on navigation. Vessels such as the Royal Clipper that could currently visit London would be prevented from doing so. The reduction in navigation along with concerns over financial viability could make the granting of the licence unlikely.

Even at 50 metres high City Airport may have concerns, which would only increase if the height went up to avoid interference with shipping.

Many people commenting on articles and blogs have welcomed the idea, but few seem to aware of existing public transport. In a comment published by Nick Raynsford MP has dismissed the idea as a piece of "tourist frippery".

Interesting idea, but apparently not thought through.