diamond geezer

 Monday, May 14, 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? Nearly complete, since you ask.

It's now a cablecar with cables, indeed has been for a while. But it's also now a cablecar with pods, lots of them, strung out across the Thames like baubles on a Christmas decoration [photo]. They've been testing the system recently, first a little, now a lot, to prepare the Dangleway for opening whenever that might be. Officially the word is "summer", because officially there's absolutely no suggestion it might be running before the Olympics. Unofficially, it'll blatantly be ready before the Olympics, because the cars are already running empty, and because the Dangleway has no other justifiable reason for existence. There's more on the latest round of testing from Ian Visits here. And below.

ArabFly North Greenwich: We have a station. It's still hemmed in behind blue boarding, but the curving two storey building is now built and surfaced. Pods land and halt behind the plastic screening [photo], then slowly edge round to launch off into the air again [photo]. You'll be climbing the stairs to the boarding zone this summer, yes you will, a bit like embarking on a ride at a theme park. That's after your four minute walk from the tube station, or your four minute walk from the nearest bus stop, unless anyone decides to add a new bus stop anywhere closer in the next couple of months. A fair few spectators were standing around this weekend, wandering slightly further from the Dome than any tourist rightly has need, to gawp at the novel sideshow appearing in the sky. A lone bloke with a camera, a Dad with daughters on silver scooters, a couple making their way back to their parked car, all seemed duly impressed. I kept looking for the mountain, because cablecars always feel like they should go up something rather than over, but this is no ordinary engineering structure. And it's all reassuringly unbranded so far, bar the name of the sponsor emblazoned across the slender base of each pod, although I doubt that'll last. [photo]

ArabFly Dangleway: Up it goes, up and swiftly up, to that first gentle rattle over the top of the high tower [video]. It didn't look too bumpy up there, from what I saw, although the pods are small and potential passengers need to expect some swaying during their journey. This being a test run there were plenty of stops and starts, and each stop brought gentle rocking as the momentum in each pod slowly dissipated. If you don't have a head for heights, and especially if you don't think you'd cope with being suspended by a cable in a not entirely stable way, then I'd recommend taking your potential panic attack elsewhere. Dangleway workers must be made of sterner stuff. I watched two orange-clad figures take a ride out in a maintenance gondola, stopping at the North main tower to clamber out and tweak some part of the overhead mechanism. The view from up there must be impressive, so long as you keep your eyes on the river and the middle distance, and definitely not on the industrial wasteland immediately inland. The area on the northern bank of the Thames is especially hideous, which may not be what tourists to London are expecting.

Dangleway fact: When the system's up and running at speed, I observed a new pod emerging from the station every 21 seconds.
Dangleway fact: I counted a maximum of 24 pods in the air at any one time, that's 12 in each direction.
Dangleway conclusion: 12 visible pods means 13 gaps. If each gap is 21 seconds travel, then it'll take somewhere between 4½ and 5 minutes to cross from one station to the other.

ArabFly Dangleway: Down come the pods, across the DLR, a dual carriageway and a Thai restaurant [photo]. The latter could definitely do with any increased trade the Dangleway might bring - it was nigh empty at the height of lunchtime yesterday, as it's been every time I've passed. Also hoping for a boost will be The Crystal, a brand new visitor attraction sponsored by Siemens and based on (stay awake there) sustainability. Its jagged form is substantially complete, now being fitted out inside, and it too should be ready to receive Olympic visitors in July. Planes from London City Airport scream overhead, ascending fast, but rest assured they're still high enough not to slam catastrophically into the cable as they pass. Time your Dangleway journey right, however, and an oncoming jet could be quite a sight. [photo]

ArabFly Royal Docks: The descending cable runs low across the walkway at the end of the Royal Victoria Dock, slanted at a fairly steep angle for passengers coming in to land [video]. The station's pretty much identical to that at the North Greenwich end, although it's easier here to stare into the machinery around the inner platform [photo]. And there's just as little of interest outside. A hotel or three, a Londis and a brand new Tesco Express, plus blocks of characterless apartments perched above their own private gyms. Turn left and there's a pub, the Tidal Basin Tavern, long since closed and boarded up. Turn right and a six minute walk will take you to the western entrance of the ExCel exhibition centre. That's walking fast, and that's longer than the cablecar ride across the Thames. Tourists may struggle to find something to do if there's no exhibition on, apart from admire the giant cranes lined up along the wharfside. Or more likely turn back and admire the miniature pods strung out across the dock and river, before forking out again for the return journey [photo]. You'll be doing just that within the next couple of months, I'll bet. But whether or not you'll come again a second time, that'll be the key measure of the Dangleway's success.

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