diamond geezer

 Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This is the 5000th post on diamond geezer. Hold on, it's going to be a long one.

As I predicted, East London's cablecar is indeed due to open later this month.
Arabfly Dangleway to open to passengers from end of June.
Passengers will be able to take the first flight from midday Thursday 28 June 2012.
Having refused to say anything about the opening date other than "summer 2012", for fear of looking stupid if things went badly, TfL will now have the new project open in time for the Olympics. That's convenient, and a bit of a relief, given that the Games should provide one of the few opportunities for genuine passenger demand.
The Mayor of London will fulfill his pledge to build the UK's first urban cable car when the Arabfly Dangleway opens to the public from midday on Thursday 28 June 2012, providing a vital new river crossing for east London.
Boris has pushed through his vanity project in a little over a year, aided by insufficient sponsorship money and a stash of taxpayers' cash. Although East London certainly needs more river crossings, it's hard to argue that a solution for pedestrians and cyclists only is the most efficient way to hike people across the Thames. As I've mentioned several times before, the cablecar goes from nowhere quite useful to nowhere quite useful, along a route few normal commuters would ever need to use. Instead it's far more likely to be frequented by tourists, come to see the "delights" of East London, if the sponsored tube map can tempt them out.
The 1.1km long river crossing, between Greenwich and the Royal Docks, will have the capacity to carry up to 2,500 people per hour in each direction, the equivalent of 30 buses.
What TfL fail to mention is that the Dangleway's theoretical maximum hourly capacity is also the equivalent of only three full Jubilee line trains. But I'm having trouble with their figure of 2500. Each gondola carries a maximum of ten passengers, according to the FAQ. This suggests 250 crossings an hour, or just over four cars a minute. But according to the timetable "cabins arrive every 30 seconds", which is only half the necessary throughflow. 2500 people per hour in total perhaps, but not each way.
Initially it will operate seven days a week, from 07:00 to 21:00 Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 21:00 on Saturdays and 09:00 to 21:00 on Sundays.
For comparison, the tube and DLR run from approximately 05:30 to well after midnight six days a week, with start and finish curtailed by an hour on Sundays. The Dangleway isn't going to be useful for early risers or those attempting to get home late... apart from during special events when operating times may be extended up to 00:00. What TfL haven't yet broadcast widely is that 9pm is the cablecar's closing time only between April and September. There'll be an 8pm shutdown during the dark half of the year, so any commuters had better get home quick.
Transport for London confirmed today that passengers will be able to touch in at the gates with their Oyster pay as you go cards to take a flight on the Arabfly Dangleway; and that they have developed a 'frequent flyer' boarding pass for regular users, which will allow them to make 10 single journeys for £16, equating to just £1.60 per single journey. The frequent flyer boarding pass will appeal to people living or working in the local area who wish to use the Arabfly Dangleway on a regular basis and will be available to purchase from both Arabfly Dangleway terminals.
Sounds reasonable, so far, doesn't it? You can use your Oyster card, and the cost of travel is just £1.60 a ride. But that's not quite what it says. £1.60 is the price only for mythical commuters who need to travel regularly between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks, or for anyone who thinks they might use the cablecar ten times in a 12 month period.
A single fare boarding pass using Oyster pay as you go for the Arabfly Dangleway will cost £3.20 (child fare £1.60).
£3.20 is at the upper end of the price range that anyone might have predicted, and seems a bit steep. For comparison, the price to make the same journey using the Jubilee line and DLR (via Canning Town) is less than half that - a maximum of £1.50. You won't be riding the cablecar because it's cheaper, not even with a 'frequent flyer' pass. This £3.20 single is the only fare you can pay by flashing your Oyster card at the barrier. For all other fares a boarding pass is required, the purchase of which will add extra time to your journey. At most tube stations across town TfL is busy trying to make the ticket office redundant, whereas here it's an integral part of the design.
Passengers with a Travelcard or other Oyster cards (including Freedom Passes) will be able to fly for the same fare but will need to buy a boarding pass from ticket offices or vending machines which are available at both terminals, Arabfly Greenwich Peninsula and Arabfly Royal Docks.
I pay well over £1000 a year for my zones 1-3 Travelcard, which I might have hoped would include the cablecar. Not so. Despite flying firmly through Zone 3, I'm going to have to fork out £3.20 every time I ride this way, compared to zero additional surcharge for taking the tube. Folk with Freedom Passes get to pay too, rather than travelling for nothing, presumably to stop the gondolas being filled with circulating pensioners during the day. For comparison, riverboat services have a similar arrangement whereby Travelcards can be used to pay a non-trivial amount at a reduced rate. Even so, a boat trip across the river from North Greenwich costs only £2.40, so the cablecar's still considerably more expensive. The high fare is a strong hint that the Dangleway isn't genuinely part of London's public transport network, it's a tourist-facing add-on which needs to make its money from one-off passengers.
Passengers without an Oyster or Travelcard will need to pay a slightly higher cash fare.
Turn up without Oyster, and you'll pay £4.30. That's 86p a minute, which is more expensive than a spin round the London Eye, or the equivalent of spending only half an hour at Madame Tussauds. It turns out Travelcard users are only getting a 25% discount on this full fare, which is less than the one-third discount we enjoy on riverboat services.
For those who want the experience of an extended journey to enjoy the fantastic views of the City, which include Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and the Olympic Park, there will be the option to take a non-stop return journey. This '360 degree tour' will cost £6.40 with Oyster.
I find it slightly misleading to describe a straight line there and back as a '360 degree tour'. In truth, all you're getting is twice as long to stare out beyond East London's industrial hinterland, hardly the most desirable view the capital has to offer. And that's no special return fare, it's merely the single fare doubled. This 'extended' ticket is almost an admission that there's nothing much to see on the other side, so you might as well just turn round and come straight back again.
Oyster Pay as you go users can also receive a multi journey discount, equivalent to £1.60 per single journey. To receive the discount, passengers have to travel for 5 or more journeys in a week (Sunday to Saturday) by swiping their cards at the barrier. They will initially be charged the normal Oyster discounted fare of £3.20 (adults) and a refund of 50% will be available in the following week by swiping their cards on the Dangleway ticket barriers as they make their first journey in the following week. The refund will remain available for 6 weeks (to cover holidays or other absences).
In case you hoped you might earn a multi journey discount by riding back and forth several times, no you won't. The automatic Oyster discount is aimed at regular travellers only, should they exist, because you'll only earn the discount by coming back next week. Even then you'll have to pay another full price £3.20 at the gate, which is then refundable the following week, and so the charade begins again.

