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Emirates sponsors Wilkinson Eyre’s Thames cable car


Airline Emirates has signed up to a £36 million sponsorship deal which will see the Wilkinson Eyre-designed Thames cable car branded with its logo and name

The £50.5 million project has already started on site and is due to complete in time for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games next summer.

The transport link will be able to carry 2,500 people per hour and will serve two new stations called Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks.

London mayor Boris Johnson said: ‘This multi-million pound deal is tremendous news for London, helping us to deliver a new addition to the city’s skyline.

‘The Emirates Air Line will be an exciting and innovative mode of transport easing travel for thousands and offering spectacular bird’s eye vistas of our majestic Thames.

‘The UK’s first urban cable car will also act as a vibrant catalyst for the further regeneration of east London helping to attract jobs and investment for the benefit of Londoners.’

It is estimated up to two million passengers a year will use the 1.1km Thames crossing which will have 34 gondola cabins. Journeys are expected to last five minutes.


Previous story (18.04.11)

Wilkinson Eyre’s Thames cable car to start on site this summer

Construction of the Wilkinson Eyre-designed cable car across the River Thames will begin this summer, Transport for London (TfL) has announced

A consortium to build and operate the cable car will be lead by Mace, whose past projects include the London Eye and who are currently constructing the Shard Tower in London.

Mark Reynolds, Deputy Chief Executive of Mace, described the cable car as an ‘awe-inspiring addition’ to the company’s portfolio of work.

Cable car specialists, Dopplemayr, and Watson Steel, URS Scott Wilson, Buro Happold and Aedas are also in the consortium to build the cable car.

The £50.5 million scheme will connect the Greenwich Peninsula and the 02 to the Royal Victoria Docks and the ExCeL.

Up to 2,500 people per hour will be able to make the 1.1km, five-minute journey across the river in one of structure’s 34 gondola cabins.

The scheme’s cost was originally estimated to be as low as £25million when it was announced in July 2010 and TfL had said that it would not be paying to build the project.

TfL confirmed it would now be providing ‘upfront funding for the cable car’ and would seek to recoup its costs but could not guarantee that taxpayers would not foot at least some of the bill.

A spokesperson said the decision to pay upfront was ‘to aid the quick delivery’ of the project, which TfL was ‘striving’ to deliver in advance of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

They said this remained ‘an extremely challenging timeline for a complex project’ and could not provide a date by which they were confident the scheme would be completed.

The spokesperson said that the initial costing had been a ‘preliminary estimate’ and that the £50.5million contract included operational running costs of £5.5million for up to three years.

They added: ‘The cable car will play a vital role in the once-in-a-lifetime regeneration of east London and provide a much needed additional river crossing in this area of the city.

‘It remains the intention that TfL will seek to recoup as much of the cost as possible through a number of sources including advertising, sponsorship and fare revenue.’

Fares have not been set but TfL said that it would definitely be possible to pay for journeys using Oyster pay-as-you-go cards.

TfL today launched a commercial partners campaign to find investment in the scheme in return for sponsorship, including naming rights and branding options.


Previous story (18.03.11)

Mayor rubberstamps Wilkinson Eyre’s River Thames cable car

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has given its final approval for Wilkinson Eyre’s proposed cable car across the River Thames in east London

Capable of carrying 2,500 passengers an hour, the new route will link the O2 arena in Greenwich with the Excel exhibition centre in the Royal Docks - both 2012 Olympic venues.

Last month fears were raised that the £25 million scheme might cross the ‘public safety zone’ of the nearby London City Airport, however those concerns were subsequently dismissed by the National Air Traffic Control Services (NATs).

Expected to complete by July 2012, the cable cars would run 50m above the water and, according to Mayor Boris Johnson, would be ‘as good as a bus route with 30 buses on it’.

Johnson, said: “With permissions signed and sealed we are now a significant step closer to being able to cruise the east London skyline via an elegant cable car spanning the mighty Thames.

‘It will be a truly exhilarating way for Londoners and visitors to explore our great city whilst providing a much-needed river crossing to support the once-in-a-lifetime regeneration of this easterly quarter of the capital.’

A contractor is due to be appointed to the project this spring and discussions for funding remain ongoing.

Previous story (16.02.11)

Airport safety zone fears over Wilkinson Eyre’s cable car resolved

Wilkinson Eyre’s project to build a cable car across the River Thames in east London has been approved following an investigation into its proximity to an airport safety area

National Air Traffic Control Services (NATs) has cleared the project for takeoff, ruling out safety concerns over the 1,100 metre-long structure.

Planned to open in 2012, construction of cable car was put on hold last week because of fears it might cross the ‘public safety zone’ of the nearby London City Airport which has been approved for expansion.

A safety zone is an area of land beyond the airport’s runways where development is tightly controlled so as to reduce the risk of take-off and landing accidents.

Newham and Greenwich councils are now expected to formally approve the scheme before the London mayor signs it off. However, the delay caused by waiting for the NATs report could mean the cable car is not up and running in time for the London Olympics in 2012.

Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth campaigner, objected to the plans. She said: ‘Friends of the Earth would like to support the scheme but it’s unclear how it avoids the Government ban on building in the crash zone and whether the number of people at risk has been properly assessed.’


Previous story (16.02.11)

Safety concerns rock Wilkinson Eyre’s east London cable car project

Wilkinson Eyre’s project to build a cable car across the river Thames in east London has been put on hold following concerns over an airport safety area

Planned to open in 2012, construction of the 1,100 metre-long structure has been delayed because of fears it might cross the ‘public safety zone’ of the nearby London City Airport which has been approved for expansion.

A safety zone is an area of land beyond the airport’s runways where development is tightly controlled so as to reduce the risk of take-off and landing accidents.

At the request of London’s mayor, Greenwich and Newham councils have been asked to withdraw their planning consent ‘referrals’ - effectively requests for Boris Johnson’s seal of approval - while Transport for London carries out a ‘national air traffic services safety assessment’.

A spokesperson for the Greater London Authority said: ‘The Mayor has received letters suggesting that further safety analysis of the cable car application be carried out in relation to the expansion of City Airport.

‘To be certain these concerns are addressed he has asked the boroughs to withdraw their referrals while TfL commission a national air traffic services safety assessment.’

Greenwich council granted planning consent to the £40 million structure just over two weeks ago.

The practice was unavailable to comment.


Previous story (01.02.11)

Wilkinson Eyre’s Thames cable car plan moves closer

Plans drawn up by Wilkinson Eyre for a cable car stretching 1,100 metres across the River Thames to link venues for the 2012 Olympics have moved a step closer

Greenwich Council’s planning committee has joined Newham Council in approving the proposals for the UK’s first urban cable car which will carry up to 2,500 passengers an hour between Greenwich and the Royal Docks.

The scheme, the projected cost if which has risen from £25 million to £40 million, is aimed at cutting journey times for visitors to the O2 arena and ExCel exhibition centre, which are hosting events at the Games.

The Greater London Authority will now consider the proposals for the link 54.1 metres above the river between North Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Victoria Dock.

A Transport for London statement said: ‘The cable car is an exciting new proposal that would help address the need for more river crossings east of Tower Bridge.

‘It will also provide a unique addition to the capital’s transport network and offer spectacular views of London’s iconic skyline.’


Previous story (08.12.10)

First look at Wilkinson Eyre’s cable car over the Thames

[FIRST LOOK] Wilkinson Eyre has revealed these images of its designs for the UK’s first urban cable car, linking the Greenwich Peninsula with the historic Royal Docks in East London

The practice has now submitted plans for the scheme to the London Borough of Newham which when complete would carry 2,500 passengers per hour across the Thames.

Three tower constructions are being proposed in the applications, two of which will be at Clyde Wharf and the south of the Queen Elizabeth II pier near the O2 Arena.

Two-storey cable car stations will be built on both sides of the river, and will include drive rooms, ticket offices and concourses. Passengers will access the cable cars from the first floor, while the ground floor space will be used for retail purposes.

The scheme is expected to be entirely funded from private finance.

Applications have been submitted to the London Borough of Greenwich, the London Borough of Newham and the London Thames Gateway Corporation. It is hoped the outcome will be known by January 2011.

Postscript - 09.12.10

CABE’s Design Review comments in full

London Cable Car, Newham

Project for a new cable car linking Royal Docks to Greenwich Peninsula. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre.

29 November 2010


CABE welcomes this new transport link between the Royal Docks and the Greenwich Peninsula. The proposal makes a good case for connecting the three major public attractions, which are currently divided by the river: the O2 Arena, the Excel Exhibition Centre and the new Siemens Sustainability Centre. The selection of a cable car over a bridge or a tunnel seems to be a realistic decision, given the time constraints and impact on the surrounding area. However, we would suggest that this trip across the Thames is likely to become a major visitor attraction in its own right and could be an important catalyst to regeneration within the emerging docklands centre and Peninsula. The towers which support the cables are well considered and could make an iconic contribution to this stretch of the river Thames. The stations on either bank are less inspiring. Finally, the approach to the broader urban context around the landing points will also require further consideration in terms of providing a wider landscape proposal and well designed spaces for people to wait and gather. This is particularly important for the northern station in Newham.


The proposed towers that straddle the Thames between Newham and Greenwich are an exciting addition to the river. We applaud the elegance, inventiveness and originality of these large elements. It is encouraging that this potentially iconic form has emerged from consideration of wind loading and the efficient use of material. This is an illustration of the committed sustainable approach that permeates this proposal. Careful consideration of accent lighting will add to the drama of the project; we are encouraged to see a number of studies that illustrate potential lighting solutions. The elegance of the towers depends on maintaining a strong, clearly defined form; care should be taken to minimise the visual impact of escape stairs or other secondary service elements that might detract from the primary form.


