Dangling Above the Thames

A Ride on London’s First & Only Cable Car

Last week, London’s newest addition to its public transport network open to the public. Since I’m the sort of person who likes trying new things, a couple of days ago, I went to have a ride.

The Emirates Air Line is London’s first and only cable car, linking the ExCel exhibition centre on the north bank of the Thames to the O2 (formally the Millennium Dome and known during the Olympic & Paralympic Games as the North Greenwich Arena due to sponsorship restrictions) on the south bank. It’s 1.1km long, 91 metres high and a journey (or ‘flight’ as they like to call it) takes around 8–10 minutes. On offer are views of the financial district on the Isle of Dogs, the O2 in all its glory and, if you squint a bit, the Olympic Park.

I’ve been on my fair share of cable cars before, most of which in the Swiss alps. While London’s Air Line isn’t as dramatic, not as long, not as high and not able to compare in terms of views, it still provides the same buzz. From the initial wobble as you propel out of the station to the mid-way swing as the system slows to allow less-able passengers to disembark, the ride was exciting and definitely worth doing, despite the slightly hefty price for a ‘boarding pass’.

The hope is that commuters will end up using the system. While the connection between Excel and the O2 is comparatively convenient, the operators have their work cut out in convincing ordinary Londoners to take to the sky on their way to work. Indeed, they may well have a job convincing even tourists to make their way out of the city centre to take an 8 minute ride to or from an exhibition centre they had no intention of visiting in the first place.

For now, you’ll find queues of people eager to make the crossing and during the upcoming Olympics & Paralymics, I’m sure the Air Line will be popular, but whether this initial enthusiasm will last remains to be seen.

The photos accompanying this article were taken by my sister. See more of her photos on Flickr.