These days, there are a variety of ways to cross the River Thames and get from the north to south bank or vice-versa. You’ve got road, rail and foot bridges, pedestrian tunnels, London Underground lines and the River Bus to choose from, but that’s not all. Since 2012, it has also been possible to cross the river by cable car.
The Emirates Air Line, which connects Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock, is certainly not for the feint-hearted. The 0.62 mile cable car line sees passengers transported across the river at heights of up to 90 metres above ground level. So as well as serving a functional purpose – taking people from one side of the river to the other – the Emirates Air Line offers fantastic panoramic views of London. It is not only a valuable addition to the capital’s public transport network, the cable car has become an attraction in its own right.
Origins of the Emirates Air Line cable car
Plans for an urban cable car crossing – the first of its kind in the UK – were first unveiled by Transport for London in July 2010 and a planning application was submitted to the London Borough of Newham later that year. The project had an original budget of £25 million, although by September 2011 this had increased to £60 million, with the cost of land acquisition, project management and legal costs included.
In October 2011, Dubai-based airline Emirates was announced as the headline sponsor of the cable car on a ten-year deal. Construction work began in August 2011 at Royal Docks, with Mace operating as the lead contractor. Building work took under a year, with the the public opening taking place at noon on June 28th 2012, around a month before the London Olympic Games got underway.
Using the Emirates Air Line cable car
Built by Doppelmayr and operated by Transport for London, the cable car is based on monocable detachable gondola technology. It uses a single cable for both propulsion and support. The service is open seven days a week, with journeys across the River Thames taking five minutes at peak times and ten minutes at off-peak times. In total there are 36 passenger gondolas, of which 34 are in use at any one time. Each carriage can hold up to ten passengers at any one time.
The Emirates Air Line is open to all passengers, including local people, commuters heading to work and tourists seeking an aerial view of the city. Customers can pay for their ride on the cable car using an Oyster card, which entitles them to a discount crossing, or by cash. Passengers can also purchase a ‘frequent flyer’ ticket which entitles them to ten journeys over a 12-month period.
The cable car is designed to operate in most weather conditions, although services may be temporarily suspended in the event of very high winds or where there is a threat of lightning. In the rare event of a service closure, full details are published on the Transport for London website.
Operating times for the Emirates Air Line cable car
Standard opening times during the summer months are as follows:
- Monday to Thursday: 07:00 – 22:00
- Friday: 07:00 – 23:00
- Saturday: 08:00 – 23:00
- Sunday: 09:00 – 22:00
During the winter, the closing time is 21:00 between Sunday and Thursday.
Longer operating hours may apply when there are events at local entertainment venues such as The O2 Arena at North Greenwich.
Getting to the Emirates Air Line cable car by Tube
On the north side of the river, the closest station to the Emirates Air Line cable car is Royal Victoria on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). On the south side of the river, the closest station to the Emirates Air Line cable car is North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line. From both terminals, the nearest stations are just a short walk away.
Car parking close to the Emirates Air Line cable car
The closest car park to the Emirates Air Line cable car is the NCP Millennium Way at the O2 Arena in North Greenwich. However, most passengers using the cable car opt to arrive by public transport, utilising either Tube or local bus services.