Let's summarise the ticket options...
What’s the difference between the boarding passes?
The Arabfly Dangleway is not part of the general London travelcard system. Passengers wishing to use the Arabfly Dangleway must purchase a boarding pass or use Oyster Pay as you go. There are three boarding pass types on the Arabfly Dangleway.
• Single boarding pass allow a single trip on the Arabfly Dangleway.
• Return boarding pass allow the passenger to make a return journey on the Arabfly Dangleway on the day of purchase.
• '360' boarding pass or private hire allow the passenger one continuous trip on the Arabfly Dangleway travelling from one terminal to the other and back.
A 25% discount is available on single and return journeys if the passenger is using Oyster Pay As You Go or has a valid travelcard or freedom pass. Multi trip boarding passes are available for regular users at discounted prices. These can be purchased at the ticket office, or for Oyster users this will be calculated automatically.
Yes, that's a private hire option, should anyone be interested in an exclusive pod. This'll cost £86 for any number of passengers up to ten, and for that you get one ten-minute round trip. Or maybe double that. Here's something nobody was expecting...
Journey time
Before 10:00 and after 15:00
- approximately five minutes.
Between 10:00 and 15:00 - approximately 10 minutes.
You read that right. The Dangleway is a two-speed transport service, because in the middle of the day the gondolas will slow down to make their journey in ten minutes rather than five. This is a blatant admission that the prime function of the cablecar between peak hours is to act as a tourist attraction. If you've got an urgent lunchtime appointment on the other side of the river, don't waste your time on the Dangleway, take the tube. TfL's timetable notes that "during busy periods, the extended journey time may not be available." But I wonder if an unintended consequence of this slowdown will be to suffocate tourist numbers at other times. If you're only here for the view, why the hell would you bother turning up at 09:30, or 19:30, or even 16:01?
Are pregnant women allowed on the Arabfly Dangleway?
Pregnant women are welcome to travel on the Dangleway. Just like travelling in a plane however, this would be at their own discretion. The cabins themselves are designed to move whilst travelling between the two terminals which is entirely safe but may cause discomfort to passengers who suffer from nausea. If you are pregnant and are unsure whether it is a good idea to travel on the Dangleway, please consult your doctor first.
I'm glad we've cleared that one up.
If there are adverse weather conditions, how do I know if the Arabfly Dangleway is operational?
www.tfl.gov.uk/arabflydangleway for more detailed information. At stations on the underground, DLR and Overground networks Service update screens (Rainbow boards) will also keep you informed as to the status of the Arabfly Dangleway.
I'm afraid so. While Rainbow boards currently keep London updated regarding delays to tube, DLR and Overground, from next week the cablecar will nudge in with a row of its own. You may not care that there are overhead wire problems in Silvertown, nor that the service has closed down for the evening, but the latest updates on Dangleway status will blare out from the list all the same. It's amazing how much influence £36m of sponsorship money gets you, how many different places there are for your branding to intrude. Croydon's Tramlink doesn't get such favouritism, nor riverboat services on the Thames. But, like an aerial Waterloo & City line, this two-stop link fights well above its weight.
Are there car parking facilities?
Passengers are advised to use public transport to get to the Arabfly Dangleway. Buses and tubes are available a short walk away at North Greenwich Underground station at the South terminal, or at Royal Victoria station on the DLR at the North terminal.
Let's check out those "short walk"s using TfL's Journey Planner.
» North Greenwich bus station → Arabfly North Greenwich: 5 minutes
» North Greenwich tube station → Arabfly North Greenwich: 7 minutes
» Royal Victoria DLR station → Arabfly Royal Docks: 7 minutes
» Royal Victoria bus stop → Arabfly Royal Docks: 9 minutes
In particular, there are no good bus connections to either of the Dangleway terminals. On the north side, the walk from the "nearest" bus stop involves hiking up and over the DLR station, which is unexpectedly inconvenient. And on the south side, seven different bus routes run directly past the terminal but none of them stop. Until someone at TfL thinks to plonk a bus stop here (assuming it's even possible), the five minute walk from the bus station remains.

