Blog: Purpose of cable car is Crystal clear


An advert now labels the cable car a legacy item. "Thanks to the Games," it reads, "you can now fly across the Thames and see London in a whole new light." This is part of a series of adverts branded "Gift of the Games."

Now, one could quibble, if one were so minded, over the direct correlation of the Emirates Air Line and the Olympic Games.

Obviously, traffic escalated over those summer weeks, although I suspect this was due to people killing time between events at Excel and The O2 rather than travelling between the two.

Besides, the Emirates Air Line was never touted as a piece of Games infrastructure and, through pricing and ticketing (and very nearly through its late launch) was excluded from routine travel plans.

However, my quibbling is muted. If someone wants to give the cable car an Olympic sheen I'm not going to get too vexed.

But, the truth is, the cable car never really made sense as an adjunct to the Olympics. However, it makes perfect sense as an adjunct to the Crystal.

Shamefully late for a resident of the area, I took my debut flight last week. Mostly because I got free tickets as part of the hoopla that surrounded the opening of the greenest building in the world, dedicated to innovative thinking about urbanisation.

Taking to the air, after a short walk from that squat, pointy building (the East Angular?), the Air Line made sense in a way it never did before.

From around the world, city mayors, digital thinkers and futurologists will convene at Siemens campus. The cable car (although disappointingly analogue) is a perfect mood music for their deliberations - dramatic, innovative, sexy, leftfield and a tiny bit bonkers. (Plus it opens up the lunching options for delegates.)

I should add that the journey over the Thames is London's latest must-do experience.

From a certain vantage point, with perspective foreshortened, when the loop of the river turns the Greenwich peninsula into an island and when the Royal Docks and river make a drowned archipelago of Silvertown, the notion of a Water City is as obvious as it is breathtaking.

PS The Crystal is reminiscent of the Millennium Dome - snazzy exterior but a purpose that is not entirely clear to the average passer-by. Fortunately, we're not picking up the bill for this one.