Cable car "just a tourist attraction" say critics

By Rob Virtue on October 19, 2012 12:20 PM |

Emirates Air Line launch photo.jpg

Heralding a success in its opening weeks, the cable car is now coming under increasing scrutiny after a steep fall in passenger numbers.

Figures for September showed the river crossing is running at less than 10 per cent capacity and it's led to critics to say Londoners are being priced out.

Labour London Assembly Member John Biggs said although it was useful for back up to the Tube and DLR, as well as a tourist attraction, it was not a "serious transport solution".

"At a time of massive budget pressures we need to ask whether the mayor was right to spend hard-pressed taxpayers money on it," he said.

"While any new river crossing is welcome, because the need is so desperate, it is a real shame locals have to pay additional costs to cross the river when fares are already so high.

"The Mayor should incorporate the cost of the river crossing into a Zone 1-4 travelcard then it would be better used by local people, and not just visitors to London looking for a nice day out."

Fellow Assembly Member, Darren Johnson of the Green Party, said the figures, which show an average of 246 people using the Emirates Air Line each hour in the three days following the Paralympics, show the need for an urgent assessment into the ticketing policy.

The link, which cost £60million to build, was used by an average of 1,747 people an hour in the last three days of the Olympics.

The capacity for the route linking the Excel with North Greenwich is 2,500 people an hour.

Mr Green said: "I warned the Mayor this summer that excluding the cable car from travel cards, the Freedom Pass or the Oyster cap would prevent it from becoming fully integrated into London's public transport network and these low passenger numbers show that this is exactly what has happened.

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"The Mayor should urgently review the cable car's ticketing policy to make it more attractive for ordinary Londoners, not just tourists, and to ensure that this part of the Olympic legacy can be enjoyed by far more people than is currently the case."

In response to the latest figures, Transport for London has launched an advertising campaign to encourage more to use the link.

As well as posters on the Tube, leaflets are being distributed and O2 users in the area are receiving text messages.

TfL's Head of the Emirates Air Line, Danny Price, said: "As with all new transport links, the number of regular users builds over a period of time as people become familiar with new journey possibilities for both work and pleasure.

"Following the exceptional Games period TfL will be raising the profile of the Emirates Air Line, particularly in the local boroughs where people benefit most from the opportunities it provides."