Happy Birthday Cable Car

Infographic on cable car usage

Click image for larger version

The Emirates AirLine / Arabfly Dangleway (thank you, Diamond Geezer) opened a year ago today. It’s not been without its controversies: you can see in our infographic that ridership dropped away after Olympics and Paralympics, and once the novelty value wore off.

Cost, too, has been an issue. Of the £60m needed to build it, £8m is coming from the EU, £36m is being provided by Emirates – but crucially, that money didn’t all come up front, but is being handed over gradually up to 2021 – leaving the rest to be funded by TfL, i.e., the fare-and-taxpayer, despite Boris Johnson’s promises it wouldn’t cost us anything. Earlier this year it was also rumoured to be losing £50,000 a week, which is kind of annoying when even a City Hall briefing document (PDF) admits “ridership patterns are consistent with a tourist attraction rather than a commuter service”. Such a conclusion isn’t surprising when you consider the cable car costs more and takes longer than using the tube and DLR to similar stations, and has to close in high wind.

But do people like it? We’ve been trying to think of what else gets away with being expensive and a bit pointless because it’s loved, but could only really come up with Bruce Forsyth. It’s been a long week. Early TfL surveys put customer satisfaction at over 90%, but of course passengers will like a new shiny thing that’s in use during the glow of London 2012. So we asked you on Facebook and Twitter. And you were fairly evenly split between thinking it a total waste of money and loving it (though some of that love is tempered with the admission you’ll never ride it again). Some people still don’t know where it is (between North Greenwich and Royal Victoria). Some sample comments:

  • Patrick Cain: Fun though pricey ride but terrible location. I wouldn’t bother taking tourists again as it’s such a trek and the scenery is embarrassing.
  • Joseph Treen: A low-budget London Eye with a utilitarian twist.
  • Lisa Luyten: Something a bit different that is really needed at that end of town!
  • Nick Bowman: It’s great fun…terrific view…and when the redevelopment is down, will actually take you some where
  • Neil Littlejohns: Complete white elephant. Has been running at a loss since launch and is costing our city a fortune to run. Shut it down.

Next month Emirates will open an ‘aviation experience‘ by the Greenwich terminal, featuring flight simulators, so there’s one more reason to visit.

Infographic by Dean Nicholas.

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  • Boris Watch

    One thing that you may have missed – TfL have started publishing complaint rates for various services, per 100,000 users. Here’s the Q4 2012/13 figures, the first including the cable car:

    Underground: just over 1
    Oyster: just over 1
    Overground: 3.29
    Buses: 2.29
    Tramlink: 2.33
    Dial-a-Ride: 84
    Congestion charging: 16.58
    Cycle hire: 5.37 (down from 121.97!)
    Riverboats: negligible

    Cable car: 20.26

    Obviously this reflects its minority status and was the January-March low period, but it’s still quite high overall.

  • Gtram

    Shut it down and give we Londoners our money back.

  • John Thompson

    Would be useful if it wasn’t in such a terrible location.

    • Sam

      How about right down Oxford street, from Totty Crt Road up to Marble Arch. THAT would be useful!

  • Mark Walley

    I’d love to go on it at least once, but I’d have to be out that way to go on it anyway, and I can’t think when I’m going to be out that way and will want to use it.

  • ianxn

    Annoys me that it gets such prominent billing and valuable pixel space on the TfL web and mobile sites. I guess they need to advertise it to try to get ridership up or meet whatever contract they’ve entered into with Emirates, but in terms of ridership it is such a tiny part of London’s transport, and really the web space should be allocated a little more in proportion to popularity of the services they run.