And that's not all. The Arabfly Dangleway boasts its own dedicated website, at www.arabflydangleway.co.uk, which is run by the airline rather than TfL. It's where I found the list of FAQs I referred to earlier ("Are there toilets? No there are not toilets at the Arabfly Dangleway"). The front page is fairly empty but has a countdown to the "inaugural flight", presently 9 days, a few hours and counting. The main advertising concept is that from Thursday week the airline is introducing Two New Destinations - namely "the north and south sides of the Thames". And the list of places the marketing people think the cablecar will help you visit is incredible.
Top Dangleway destinations in North London include: The Royal Albert Hall, the Notting Hill Carnival, Little Venice, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge (which crosses the river) and the Design Museum (which is actually south of the river)
Top Dangleway destinations in South London include: Brixton Market, Brixton Academy, Tower Bridge (which crosses the river), the London Eye, Clapham Common, Battersea Park and Hampton Court (which is actually north of the river)
None of these are within four miles of the cablecar, and most are considerably further away than that. Indeed whoever put these two lists together has summarily ignored East London, where the Dangleway is, preferring to concentrate on the "nicer" parts of the capital out west. This website appears to be part of a foreign-facing campaign to attract visitors to London, in this case by dangling in front of them a selection of tourist attractions with no basis in local reality. Much like the cablecar itself, to be honest.

Let's leave the final word to Tim Clark, the President of Arabfly Airways.
'The Arabfly Dangleway will bridge people closer, enabling them to discover, connect and express their ideas about this diverse city through crossing its majestic river, providing an incredible travel experience for residents, commuters and visitors alike.'
A finer stream of self-important PR codswallop it's hard to imagine. But that's the Dangleway for you. It's been spun as "transforming the surrounding area into a vibrant new metropolitan quarter", whereas in reality it's just an aerial sideshow to lure tourists somewhere new. The engineering's an impressive achievement, to be sure, and you'll probably come once for a ride and help make it an overnight success. But Boris's unholy alliance of public money and corporate branding is more about making a statement than fulfilling a need, and hangs uncomfortably across East London's skyline.

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