Riding the New £60M Olympic Cable Car

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Yesterday was day three of the London 2012 Olympics and day one for this TreeHugger. Immigration at the airport was a breeze and there were no crowds on the subway. A quick trip on the new Emirates Airline cable car was an unexpected delight.

It is the first urban cable car in the UK. It was sponsored by Emirates Air Lines for a pretty £36M, although the whole project cost £60M.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The cable car crosses the River Thames in the eastern part of the city. It goes from the former Millennium Dome (on left of photo) to the ExCel Centre, an ugly utilitarian venue for sports such as weight lifting, judo and fencing.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The price is cheap: £3.20 ( $5.00) for a one way trip. Entrance is through a good-looking modern building, designed by Wilkinson Eyre.Architects, up some stairs and away you go.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Cars are roomy, with space for eight seated on two facing bright red upholstered benches. Bicycles, wheelchairs and dogs allowed.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The view is spectacular. You can see the Olympic site in the back of this photo, with the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower standing out. To its left is the Olympic Stadium.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Up to 2,500 people will be able to use the cable cars every hour — the equivalent of 30 buses. There are 34 pods, with one leaving every 30 seconds and it takes less than ten minutes to make the crossing. It's been a big hit so far: it carried a record 26,000 people on Saturday. However one day passengers were stranded for a half hour because of "the heat".

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Not everyone is convinced. A representative from TravelWatch (a transport watchdog organization) said: "the scheme has been broadly privately funded, it remains to be seen whether the fares can cover all the costs or if the public purse would be left to pick up the pieces."

Tags: London | Olympics | Transportation