Danny Price, Head of Emirates Air Line, talks about a high flying new way of crossing the Thames...
Danny Price, Head of Emirates Air Line talks about a high flying new way of crossing the Thames.
London needed a new river crossing east of Tower Bridge. One of the key benefits of choosing a cable car was that it could be built relatively quickly. It went from being a basic concept to opening in less than two years – a groundbreaking amount of time to deliver such a project.
The other big benefit for the Emirates Air Line is its location. We were really spoilt over the Olympic period and were delighted to open in time for the Games. It was a challenge operationally but allowed us to link up two major Games venues. The Excel Centre and O2 Arena together attract over eight million visitors a year, so to deliver another way of getting there and also to connect them is will be a great asset.
There were times during the Olympics when the demand was much higher than we envisaged. It was fantastic to see its popularity but then you don’t want to disappoint people with long queues. Thankfully, the feedback from passengers has been fantastic. We’ve been monitoring it from the day we opened, customer satisfaction scores have been brilliant - even when people have queued for much longer than we like.
It’s already having a positive effect on the local area too. One of the challenges of measuring regeneration is how you monitor it early on. What I’ve found really rewarding is the obvious quick wins - seeing the effect it’s had on some of the local businesses. There has already been a significant increase in footfall to the immediate area on both sides of the river. You suddenly see an increase in queues for Costa Coffee and other retailers. They’re already taking on new staff.
As well as event visitors, commuters are using the service and there is a huge local tourist market to attract, particularly with maritime Greenwich so close by. What we’ve created has caused quite a lot of excitement and we’ve already seen many overseas visitors. Going back a few years it would take quite a while for a new offering in London to attract visitors as there was a reliance on guide books and tourist information centres. Now with the internet and Twitter awareness spreads much more quickly.
What’s unique about the Air Line is it gives a really interesting perspective of London and parts of the city unfamiliar to tourists. It’s also being used as a way to arrive in style at your destination. People ask ‘Is it transport? Is it an attraction?’ We’ve had over a million passengers since we opened who would probably say either ‘both’ or ‘doesn’t matter’. It’s just great.
If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a fantastic experience and takes just a few minutes out of your day. You can enjoy a very different perspective on London and the surrounding area – I even saw people having a meeting in one of the cars as I was passing today!
Find out more: www.london.gov.uk/gifts/first-class