First Operated: 2012
Type: Gondola Lift
Length: 0.68 Miles/ 1.1 km
Height: 90 m/ 300 ft
No. of Cars: 34
The Emirates Air Line is a cable car system across the River Thames in East London operated by Transport for London built with sponsorship from the airline company ‘Emirates’, the service opened on 28th June 2012.
In July 2010 TfL announced the service which comprises of a 1km (0.62 miles) gondola cable car line that crosses the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Victoria Dock linking ‘The O2‘ and ‘ExCeL London’. Construction began in August 2011 and is based on Monocable Detachable Gondola (MDG) technology which used a single cable for both propulsion and support, it is cheaper than the more complex three-cable system which allows for larger capacity cars.
TfL announced plans to develop the cable car on 4th July 2010 which would be the first urban cable car system in the United Kingdom. The Emirates Air Line is designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Expedition Engineering and crosses the river at a peak height of 90m (300ft) and provides a crossing every 15 seconds carrying up to 2500 passengers per hour in each direction. The Emirates Air Line can also take bicycles plus users can pay for a journey using an Oyster Card.
A planning application was submitted to the London Borough of Newham in October 2010 for erection of the cable car which spans 1100m (3600 ft) at a minimum clearance of 54.1m (177 ft) above mean high water springs, the application included erection of two towers, the north main tower at a height of 87m (285 ft) at Clyde Wharf and a north intermediate tower south of the DLR tracks near Thames Wharf, it also included a two storey gondola station and boat impact protection in the Royal Victoria Dock. The Royal Borough of Greenwich also received a planning application for the erection of a southern tower on the banks of the Thames and another two storey gondola station and gondola shed for overnight storage and maintenance.
TfL initially budgeted £25 million for the project which was later revised to £45 million and by September 2011 it had risen to £60 as TfL had not taken into account the cost of legal advice, project management, land acquisition and other costs, TfL planned to make up the shortfall from the London Rail budget, applying from funding from the European Regional Development Find and commercial sponsorship. The European Regional Development Fund later supplied €9.7 million towards the cost. Mace had been selected as the lead contractor of the cable car which agreed to build it for £45 million and would operate it for the first three years for an additional £5.5 million, construction began in August 2011 and TfL started the construction funding would be paid for using the £36 million from the Emirates sponsorship and the rest funded from fares. The cable car is the most expensive cable system ever built.
News International was planing to sponsor the cable car in January 2011 however they later withdrew their offer, in October 2011 the Dubai based airline company ‘Emirates’ announced they were to sponsor the cable car for £36 million for a 10 year sponsorship which included branding of the cable car and stations with the airline’s name.
In May 2012 TfL announced that the Emirates Air Line would open prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games despite many delays and although it wasn’t 100% sure that the service would open prior there were plans in place for if it did as the service links two London 2012 Olympic venues, it eventually opened on 28th June 2012 at midday. The final cost of the project was £60 million of which £45 million went towards construction, there are 34 gondolas each with a capacity of 10 passengers.
The Emirates Air Line first appeared on the Tube Map in December 2011 as ‘Under Construction’ and appeared as completed in June 2012, it is the first sponsor to have a company logo on the Tube Map. It is represented by a triple red line which is the first time something has been represented by a triple line on the Tube Map as other non London Underground lines such as the DLR and London Overground are represented by a double stripe and London Underground lines are represented by solid lines.
The logo is a red cartouche shape containing the ‘Emirates’ logo and TfL roundel featuring the word ‘Air-Line’ although the actual name does not feature the hyphen, the journey is referred to as a ‘flight’ and the service uses marketing language from the airline industry using phrases such as ‘boarding passes’ and ‘take off’. The wraps were designed by Studio Am and each cable car features a different destination that Emirates flies to with graphics representing the cities.
Journey Times and Fares
The adult single cash fare for a boarding pass is £4.30 or £3.20 when using an Oyster Card and for children it’s £2.20 or £1.60 when using an Oyster Card, Travelcards are not valid on the Emirates Air Line. Other fares include a “360” round trip which is double the single fare which allows a passenger to make a complete round trip without having to exit the cable car which can only be purchased as a paper ticket. Adults can also purchase a ‘Frequent Flyer’ ticket for £16 which allows for 10 journeys within a year. Oyster users who make 5 journeys within a week will receive a 50% refund which is available for 6 weeks, the refund will be available on the users Oyster Card once they touch their card on a reader at an Emirates Air Line station the following week.The Emirates Air Line opening times are as follows:
Summer (01/04 – 30/09):
- Monday – Friday: 07:00 – 21:00
- Saturday: 08:00 – 21:00
- Sunday: 09:00 – 21:00
- Monday – Friday: 07:00 – 20:00
- Saturday: 08:00 – 20:00
- Sunday: 09:00 – 20:00
A crossing takes 10 minutes before 10:00 & after 15:00 and 5 minutes between 10:00 & 15:00 although this may be extended during busy periods.
As part of the sponsorship deal both station names are proceeded by the sponsor ‘Emirates’, the stations are:
Emirates Royal Docks:
Emirates Royal Docks is on the eastern end of the cable car line and is situated in the Royal Victoria Dock close to ExCeL London, the closest interchange is with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) at Royal Victoria Station.
Emirates Greenwich Peninsula:
Emirates Greenwich Peninsula is on the western end of the cable car line and is situated in the Greenwich Peninsula close to The O2, the closest interchanges are with the London Underground Jubilee Line at North Greenwich Station and London River Services at North Greenwich Pier.