London Cable Car (Gondola): A Watershed Moment for Urban Gondolas? Unlikely

Post by Steven Dale

The London Cable Car (Gondola) via Docklands24.

With the possible exception of New York, there is arguably no more important city in the English-speaking world than London, England. During the summer of 2012 when the British capital hosts the Olympic Games, that city’s profile will be even higher.

That’s why those of us interested in Cable Propelled Transit are watching the proposed London Cable Car with such interest. If built – and with last week’s submission of the project’s formal planning application, that seems likely – there is the chance that the attention the system would receive from London and the Olympics could popularize the idea of cable transit and spread it throughout the developed world.

That belief, however, needs to be tempered. Optimism is great but optimism bias is not. While I’m hopeful about this system, I doubt it will be the watershed moment for CPT that some imagine. Here’s why:

  1. While the system will be integrated with London’s pay-as-you-go Oyster farecard, access to the system will require an additional £2.50 fare. All others (read: tourists) will pay £3.50. It seems unreasonable to expect London commuters to pay an additional £2.50 for what is, in essence a 5 minute connection. The vast majority of system users are likely to be tourists.
  2. The system lacks physical integration with the rest of the London transit network. Transfers between modes will be mildly challenging
  3. Unlike more advanced Urban Gondola systems, the London Cable Car (Gondola) has only two stations. This only reinforces the idea that cable is meant for short-haul, point-to-point travel.
  4. The Thames crossing is both blessing and a curse. Let’s be honest, without the Thames this system would never be built (that’s the blessing part). This situation does, however, just confirm what people already believe about cable – that it’s only useful for traversing topographically challenging terrain (that’s the curse part).
  5. The system is an MDG, not the more advanced 3S. As we’ve discussed before, the 3S Urban Concept vehicles could be a key to selling this technology to the world. An MDG probably won’t cut it. (Update: I’ve said the system is an MDG based upon the images provided – it looks like an MDG – however a colleague has informed that the system may be a 3S. We’ll explore further and update as more info becomes available.)

This isn’t to say the London Cable Car (Gondola) isn’t a step in the right direction. It is. But it isn’t likely to change people’s perception overnight. People won’t immediately start thinking of cable as a bona fide member of the public transit family. This system just doesn’t hit all the right buttons and touchstones to do that.

Instead, the attention the system receives will cause some to question the idea, give others pause and change people’s perception in an incremental, rather than sudden way.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.


  1. How is it integration with the rest of the line if you have to pay an additional fare? Prepare for an outcry, because after the Olypmic tourists leave this thing will probably just stand there, abandoned. If CPT wants to be pegged AS transit, it has to ACT like transit.
  2. why not propose it as a temporary structure with minimal infrastructure, like the one in koblenz?
  3. Maybe an answer to all your questions: I see the cable car installation more like a gimmick. Some may use it for real, but a lot of tourists will use it as it is: a gimmick. So, if you compare the actual height the London Eye brings you up (135 m) and here its around 90 m for reasons I can not understand right now, you will get a connection to the Millennium Dome (south) and it is connected to the Metro as well on that side. The northern terminal is near connected to the DLR. So it's easy to reach. Calculations on this: The London Eye was to run only 5 years. 25 people per cabin with a total of 32 cabins. A ride takes around 30 minutes. 30.000.000 rides were made in 8 years (back in 2008). A ticket right now costs more than 20 € - so let's say the middle from the beginning in 2000 is around 15 € --> 450.000.000 € made a ferris wheel in London. Depending on the official numbers around 5120 tickets get sold daily -> 76.800 € a day. Not bad, right? Now draw the parallel line for the cable car installation and I believe further questions aren't necessary ;)
  4. @Rose: and such attraction of course needs a big terminal (we're talking about London here: souvenir shop, toilets, probably café and so on.) Koblenz is about to get removed in a few years: this probably isn't. Koblenz simply represents the minimalistic version of an almost urban cable car.
  5. @LX, yeah, but the london eye goes up, around, and back. what's this going to do, take you across the river, then ... oops, 20 more euros to get back where do you draw the line between cable transit and cable fun ride? or why not make it both?
  6. Looking forward I believe the costs for a London cable car ride will be around 2 euros (or maybe 3) - because it is said to be an infrastructural project (at first mainly for the games - postolympic used as a "pedestrian bridge") When it is integrated in the Oyster-card-system there won't be any big-costs-surprises to get back. Additionally: well it could be possible, but I don't believe it. The Oyster-card-network for instance figures out, when you went by bus to whereever you want to go. Bus is set minor to the London Metro network, so with your first ride you will pay for one ride. With the second ride the system puts you to a ticket for a whole day, which is much cheaper than 2 separated single tickets - no matter where you want to go. So all in all Transport for London is in a way expensive, but very fair. Yes Rose, I see the London Cable more like the hybrid you mentioned in your last sentence. At its best 5 or 10 % of all riders will use it as transit. And all the others will use it as a cable fun ride or maybe added as a bonus for your ticket to the Millenium Dome special event - like concerts and else. It is just a matter of integration and the integration at that area is pretty small. London probably owns those two areas and of course they own the river Thames, so it is possible to be build within time for the Olympics. But I'm looking forward to see that cable car and will take a ride :)
  7. "When it is integrated in the Oyster-card-system there won’t be any big-costs-surprises to get back." ...but it will still cost extra. how is that integrated? also, where do you get the 5-10% figures?
  8. Example: you live a little outside London and will use the bus to get to the nearest metro station (maybe it's to far, you are handicapped or it's raining cats and dogs). You will have to pay for that service. Then you enter the metro and it will take you maybe 2 or three zones to the city center. Maybe from there you will have to use the bus again, because the office or whereever you want to go is not directly located to your station. Again using the service. Same on your way back home. So, bus is integrated, but if you want to use it, you will have to pay for it. Maybe you will have to pay a little less, because you've used the metro as well - don't know about that. In case of the cable car, the connection and integration on the southern part next to the Millenium Dome is pretty good. On the northern side I have my doubts: we've all seen the theoretical line which was put into map in june or july, but now that it's getting more precise I kept looking for the exact site plan and couldn't find them - they are still using the old one. On those renderings the positions aren't matching the announced ones and about the northern station nothing is shown so far. They will come up with something though and it will match with the southern one - I'm sure. Why it has to cost extra: the investor said, they will take care of the whole project. So taxpayers won't have to pay for it. Which is good, but they will also be able to make the price for the ticket and that's another reason why it will cost extra I think. The 5-10% figures can not really be explained. I made an analysis of London and this area and in my opinion this is the percentage of people which might use it - at its best. But I have no proof for that. On the other hand London is a world city and getting a lot of money out of tourism: so putting all in all together it will be the first modern integration of a cable car to a world city, lots will want to ride it, pictures will be taken, people open their mind for that technology. Since investors will take care of it Transport for London won't have to put any further money into that "bridge". Besides the looks of a cable car in a world city and the obvious result of changing its cityscape a bit it will be a win-win situation I think. Again math's will explain why that might work in any way. If the Koblenz Rheinseilbahn is working out for Doppelmayr for instance to be sponsored completely - the London one surely will too.

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