diamond geezer

 Friday, June 29, 2012

www.flickr.com: my Dangleway gallery
There are 28 photographs altogether [gallery] [slideshow]

London's new cable car launched yesterday. Boris and the media got to play on it in the morning, and then at noon the gates were opened to the public to take a ride. Queues had built up on both sides of the river, as you'd expect when there's a whopping great piece of fresh transport infrastructure to play with. The problem with such queues is that you get to share your cabin with randomly selected "other members of the public", and the overhead glide isn't then quite so personal. But later in the afternoon visitor numbers had thinned out enough to allow sparser boarding, even an entire cabin to yourself, without the need to fork out £86 for the privilege. Day 1 was certainly popular, but perhaps not as popular as I'd have expected.
Lesson 1: try to come at an un-busy time.

The terminal buildings look a bit like a giant hairdrier, U-shaped with a glass-walled upper storey. At the head of the curve is the ticket office, where you can queue at the window to buy your thematically-named "boarding pass". There are also ticket machines, some of which are already prone to breaking down. If anything yesterday the queues for the machines were longer than the queues at the ticket windows, which just shows how willing 21st century consumers are to put real humans out of a job. But you can ignore all of that if you have Oyster Pay-As-You-Go, and wander straight in up the left-hand side.
Lesson 2: best top up your Oyster card before you arrive.

As you pass through, you might like to read the delusional promotional texts that airline PR folk have stickered to the walls. A giant Dizzee Rascal urges riders to look towards Poplar to see his old school (not a hope of that). We're told that "William Turner" was inspired to start painting in Brentford (which is thirteen miles away, and they've got the wrong painter - try JMW). Charlie Chaplin was apparently born "just down the river from this very spot" (no, upriver, in faraway Lambeth), while Alfred Hitchcock was born "just down the road in Leytonstone". And so it goes on, with references to Big Ben and Frost Fairs and mini skirts (the latter supposedly big in Chelsea). This Thames-obsessed parade of irrelevance is clearly aimed at engaging people who don't know London well, and appears to have been written by one of them too.
Lesson 3: this is definitely an attraction aimed at tourists, not commuters.

At the far end of the ground floor, through the ticket gates, is a space where you're free to stop and watch the gondolas taking off and landing. Do stop and gawp, especially if any unwelcome passengers are passing (eg a family with small loud children), because you might then avoid standing next to them in the queue upstairs. There's a lift if you need one, which is also the way that cyclists get their bikes through. This is the only cycle-friendly route across the river between Tower Bridge and the Woolwich Ferry, so it's sure to be welcomed.
Lesson 4: try not to queue next to anyone you wouldn't want to share a cabin with.

You rise up into the boarding area, at the heart of the machine, where a giant wheel powers the cabins in, round and out. It reminded me of queueing for a theme park ride, which I guess is highly appropriate. Watch out for the control panel with its emergency stop buttons, and the sequence of grinning Londoners waving slightly too excitedly from the video wall. If you're on the North Greenwich side, also look straight ahead to see the tracks to the shed where they store the gondolas overnight. All the boarding staff are dressed smartly in black like stewards or stewardesses, even though they really work for a construction company. They'll likely try to get you to share a cabin, but it may not take much to persuade them otherwise if the queue's light.
Lesson 5: ask to take the next empty cabin, you might succeed.

And you're off. As the cabin swings round, and the doors close, suddenly there is no escape. If it turns out you have no head for heights, there's nothing you can do now except endure the flight to the other side, all 1103 metres of it. You take off fairly sharply, rising swiftly into the sky, much faster than is ever the case on the London Eye. The usual speed is six metres a second, but they plan to slow things down to half that between 10am and 3pm to provide a longer tourist experience. Before long a disembodied voice kicks in, welcoming you aboard on your ascent to "a cruising height 295 feet". The airline-themed branding could be a lot worse, to be honest, and the interior of the carriage is a lot less Emirates-y than the stickered outside.
Lesson 6: unless you're in a hurry, you'll get best value between 10am and 3pm.

It is a little bit humpety-bumpety as you roll over the top of the tower, but nothing too bad. If it's windy, you'll definitely notice. If it's hot and humid, a couple of high-up opening windows provide some ventilation. If it's wet, expect the glass to be too blotchy to take any decent photos through. But what most seems to unnerve the unwary on the way across are the unscheduled stops when a wheelchair user needs to board at either end. The cable grinds almost to a halt, everyone's left dangling in midair and the disembodied voice leaps in with a few words of reassurance. Each stop adds about a minute to your ride, an extra 20% of airtime, which if you're trying to get your money's worth is actually really good.
Lesson 7: it's not that scary, but if you get vertigo, think twice.

And what of the view? The two main highlights are the Thames and the Dome, and then perhaps Canary Wharf in the middle distance. The cablecar rises much higher than the Dome, almost as high as its crown of yellow spikes, and so provides a much better view than the "climb to the top of the O2 for £22" attraction that opened there this week. Closer by, the landscape isn't especially lovely. On the North Greenwich side it's mostly car parks, plus space where one day flats might be built. On the Royal Docks side, the entire waterfront area is given over to scrap yards, rubbish dumps, warehouse facilities and factories, which almost certainly isn't what tourists were expecting, but might have a certain post-industrial charm.
Lesson 8: best come on a sunny day, because it'll look drab when it's grey.

Look further afield and you'll soon see how incredibly flat East London is. Shooters Hill is the only outpost with significant contours, otherwise the landscape's level to the horizon across umpteen square miles of ever-decreasing housing estates. Downriver the Thames Barrier should be clearly seen, the M25's QE2 bridge considerably less so. The Olympic Stadium's very visible if you look carefully, if a bit small, also the Orbit alongside. The City's skyscrapers are outgunned by those in Docklands, and the Shard spends most of its time hidden behind the Canary Wharf cluster. If you've picked up the in-flight map before you boarded, that should help you to identify a few more famous-ish sights in amongst the indistinguishable urban sprawl.
Lesson 9: you may need to ask for the map, try at the ticket office.

And before long you're descending again to the second terminal on the other side of the river. The last few seconds are slightly turbulent, like a plane coming into land, but nothing in any way disconcerting. Expect a mild disconnect as you step out of the moving cabin onto the platform, and then it's back down the stairs to ground level. There are further gates to pass through - this is where Oyster swipes your money - and then you walk out onto the piazza and decide what to do next. Many people yesterday were milling around for a while before deciding to go back again, which does instantly double the price of your day out, and the view is obviously identical. It could be a nice little money earner for TfL, but only if riders continue to turn up, and that's yet to be proven. I suspect the cablecar is something some many Londoners will do once and enjoy, probably sooner rather than later, but most will never come anywhere near.
Lesson 10: long term, the future's reliant on getting tourists out here.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards