To Deptford last night, where mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone held a question and answer session with locals and activists at the Lady Margaret Hall. He spoke a little on local trains, which I’ll post about later, but he said a few interesting things about the cable car under construction on the Greenwich Peninsula.
We know past schemes for cable cars there have been considered and dropped over the years, including one to East India DLR station for the millennium, and another plan for one to Canary Wharf. But the former mayor said he and O2 arena boss Philip Anschutz considered the same proposal as is now under construction by the Thames – and it was rejected because it was financially unviable.
Using a question about the cable car to close the session, he told his audience:
We looked at a cable car when Philip Anschutz bought the O2 – [it was] one of the things we looked at, as well as running that fleet of boats he’s got. It was exactly the same scheme, running from the O2 to the ExCeL centre. Philip Anschutz is one of the richest men in the world – but we decided the money just didn’t stack up. It’s a nice tourist attraction, but it’s not mass transit, and it’s a luxury you couldn’t afford.
Boris has this idea it’ll be a triumph, it’ll be open in time for the Olympics – at the moment it’s clearly not going to be open for the Olympics, and it’s now the most expensive cable car in human history.
We’ll have to finish it – but get a mayor who actually pays attention to the bottom line and the detail, because these things go wrong if you just do a grand gesture and not the day job.
While TfL chiefs have been at pains to dampen down the suggestion that the service will be open by the Olympics, the project has been criticised for its cost, currently estimated at £60m, which Boris Johnson is trying to recoup through commercial sponsorship and an application for European funds. Any money he doesn’t get back, though, comes out of TfL’s rail budget – and this is from something which originally was meant to be entirely privately funded.
Folly or not, it’s worth mentioning again that you can take a closer look at the works that are going on at an open morning at the site of what will be “Emirates Greenwich Peninsula” station, on Saturday 26 November from 10am-1pm.