Whilst touring the backwaters of the East End over the weekend, I came across a second Olympic-related prototype. Not a Bus-Top this time. An actual Water Chariot. How excited was I?
Water Chariots, you'll remember, will be running the official waterbus service to the Olympic Park during the 2012 Games. You'll have to remember, I'm afraid, because their entire website was suspended for weekend maintenance on Saturday, and hasn't yet returned to life. I can't wait to see what their revamp looks like, and I hope the information therein is a little more finely-tuned that I told you about on Friday. But I have now seen their prototype craft, being fitted out at Old Ford Lock, and this reveals rather more about their intended business model. [photo]
See how white the Water Chariot is - gleaming white, week-old white. Notice also how wide it is [photo]. This is no narrowboat, this is twice as broad - wide enough fill an entire lock all by itself. It's the size of a typical sightseeing coach, which in effect is what this is. Got to cram the 70 passengers in somehow. The boat is clearly branded "2012 Games Canal Service", because this is an officially recognised form of transport. There's a Union Jack on the side, for tradition, plus a big swirly pink pattern like the tattoo on a snowboarder's arm. Each boat has a name, this one's Chloe-Jean. There's a solid white wall between the central windows, where the Water Chariots logo goes, so you'd better hope you don't get a seat beside that else you're not going to see much. And there's a graphic along the side to illustrate the route (LIMEHOUSE ---- OLYMPIC PARK ---- TOTTENHAM), even though each boat will cover only half of that.
This is the waterbus to the Olympic Park's Western Entrance, as you can see from the blue destination board attached to the side. Other days it'll be the waterbus to Swan Wharf or The IBC Centre (spare boards for other destinations hang on the wall inside the boat). But most importantly, look at the lettering above the window where Water Chariots reveal their true business plan. Sorry, I called this wrong on Friday. It's not a waterbus, it's a "Fast track Express Hospitality Service".
Water Chariots won't be making their Olympic fortune from members of the public. Even at £20 for a single ticket, that's not where the money is. No, it seems the real cash is to be made transporting corporate clients up and down the Lea on their way to a prestige package in a hospitality box. Entice businesses to the river with the promise of a novel waterborne journey to the Olympic Park, throw in some booze and nibbles, and they should pay handsomely. They might even believe the "Fast track Express" bit, at least until they turn up and discover the speed limit is 4mph.
Those seeking the complete corporate hospitality package are being invited to combine their Water Chariots journey with a London Water Taxi. Load your business guests onto a private motor cruiser in Central London, chug down the Thames to Limehouse, then transfer everyone to the canals for a half-hour party afloat. There's even a speedboat option for the initial river section, for companies truly seeking to impress their guests. I especially love this map, on the London Water Taxis website, which has invented a brand new canal through Poplar and Bow that doesn't really exist. Looks fast, looks direct, total fabrication.
Anyway, like I said, Water Chariot number 1 is now being fitted out ready for use. The company has plans for 25 more, of which I reckon less than half will be needed to run the full public waterbus timetable. This leaves more than a dozen gleaming white craft available to dedicate solely to executives, sponsors and businessfolk, all for a fortnight and a half of shameless revenue raising. It's genius really, truly entrepreneurial. And I'm sure, once the Water Chariots website finally returns, that you'll be nipping in to confirm your booking.