With perfect timing, the Dangleway's Autumn marketing campaign has launched this week. A bit of PR money is being splashed around - at stations, on buses and on trains - to make us love and use the cablecar a little more. Might work. Could hardly make things worse.
The campaign has four aims:
to increase awareness of this new route within the local boroughs
to promote the winter timetable that will be in place until 31 March 2013
to increase awareness of Oyster Pay as you go ticketing options
to promote the benefits for regular users
It seems unlikely that residents of Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets have missed the cablecar's birth. You only have to look towards the river and there it is, even from the other side of the borough - a series of small blobs moving across the horizon. What residents may not have realised is precisely where it is (a friend at work thought it launched somewhere near the Tower of London), or that they can use it to get across the river.
It's a dead cert that the cablecar's opening hours aren't widely known. Those who view it as a tourist attraction might be surprised to hear it starts running at 7am on weekdays. Those who view it as a commuter route will be disappointed to hear it stops before the end of the evening. The winter timetable's most important feature is that the gondolas now only run until 8pm, not 9pm. But this also means a significant period of after-dark journey time, so please (please) come and enjoy "the twinkling lights of London".
Most people aren't yet aware that Oyster Pay as you go is an acceptable means of payment. During the Games there were scores of people queueing up to buy tickets, many of whom could have walked straight aboard but didn't realise. But no, it's simple. You just stride up to the gate, swipe, and hey presto, that's £3.20 gone. Think of this as the poor man's London Eye.
And then there are some 'special benefits' for regular users. Travel five times in one week and kerching, 50% of your £16 fare is repaid. There is a catch, which is that the refund only occurs the following calendar week, and only if you ride the cablecar again. But if you're a regular user who rides the cablecar more than five times, good news, half of that total's repaid too.
Except, well, I'm trying to work out who on earth these 'regular users' might be. Who is it who needs to travel from the O2 to ExCel, or thereabouts, on a repeated basis? The campaign poster reproduced above is aimed specifically at these people, whoever they are, if indeed they exist. Are there a significant number of people for whom the cablecar could be a sensible regular travel option, better than the Jubilee line, or are TfL delusional? Let's have a go...
Londoners who could be regular cablecar users
a) People who live on the North Greenwich peninsula and travel regularly to the west end of the Royal Docks i) Cleaners at the hotels alongside ExCel ii) The bloke who works in the Londis opposite the northern terminal iii) Cafe staff at The Crystal iv) People who book themselves into every exhibition at ExCel v)
b) People who live at the west end of the Royal Docks and travel regularly to the North Greenwich peninsula i) TfL employees working at the Pier Walk office block right next to the southern terminal ii) Students at Ravensbourne College iii) River-commuters who want to pick up the Thames Clipper into town iv) Michael Jackson fans who want to attend every night of the Immortal tour at the O2 v)
c) Cyclists (not that I've seen one yet) d) Slightly weird Newham residents who like getting off the DLR one stop away from Canning Town and changing to a means of transport that costs £3.20 extra e) Cablecar fetishists