EMIRATES AIR-LINE: Fly across the Thames!

A CGI interpretation of the new cable car system (c) News Limited Australia

What would be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think ‘cable car’?. Skiing, snow, Alps, Switzerland, Grenoble? …trying to get quickly to the top of the mountain before the novices completely wreck the piste?.

Well not quite. A new urban cable car system has recently been opened across the river Thames in London that may well show tourists and Londoners that being suspended in a cabin several hundred feet above the ground need not be exclusive to ice-cold mountain ranges.

The Emirates Air Line is London’s first cable car and offers panoramic views across the city as you travel over the river. It is part of the revamping of London which is accelerating as the capital gears itself up to host the Olympic & Paralympic Games this month.  The system came about with funding and sponsorship from the airline firm Emirates as well as guidance and support from Transport for London and the city’s mayor, Boris Johnson. It serves as a connection between the O2 shopping centre/arena in North Greenwich and the ExCel centre in Custom House, east London.

London’s federal city mayor Boris Johnson at his first ride along with flight attendants from the sponsor Emirates (c) Arabian Aerospace Online News Service

The Air Line provides a much-needed and far more exciting way to cross the Thames, where previously it meant a journey either by Tube, river boat or car. It will also provide investment and tourist cash to what was once a badly neglected part of London. Londoners and tourists will be surprised at how easy it is to use. All you need is a special ‘Oystercard’  – a blue-coloured plastic card that can be purchased for £5 ($7.80) from special machines at most Underground stations. You can alternatively pay the fare with cash, but it does work out cheaper with the Oystercard. Frequent users can obtain multi-trip tickets which will attract bigger savings.

Emirates Air Line extends for 1.1 kilometres across London’s arterial waterway at a height of 90 metres, running from the Greenwich Peninsula to the now-rebranded Emirates Royal Docks, located near Royal Victoria DLR station, which is part of the Docklands Light Railway that covers much of east London. It is a unique travel experience, giving passengers amazing views of the city’s most formidable landmarks, such as Canary Wharf, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Thames Barrier and the new Olympic Park. The construction billed at around £38 million and the components were sourced and manufactured mostly within the United Kingdom, therefore providing a boost for the local construction and manufacturing sector.

London is a crowded city with over 8 million inhabitants. It is just as well that the Air Line cable cars can carry more than 2,000 passengers per hour in both directions. Cabins arrive at the pick-up points every 30 seconds and total journey time is five minutes (peak) and 10 minutes if off-peak, when it is less busy. The cabins and line are fully accessible to all passengers, being designed with step-free access and additional space for bicycles. Each cabin can carry up to 10 people at a time, making Emirates’  first venture into land-based transportation family and group friendly.

Children under 5 years get free entrance. All children under 12 can only ride with an attendant supervising adult. For everyone else, boarding passes can be purchased from the terminals at either end of the Emirates Air Line, or you can top up a Oystercard at any shop or Tube station that has the Oyster blue livery/signage visible.

The official logo (c) Turquoise Brand Ltd. Inc.


Adult Single – £4.30 (£3.20 with Oystercard)

Adult Return – £8.60 (£6.40 with Oystercard

Child (5-15 years of age) Single – £2.20 (£1.60 with Oystercard)

Child Return – £4.40 (£3.20 with Oystercard)

Oystercard discounts also apply to pensioners holding Freedom Passes and to anyone holding a Travelcard (either Oyster or printed card version). If you buy a multi-trip Boarding Pass, you can reduce the cost of a single journey to only £1.60.


Summer timetable (to 30th September 2012)

Mon-Fri: 0700-2100

Sat: 0800-2100

Sun: 0900-2100

Peak times/peak hour services (the busiest times for passenger usage): 0700-1000 & 1500-2100

For real-time service updates, you can visit the Emirates Air Line at www.tfl.gov.uk/emiratesairline or follow on Twitter – @EmiratesAirLDN

Looking towards the O2 from 90m above the Thames © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This article was written using information distributed by Transport for London.

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