The two stations on either bank are proposed as pavilions in a landscape. There is an intention to minimise the footprint of these pavilions, display the machinery within and heighten the experience of travel. However, these modest structures are not as inspiring as the towers and do not match the ambition of the larger structures. Since the trip may become very popular, the pavilions should be capable of comfortably accommodating large numbers of visitors in their passage into and through the station. The way in which the pavilions add to the drama of the ride has not been fully explored. For passenger comfort, the provision of visitor WC facilities should be included within these pavilions.

Urban context

Given the many constraints imposed by this site, we acknowledge the difficulty of locating both the overall route of the cable car and the specific locations of each station. Given this, the south station seems well located, on the axis of the new Greenwich master plan, with intuitively linked way finding, directly to the DLR station. Conversely, the route from the Royal Docks DLR to the new north station is circuitous and potentially difficult to find as the proposed location does not have a direct visual connection to the DLR. At present there is an uneasy relationship of the north pavilion both with the Sustainability centre and with the dock itself. The form and massing of the north station ought to form a coherent composition with the new Siemens’ Sustainability Centre.

The stations are likely to have a more profound impact on the surrounding urban space than is currently allowed for. Since this river crossing may become a major visitor attraction, it must not only support its local community making regular trips across the river, but also cope with large surges of travellers generated from O2 concerts or Excel event, for example. More consideration should be given to passenger marshalling and control, both within and around the stations. These landing points are likely to become places to meet and linger, as much as places to simply pass through. Therefore, the location and treatment of surrounding areas should be able to accommodate large numbers of visitors. There may be a greater demand for cafes restaurants and other facilities surrounding these stations than is currently predicted. It is essential that future adjacent developments within Newham and Greenwich positively respond to these stations both as important points of departure and generous places of arrival and assembly.


There appears to be a comprehensive strategy for sustainable use of resources within this proposal. The overall scheme encourages travel by foot and bicycle. The design of the towers makes efficient use of materials. The pavilions deploy many methods of minimising their sustainable impact; including PVs on the roof, a heat recovery motor, cooling through structure and pits, rainwater harvesting and a brown roof. We urge the local authority to ensure that these measures get delivered.

Previous Story (12.08.10)

City cable-car architect revealed

Wilkinson Eyre has been chosen to draw up designs for the UK’s first urban cable car, linking the Greenwich Peninsula with the historic Royal Docks in East London.

AJ has learned that the London-based practice, which is also designing the £30 million Siemens pavilion in the docks together with Pringle Brandon, will submit its proposals for planning to the London Borough of Newham next month.

Numerous cable links across the Thames have been mooted over the last decade, including initial ideas produced by Atkins in 2002, a similar scheme drawn up by Terry Farrell and a ‘quick, low emission’ crossing proposed by Mike Davies of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 2008.

However it was not until London Mayor Boris Johnson threw his weight behind the project earlier this year that the link looked likely to make it off the drawing board. 

When complete the cable car scheme which will provide space for 2,500 passengers per hour is currently out to public consultation with construction scheduled to start in May 2011.

The project is part of the first phase of regeneration across the east London borough, for which the borough has just published its Stratford Metropolitan Masterplan, compiled together with Urban Initiatives, which means a potential bonanza of work for architects.

Clive Dutton, executive director for regeneration,planning and property at Newham council said:  ‘By Christmas work for architects will really be gearing up.’

‘Most investment will be done through private companies but we are the local planning authority and we will make sure we work with them about character of the designs and the teams they put together.

‘My aim is to raise the bar so high everyone will get a nosebleed over the quality of the architecture.’

Previous story (05.07.10)

Cable cars over Thames to become reality

London Mayor Boris Johnson is to press ahead with new cable cars across the Thames - an idea first suggested by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSH+P)

Johnson has said he wants to create the UK’s first urban cable car linking the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks in est London close to the 2012 Games site.

Currently out to public consultation, the scheme would be privately funded and could cut travel times between the O2 and ExCeL - two major Olympic and Paralympic venues.

The concept for a ‘quick, low emission’ link was first mooted two years ago by RSH+P’s Mike Davies. At the time the plans had been for the cable cars to transport up to 10,000 people an hour across the river. However according to the new proposals unveiled by Transport for London, the system would only provide space for 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction.

Johnson said: ‘A cable car spanning the majestic Thames would not only provide a unique and pioneering addition to London’s skyline, but also offer a serene and joyful journey across the river. Passengers would be able to drink in the truly spectacular views of the Olympic Park and iconic London landmarks whilst shaving valuable minutes from their travelling time. It would also provide a much needed enhancement of cross river options to the east of the city.’


Related files

Readers' comments (3)

  • It's a great idea but RSH+P weren't the first to promote the idea of a cable car across the Thames. There were similar ideas promoted by Farrells and others over the past 5 - 10 years. Have a look at the model in Farrells reception and the model in the London Transport museum.

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  • Agree with the other comment - there have been numerous previous projects that have promoted a cable car at this location, including the Leamouth Regeneration Framework produced by Atkins for Leaside Regeneration in 2002.

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  • JustFacades.com

    actually i thought about it 15 years ago and told my wife, she too thought it was a good idea!

    well done wilkinson eyre! we know you will do a great job and do this fab idea (whos ever it was) justice!

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