Posts Tagged: John Biggs



John Biggs Responds to London Cable Car Questions


Artists Rendition of the London Thames Cable Car

Last week I wrote about London Assembly member John Biggs and his problems with the London Cable Car (Gondola). In that post, I questioned three central assumptions that underlined Mr. Biggs’ concerns.

Rather than leave it there, I thought it would be interesting to solicit a response from Mr. Biggs as per those questions.

I therefore emailed him those very questions and was pleasantly surprised when he (or his staff) responded promptly thereafter.

The original questions (in bold) and his (unedited) responses follow:

Dale: Why could it never be a part of the transport network? Why can a city that blends subways, double-decker buses and light rail not also incorporate a gondola or cable car system? Is London incapable of accomplishing what CaracasMedellin and several Algerian cities have already done?

John Biggs: We already have quite a good public transport network, based on subway and light rail, in this part of London. The shortage is of a road crossing or two.

I do agree that a cable car could form a part of the infrastructure but the mixture of topography/costs/demand plus perhaps some institutional prejudice counts, I think, against it. Volumes in london mitigate perhaps against cable cars.

Second reason is that the Mayor says it would operate without subsidy, which I think excludes it from our heavily subsidised system unless he didn’t mean it.

Dale: There is a massive shortage of river crossings in East London. Adding the cable car (gondola) increases the number of East London river crossings from zero to one. How then is this a bad thing?

John Biggs: There are about 6 rail crossings, all underground. It is a road that we need.

Dale: There’s no argument that East London requires at least one road crossing over the Thames. But such a crossing was estimated to cost £500m and could never have been completed in time for the Olympics – a prime impetus behind the cable car (gondola).

John Biggs: I agree with most of this except that we have 6 rail crossings already, with another on the way. Certainly not mutually exclusive.

I should add that there has never been a published transport analysis of the cable car proposal which attempts to justify it in terms of transport policy and demand.

I’m incredibly grateful to Mr. Biggs for his response and he does make some valid arguments. The most valid being his final point that there’s never been a “published transport analysis of the cable car proposal which attempts to justify it in terms of transport policy and demand.”

That’s important – now more than then.

Were the system to be funded entirely by the private sector as had originally been planned, then such a study would be unnecessary. If the private sector wants to risk its own money, they should do a study or not – their choice.

However as it seems that more and more of the system may be funded by the public sector, Mr. Biggs’ concern does seem justified.

Nevertheless, it seems like a case of closing the barn door after the horses have fled. Study or not, this thing is going to be built.

And while Mr. Biggs can agree that the Cable Car and a road crossing of the Thames are “certainly not mutually exclusive,” most of his arguments hinge on the idea that what East London really needs is a road crossing of the Thames.

His main argument against the Cable Car rests on the idea that because East London needs a road crossing, it must therefore not need and/or want a gondola crossing. That’s a logical fallacy – the two have very, very little to do with one another and one is not dependent upon the other.

It’s like arguing against buying a bike because what you really need is a car.

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