I had been very positive about the new Emirates cable car (see previous blog). But I’ve just checked out the areas around its two start points. Let’s start with Greenwich. The Thames Path that would take you from historic Greenwich to the cable car is closed at the moment, while a huge amount of construction is going on. And given that the completed area surrounding the 02 Arena is just a commercial industrial wasteland, one fears that this additional construction is unlikely to be a terribly attractive addition to Greenwich tourism. The river itself is always worth a look of course, but if you stick to the river rather than taking the horrible short-cut across the Blackwall tunnel approach road, it’s a long trek to get to the cable-car, which is a surprisingly long walk east of North Greenwich station and the 02.
The cable car then takes you north east across the river to the Royal Victoria docks. Now I had assumed that the cable-car was part of the whole Olympic East London regeneration project. Well maybe it is in the very long run, but at the moment you’d need a Victorian explorer’s determination and foolhardiness to head north towards the Olympic Park. There’s a Tidal Basin Pumping Station to circumnavigate, followed by the Limmo Peninsula. The map tells us this is an ecological park; sounds nice. Perhaps one day it will be, but at the moment it surrounds the bleakest, most unkempt, unattractive piece of waterway in London. I kept expecting the African Queen to pootle round the bend from Bow Creek. Then there’s a huge swathe of industrial Canning Town and the Barking Road, which is impossible to cross without being in a vehicle (and it ain’t that easy even then).
Do things improve if you head west or east instead of north? In a word, no. More wasteland of one type or another. One good thing about these areas is that at least few people live in them.
But if the cable-car doesn’t lead anywhere, and nobody lives in the areas that it serves, what’s the point of it? Ok, north Londoners can get to and from the 02 using it, but why would they pay £8.60 return, or £6.40 on an Oyster card, to use the cable-car, when they can do the same journey on the DLR for £3.00 or £2.80 respectively. And the same can be said of cross-river commuters. And the cable-car closes at 9pm so it’s no use for getting home from the 02 after an evening event.
I certainly won’t be using it as part of my Historic Greenwich, Call the Midwife or Olympics guided walks. And if a group of clients want to combine say a Greenwich and Call the Midwife walk, we’ll just jump on the DLR from Cutty Sark to All Saints – it’s only 5 minutes from one to the other.
Maybe tourists? Ok, a certain number will no doubt take a ride for the great views over Docklands, especially once they find out the exorbitant cost of the Orbit, but once the Olympics have faded away, will there really be that many people eager to see Docklands from the air?
Of course everyone said the Millennium Dome was a white elephant, but it has proved people wrong by being reinvented as the 02. But what can a cable-car be reinvented as?