Yesterday we eagerly headed to North Greenwich to take a spin on the shiney new cables cars on the opening day of the Emirates Air Line. As this is the first urban sky line in the UK, we were keen to get on board and see what all the fuss was about. It isn’t often you get the chance to wing your way over the city, unless you are circling for 45 minutes waiting for a free runway at Heathrow. In fact, this subtle/shoehorned mention of flying leads me on nicely to the fact that all the branding and signage of this new mode of transport is overtly geared to make you feel like you are taking a flight – albiet it a very short one: the ride takes approximately five minutes each way).
We ‘boarded’ at the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula excited to begin our journey but feeling slightly like we were about to get on a rollercoaster or to go skiing, as opposed to just travelling 1.1km to make a fleeting visit to the ExCel Centre.
The pods each hold ten people but on this occasion, we were lucky enough to get one to ourselves which felt rather luxurious. We were asked not to stand during the ride and even though I bounced off the walls peering out all of the windows, the pod felt safe and stable.
Yes, I was rather over excited.
As you ascend up to around 90 meters, London looks truly lovely. You get a great view of the O2 arena, the City and Olympic Park. They claim that you can see St Paul’s but I couldn’t make it out…
For me, the real star of the show was the Thames. The river beneath us looked powerful and resplendent, and it was a great chance to be able to see all the docks and industrial riverside.
The ride itself was incredibly smooth. You move along surprisingly fast – it can be slightly unnerving to see other pods whizzing past you at a great speed.
From the ground, planes going to and from London City Airport seem incredible close and like they could collide with the cables.
Although when you are up there, it doesn’t seem so bad.
At one point we did come to an abrupt standstill (probably to let someone on) that left the pod rocking rather alarmingly. This sent my poor brave photographer who has a fear of heights into a mild frenzy. However, the rest of it was plain sailing.
Is that an angry flock of sea gulls? Nope, it’s just an Antony Gormley sculpture.
We took the full circuit all the way back to Greenwich and it felt like it was over in a flash. Yes, the whole ‘flight’ was a great novelty. I can’t see this catching on as a key commuting route and even though it can carry up to 2,500 passengers every hour, it ain’t got nothing on the capacity of the Tube. It will, however, most probably make a great tourist attraction and a new way for Londoners to see the city. Sonya Barber
Single rides will cost £3.20 with an Oyster card and £4.30 without or £6.40 for a nonstop return journey. For more info, see tfl.gov.uk.