Work starts on Boris Johnson's Thames cable car

cable car1.jpgWork has begun to build the Thames cable car linking North Greenwich and the Royal Docks.

Construction of the passenger stations on both sides of the river has started, with piles being driven deep into the ground to support the foundations. The scheme, which will cost at least £56million could be finished in time for the 2012 Olympics.

The installation of the piles for the north station in the Royal Victoria Dock is taking place from a barge rig moored in the dock, while the south station is being built next to The O2 on the Greenwich Peninsula. Work in the river is also progressing to probe for obstructions before piling starts.

The project has attracted controversy, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson promising it would be entirely privately funded. He has yet to find a business partner, however, and the upfront costs are being met from Transport for London's budget and will recoup its money from sponsors and fare revenue.

aa-jul8-cablemap.jpgMr Johnson sees the cable car, which will span a 1.1km section of the Thames, as a vital part of his plans to boost regeneration in east London, particularly since the Royal Docks was granted Enterprise Zone status earlier this year.

He said: "London's cable car will boost the ongoing renaissance of this easterly quarter of the Capital, helping to secure a massive legacy for Londoners coming from the 2012 Games. This stunning new landmark will cut existing journey times, link two popular destinations and draw visitors from across the globe."

cable car2.jpgBut some politicians remain doubtful of the economic benefits of the project, which will rise 50m above the river. London Assembly member for City and East John Biggs has labelled it a "tourist attraction" that does not meet the needs of the population of east London.

But that has not deterred Mr Johnson, or TfL bosses.

Howard Smith, one of TfL's chief operating officers, said: "TfL is proud that in such a short period of time we've been able to start main works for the cable car. This scheme offers a great opportunity not only to boost the number of river crossings in London but also promote the regeneration of this part of east London and to support tourism to the Capital."

A team of expert sub-contractors, working for Mace, is building the scheme for TfL.