diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dangleway update

1) Fares

Somehow overlooked in the annual fuss about TfL fare rises was how the cost of your next aerial Thames crossing will be affected.

Cost of a single cablecar journey
Regular user£1.60£1.60£1.60£1.70
Discovery Experience---£10.70

The 10p increase for cash and Oyster journeys is very much in line with the 2.5% average fare rise overall. But be warned that if you turn up with only a bank card you'll have to pay the full £4.50 because contactless isn't yet accepted on the cablecar. Meanwhile that rare breed the 'regular user' faces a 6.3% increase, but that's after a big zero last year, and maintains the saver price at half of the Oyster fare. So, no surprises.

2) Rebranding

But what's this brand new 'Discovery Experience' which has appeared in the fare tables for the first time. Whatever it is it costs £10.70, and it's so new it doesn't officially have a price increase. A footnote explains.
The Discovery Experience Package includes a non-stop return fare with in-flight discovery film, souvenir in-flight guide and entrance to Emirates Aviation Experience.
I thought this sounded very familiar, so I checked the current website, and yes it already exists (for £10).
The Full Experience Package includes a non-stop round-trip, free entrance to Emirates Aviation Experience and a souvenir in-flight guide.
Which is exactly the same customer offer now as you'll get in January, but rebranded with a different title so that TfL can pretend there isn't a 70p price rise. Naughty.

3) Upselling

Recently this monstrosity has appeared in the entrance hall at North Greenwich station, immediately in front of the top of the escalator. You can't possibly miss it.

A spare gondola hangs from the ceiling, airline branded, beneath which is a big advert for the cablecar, "just a short walk from here". Beneath that is a list of fares (which, given all the possible combinations of single, return, Oyster, Experience and riverboat, is remarkably complicated). And below that, behind the counter of a semi-permanent red booth, is a member of staff waiting patiently to sell you a ticket. Mid-evening midweek she'll be standing around like a spare part because nobody's interested. But come at the weekend and you'll encounter a surprisingly large cluster of visitors keen to participate, chattering away because they can't read the fare list (and they wouldn't understand it anyway), proffering their credit cards in exchange for a journey pass.

It's TfL's station and they can do what they like, but this all-out grab for the tourist dollar is an uncharacteristically commercial gesture.

4) In-flight movie

Last time you travelled on the cablecar you may remember it being a quiet experience. No more. A 'feature tour' has been installed, playing on the video screen throughout your flight and blaring out from an Emirates-branded panel in the roof. Various experts (very few of whom are female) then pop up and tell you about the attractions and heritage to be found in the surrounding area, with two completely different films playing north and south. It's very professionally done, but also bloody annoying when all you really want to do is look out of the window. Top tip - tell the operator immediately before you board and they can turn it off, otherwise you're stuck with this ill-judged intrusion for eight and a half minutes.

5) Touristification

Fly into the North Greenwich terminal, descend to ground level and you'll stumble across the latest added cablecar extra - a themed photo booth. A spare cabin has been set up immediately before the ticket barrier, in one direction only, allowing you to pop in and grab yourself a souvenir photograph. Simply touch the screen to start, wriggle into place in front of the branded backdrop and you can 'collect' your souvenir photo as you exit. They very much hope you'll share it - it's not free for nothing, you know.

Also prominently positioned on the way out is a large new-ish electronic display allowing you to interact with the geographical extent of Emirates' global network, which most visitors stop and press. And then of course there's the Emirates Aviation Experience, which is a single room full of marketing material masquerading as infotainment. Northbound passengers get rather less in the way of distractions, only a rather sorry looking machine offering to dispense a souvenir Emirates coin. But next time someone tries to tell you that sponsoring the tube wouldn't be that bad, remember how tacky the cablecar is, and resist.

6) Passenger numbers

What with all this relentless focus on marketing, it won't surprise you to hear that passenger numbers on the cablecar are up, depending that is on how and when you count. Half term week had almost double the number of riders as the same time last year, and the remaining weeks of October showed an 8% rise on 2013. The first week of November, however, showed almost no change, and August saw a definite fall.

Whatever, all the evidence continues to suggest that people are riding TfL's public-funded cablecar for the view and not, as was originally intended, as a way of getting from A to B. There again, if you come after dark you can pretty much guarantee floating alone above the Thames and enjoying the twinkling lights of East London, and that beats arriving on the other side any day.

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