Cable Car Passenger Numbers Still Falling

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 46 months ago
Cable Car Passenger Numbers Still Falling


It's been a while since we checked in with the cable car and its much derided passenger numbers. With Monty Python in residence at the O2, we thought this would be as good a time as any.

For the week ending 5 July 2014, 30,273 passengers used the service (the ageing comics started their run on 1 July). For the same week in 2013 there were 40,923 passengers. Michael Buble played five dates that week — are his fans more likely to start their night out with an aerial trip across the river? (Nobody can end their night that way since it shuts at 9pm.)

Looking at the year to date, the most passengers came the week ending 19 April (Easter), with 55,054. Easter 2013 attracted 49,200 passengers, but 2013's half terms beat 2014: the week ending 22 February 2014 saw 43,181 riders and the week ending 31 May 2014 43,154; the week ending 23 February 2013 brought in 51,046 riders, the week ending 31 May 2013 51,867. There's only one other week so far in 2014 where ridership tops 40,000 (12 April, also the Easter holidays, with 41,477); in fact, there are only three other weeks where ridership tops 30,000. Ten weeks broke the 30,000 barrier in 2013. Average weekly passenger numbers in 2014 so far are 24,737; for the same period in 2013 average passenger numbers were 29,573.

In an interview with LBC last week the Mayor — while failing to remember how much a ticket is — insisted the cable car covers its operating costs, which may indicate things have tightened up since reports in February 2013 that it was losing £50k a week. Draft TfL accounts (PDF) for the last financial year says fare revenue fell slightly to £5m and there's still the build costs to take into account: Emirates' £36m sponsorship is being paid over 10 years and, with the exception of an EU grant of £8m, Transport for London stumped up the rest of the £60m cost itself.

Photo by Arpad Lukacs from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 10 July 2014

Andy Brice

I suppose it is possible though, that Boris will be the one having the last laugh if this area undergoes a resurgence in the future. At which point people will be hailing him as some sort of infrastructure visionary.

I'm not sure which is preferable, taking bigger risks in pre-emptively building transport to service demand that may not occur. Or being overly cautious and capacity always lagging behind demand as a result.

Harlow Guy

Ask the Duchess of Cambridge to ride it. The number of people using it will double in a matter of hours.

Boris Watch

It's worse than Rachel says, actually - the 25% fall last week means overall in the 2014/15 year to date it's running about 8% lower than 2013/14 - that was also the first full week with three year's data and it's been lower each year (obviously 66k in the first full week was very much a measure of novelty, which only goes to show that when the novelty wears off there's very little basic demand for the service).

Having been to Python last week myself it's obvious that events at the O2 have a negligible impact - the Jubilee's enhanced capacity and frequency and wider connections plus the spaciousness and crowd-swallowing nature of North Greenwich means there's no reason not to use the Tube to get there, even before you take the vastly different costs into account. Finally there's a covered walkway from the O2 to the Tube while the cable car is tucked off to one side. If it rains, tube users are nice and dry and cable car users are wet and out of pocket.

A resurgence is unlikely as there already is plenty of proper transport infrastructure in the area plus Crossrail in five years time. The cable car's just not needed, and its capacity as a transport system compared to DLR, Jubilee and Crossrail is frankly miniscule.


Went on it about a month ago, good service and a brilliant idea, only problem I had was that on the day I travelled it was absolutely BAKING in the car and it was just me in there. By the time the car reached the other side of the Thames, (which costs £4.40 for an Adult Cash Single fare or £3.30 for an Adult Single fare with an "Oyster Card" btw Boris,) I was starting to visibly perspire. Good thing a TESCO was nearby lol.

Despite that, can't wait to go back :)


Expensive !

Chingford Kev

Did this a few weeks back with the family. A return trip best part of £25. Still they all enjoyed doing it.


Let's face it, it was an awful location from the start. Somebody out there thought London needed a cable car, which is fair enough, a city like London does need something like that for touristic reasons. But then someone said I know, why not put it near the O2 where you can use it in the Olympics, it was the only way you can sell it. And even then you needed private financing from Emirates Airlines to get it moving. Things would've been a whole lot different if it was done nearer to Tower Bridge or maybe between Victoria and Pimlico where you can get stunning views of central London - BUT you already had the London eye there and it has a strong lobby against this.

I still think in the future numbers will rise again, once this area gets on the tourist map. But its just so damn far for an average tourist and other than maybe a few snapshots of Canary Wharf and the O2, there really isnt much in the area for the average tourist. If the area sees a resurgence of a commercial kind, maybe a big mall with a hotel, some ritzy pier with cafes and restaurants, that sort of thing, then this will become a huge hit. Only then...