One of London’s newest tourist attractions is a cable car across the River Thames – it’s well worth a ride for the best views of the capital.
I did most of my sightseeing in London years ago. These days, if I ever go to the capital it’s either for work or shopping-with-the-wife duties.
But there’s one attraction I’ve missed out on until now, the cable car across the Thames. It only opened in 2012, just in time to shuttle people between venues for the London Olympic Game. It takes around ten minutes to travel from the O2 Arena to the ExCel Centre, and the Olympic Stadium at Stratford is not too far away from the latter.
After a sponsorship deal, its official name is The Emirates Air Line with ticket prices being subsidised by everyone’s favourite Dubai-based airline. A single trip costs £4.40 (discounted to £3.30 if you have an Oyster card or a day travelcard) – pretty cheap for a one-off tourist experience.
In theory, cockneys could use it to get to work and back (each carriage can take two bicycles), but it’s never really taken off for commuters. One news story I read claims only four regular commuters use the cable car. Londoners moan that it’s expensive (tickets are not included in their Oyster cards), inconvenient (it’s quicker to get the tube with a bit of a walk thrown in) and doesn’t really go anywhere locals want to go. Their loss is tourists gain – I think we were the only Brits in the queue when we visited, and a few non-Londoners I’ve spoken to had never even heard of the cable car.
We took a single trip from the Royal Docks – probably the best way to do it for views, as Canary Wharf and the yellow spikes of the O2 Arena are always facing you. You will just about be able to make out The Shard in the distance, the tallest building in Western Europe, but you wouldn’t think so as it appears to have been shrunk between the towers of the City. The Thames Barriers are to your left with the Olympic Stadium and the strange twisted red of the ArcellorMittal Orbit observational tower to your right.
It was a lovely Spring day, but the wind rocked our ‘gondola’ from side-to-side as we went. Carriages fit up to ten people, and the group of Eastern Europeans we shared ours with looked pretty travel sick.
In no time at all, the ride is over so make the most of it.
How to do it
Take the underground to Canning Town on the Jubilee Line. As Canning Town is in Zone 3, make sure you get a ticket that is valid for zones 1-3. From there, you can either change on to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and get off at Royal Victoria, one stop to the east. Alternatively, follow the signs for Emirates Air Line and walk. It’s a not particularly picturesque fifteen minute walk along a main road – you can’t go wrong as you can actually see the cable car line as you walk towards it.
After paying for your ‘boarding pass’, there may be a long queue but it moves quickly as cars leave every fifteen seconds.
Ten minutes later, you’ll land just outside the O2 Arena. North Greenwich tube station on the Jubilee Line is a five minute walk away, from where you can get back to central London to continue your sightseeing.
***Have you used the cable car?***
***Would you pay £6.60 per day to commute on it?***
***Had you ever heard of it?***