Crazy Transport Ideas That Might Work: Oxford Street Cable Car

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 43 months ago
Crazy Transport Ideas That Might Work: Oxford Street Cable Car

Photo by Javier Ayala from the Londonist Flickr pool

Oxford Street is gridlocked and polluted as hell (no matter what the Mayor's office might try and insist). Pedestrianisation is often cited as the way beyond the stupid wall of buses and taxis belching diesel fumes and injuring pedestrians, with a recent report from Assembly Member Stephen Knight suggesting a zero emission shuttle bus to get people up and down. A tram is also a regular suggestion. Or how about a fleet of self driving cars?

But what about a cable car? No, wait, bear with us. London's existing dangleway may have become a byword for pointless expense but that's basically because it's in the wrong place. Other cities, however, are making much better use of urban cable cars. Portland, in USA, uses its 'aerial tram' to carry commuters from its heavily redeveloped South Waterfront district to the Oregon Health and Science University. And a recent article in the New Statesman detailed how cities in Africa and South America are looking to ski-lift-style transport to get their populations out of appalling traffic jams.

A cable car down Oxford Street has already been suggested by private developers — it's something that keeps cropping up at Mayor's Question Time. The New Statesman article name-checks Austrian firm Doppelmayr, which built the Emirates Air Line (we have no way of knowing if it's the company that has approached City Hall). It says costs come in at around £5.1m for a 2km line — the length of Oxford Street, according to Google Maps — and the system can carry around 5,000 people an hour in each direction.

Alright, we know it's pie in the (literal) sky, but pedestrianisation schemes involve some kind of ground level transport, which would take up street space and require multiple crossing points. Get the traffic above the ground and we'd have the whole road to ourselves. Plus, it'd be cool.

Last Updated 28 October 2014

Boris Watch

Usual problem with urban cable cars other than up hills or across water is that they intrude on privacy - no other form of urban transport except possibly double deckers has this problem. They also require supports right where your pedestrians are, intermediate stops are seriously intrusive and they drip oil (the usual downside to monorails, by the way).

I originally thought you mean San Francisco style cable-hauled trams, which would be excellent, but I still suspect complete pedestrianisation, a recast central London bus network and a lightweight battery-electric tram might be best all round.

Jonn Elledge

it worked for North Haverbrook


Why not DLR like elevated rail?

Giles Cudmore

Make the road one way, that way low emission buses can still be used and it keeps the road available for vehicles in case of emergencies, going 100% traffic free seems too much for such a long road.

Beth Williams

Cover the whole of Oxford Street and install a pedestrian travelator system.

Barney Laurance

Isn't much of the congestion because there are lots of different bus routes using Oxford Street? Maybe they could make a free shuttle bus from one end of the street to the other - it would be much more efficiently used because people would get on the first bus with space instead of waiting for the route they want.

And perhaps you could get on a bus in east london, get to Tottenham Court Road, get the free shuttle bus to Marble Arch, and get on another bus on nominally the same route and have it be considered a single journey for fare purposes even though it involved three physical buses.

London U Fan

What about a monorail?


Wuppertal is the way to go! The stations would be on the first/second floor level of stores which paid for the privilege - the payback for them being passengers have to walk through their aisles to get to/from the ground floor.


I think we should keep things as they are- maybe reducing a few bus routes that pass through it as well as converting buses from diesel to good old petrol


what about converting all the bus routes that go down oxford streets into tram or trolleybus routes, and banning taxis from Oxford Street. More people would want to use the trams and trolleybuses rather than just diesel buses