Transport for London today announced that the cable car link across the Thames would begin construction this summer. The scheme, costing an estimated £50.5m will connect the Excel centre and Royal Victoria Docks to the O2 Arena and Greenwich peninsular. There will be 34 Gondola style cabins capable of transporting 2500 people an hour across the 1200 yards in a 5-minute journey.
The cost of the scheme has more than doubled from the estimated £25m when the plans were first announced last summer. TfL said at the time that they would seek private funding. The story has now changed somewhat, as they now say they will be providing the funding upfront and then seeking to recoup the costs. There is, however, no guaranteed that the taxpayer won’t end up funding at least part of the final bill.
A TfL spokesman defended the decision to pay upfront; saying it was a simple matter of timing. They needed to get the project off the ground as soon as possible as their ultimate goal was to have it completed before the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He also said that it was an extremely tight timeline for such a complex project, and they really couldn’t put it off any longer.
The spokesman was quick to point out that the initial prediction of £25 had just been a preliminary estimate, and the new figure included 3 years of running costs at £5.5m. No ticket prices have been officially released yet, but TfL have said it’s a definite possibility that the ‘Oyster’ pay as you go card can be used to travel on a cable car.
A huge campaign has been launched to try and find commercial partners to provide investment in return for naming rights, branding options etc. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, spoke excitedly about the project, saying that the trip would give the traveller a unique and sublime view of our fabulous Capital City.