diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 02, 2012

You'll be wanting an update, I'm sure, on latest progress towards the construction of the ArabFly Dangleway. In case you've forgotten, that's the cross-river cablecar which'll link a South London private entertainment venue to an East London private exhibition venue. The skyline connection which'll be of far greater interest to tourists than commuters. The sponsored aerial pod-link which the Mayor is part-funding from the public purse. That ArabFly Dangleway. How's it coming on? Rather well, since you ask.

ArabFly North Greenwich: The last time I was here, and had a cup of tea in the works canteen, there wasn't a lot to see. A pile of scaffolding rising from razed earth, with an upper deck picked out in timber, nothing more. Two months later, quite a change. The southern station is now clearly evident, with its upper platform supported by a thick central concrete block. The top level is long with one curved end, like a collapsed letter U. Tall white pillars stand ready to hold up a wall of glass, rising to further white latticework crossing the roof. And inside, or what will one day be inside, the system's machinery is mostly in place. At the riverward end it's already encased in plastic, but inshore the innards remain visible. It looks like the top shelf in a tyre showroom, with a collection of rubber wheels squished up in a curving line, ready to carry the various gondolas and their human contents as they swing round for embarkation [photo]. A few connecting staircases are evident, most for engineering use, one merely a ladder. And at the heart of it all a giant red wheel ready to rotate and move the cable around, if only there were a cable, which as yet there isn't [photo]. Plus, if all that weren't enough, a second building of similar size (but less interesting architecture) has appeared alongside. This is for the storage and maintenance of whichever of the 34 cabins aren't in motion across the river, and it too has an upper ringway of tightly-packed tyres. You won't be able to see much of any of this later, not from the outside, but for now the mechanics of the various interiors are plain to see. [photo]

South Main Tower: This is the big one, rising from the Thames off the Queen Elizabeth Pier. Or at least it will be the big one. It's not risen yet much further than water level, but a salvage platform stands guard by the site, piling complete, awaiting uplift. On the riverbank are two ginormous cranes, bowing towards each other and interlocked, or maybe it's one giant X-shaped crane looming high [photo]. Whatever, when the tower finally ascends, expect a spectacle.

North Main Tower: Across in Newham, the massive tower will rise from land not water. It's visible too, or at least the lowest cylinder of white metal is. Bolted securely to reclaimed industrial land, this first stage of pylon will support hundreds of thousands of sightseeing passovers during the cablecar's first year. It looks secure enough, so do try not to worry when you cross.

North Intermediate Tower: But this one's up and ready. It's the smallest of the three masts, designed to help lift skyward pods over the Royal Docks, but it still towers higher than anything else in the surrounding area. Elegant, twisted and thin, it rises to a narrow Y-shaped peak - a bit like a giant razor blade but where the blade's fallen off. Up top, all the necessary connecting shenanigans is already in place. Two arcs of wheels, over which each individual cablecar will joltingly pass. A gantry each side, presumably for maintenance, and not for use as a public escape route during the forthcoming disaster movie Dangleway Doom. And a balancing connecting bit, to support the whole thing high in the sky, as necessary. You might expect the view from up there to be stunning, and it might be, so long as you only look in certain directions. Look straight down in the immediate vicinity of the North Intermediate Tower and you'll see one of the ugliest landscapes that East London has to offer. The surrounding land is either industrial or post industrial. Open patches of earth await inward investment, should anybody ever care. High metal fences bar public access. Dock Road, running along the foot of the flyover, is home to wheelie bins, skips and minor commercial enterprises of the kind you'd normally hide beneath railway arches. Every so often a DLR train glides by, adding a welcome splash of colour [photo]. But, word of advice, don't look down, keep your eyes firmly fixed on the river, the Dome or the distant City skyscape.

ArabFly Royal Docks: The station on the northern side of the river is progressing a little slower than its southern counterpart. This station's different in that it's surrounded on three sides by water, built on a platform in the Royal Victoria Dock, so that'll have slowed things down a bit. Construction is ably assisted by the Haven SeaJack 3, a jack-up barge hired from Harwich, upon which a large crane has been positioned. All of the station's mechanics are nearly ready up top, exposed wheel-runners and all, but work has only just begun on the surrounding white cage. From the quayside it's easy to see the concrete station building underneath, with a selection of interior rooms and passages awaiting fit-out. Some of this will be a ticket office (see, I told you it was a tourist attraction), some will be steps for climbing to embarkation level, and some will be for the selling of coffee, pastries, and anything else that passengers can't be without for their five minute river-glide. The whole thing reminds me somehow of a giant hairdrier, or more likely a raygun lined up to fire across the Thames (precisely aimed at another raygun pointing back the opposite way). [photo]

The entire cablecar system should be ready during the summer, weather permitting, not that anybody's promising which side of the Olympics that'll be. And there'll be another brand new tourist attraction to see, should you fly in from North Greenwich, immediately after you exit the northside station...

The Crystal: This might not yet be on your radar, but a massive new spiky-shaped building is under construction at the western end of the Royal Victoria Dock [photo]. It's called the Crystal, and it's being built by German conglomerate Siemens to inspire and showcase "sustainable living choices". Inside, when it's finished, will be a major public exhibition, a 270-seat auditorium, and various other forward-looking facilities and technologies. The brochure describes this a "global knowledge hub that helps a diverse range of audiences learn and understand how we can all work to build better cities for ourselves and for future generations," which is the sort of language that reeks of tedious corporate worthiness, but I'd like to resist pre-judging the place before it opens in the summer. It's primed ready to attract Olympic crowds, those wandering ticketless around town with nothing better to do but swallow advertorial dressed up as education. And it's nearing completion, externally at least, like somebody dropped a huge new glass-panelled concert hall in the middle of nowheresville Newham. It'll be on your radar soon, The Crystal, trust me. And this July you might just ride from a mobile-sponsored Dome via an airline-sponsored cablecar to an engineering-sponsored sustainability exhibition. The future awaits.

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