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.