Dezeen Magazine

London cable car passenger numbers fall by half

News: the number of people riding the Wilkinson Eyre-designed Emirates Air Line has dropped by half since last year, fuelling criticism that the project is not fulfilling its intended role as a key part of London's transportation infrastructure.

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According to Transport for London, passenger numbers on the Emirates Air Line for the week ending 21 September 2013 were 25,046, compared with 47,604 for the week ending 22 September 2012.

The figures are the first to give an accurate indication of the cable car's popularity one year on from its launch, discounting the inflated numbers that resulted from last summer's London Olympics when weekly passengers reached over 180,000.

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The cable car, which links the O2 arena at Greenwich Peninsula with the ExCeL centre at the Royal Docks, was described before its launch in June 2010 as "a unique and exciting new addition to London's transport network," by Transport for London commissioner Sir Peter Hendy.

However, the ridership statistics suggest that it has not been embraced by commuters and remains well short of its capacity to transport 2,500 people an hour in each direction. Critics of the £60 million project have pointed out that the cable car's current route can be made using London Underground's Jubilee line in two minutes for half the price.

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Sir Peter Hendy has admitted he is unhappy with the numbers, pointing out that "passenger journeys for periods 3, 4 and 5 were 4 per cent down against budget."

Commenting on the possible future of the cable car, leader of the Liberal Democrats at the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon said: "If the cable car is to have any success in the long term it should either be run and operated as a privately run tourist attraction, or instead operated as an integral form of public transport, where people with a travelcard or a relevant pass can use it for free."

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Route of the Emirates Air Line

Measures are being taken to address the poor ridership, including selling advance tickets online and partnering with the O2 arena to offer combination tickets that include different attractions.

Other projects by Wilkinson Eyre Architects on Dezeen include an elliptical timber-clad museum for a Tudor warship on England's south coast, and last year's World Building of the Year - Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. See more Wilkinson Eyre Architects »