Riverbus firm Thames Clippers has issued its new timetable, which comes into force on Monday, and there’s a surprise for anyone who uses their boats to come home from the West End in the late evening – they’ve been dropped from the timetable.
At present, the last boats from Embankment are at around midnight – 11.40pm on weekdays, 12.10am at weekends. But from Monday, those last boats to Greenwich, North Greenwich and Woolwich will be cut back to 9.10pm. It looks as if services to and from the Dome will be maintained – O2 owner AEG also owns Thames Clippers – but only on event nights. (A minimum of 100 nights a year, says Greenwich Council.)
To be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised – I’ve turned up at Embankment Pier for late boats to find they’ve departed early. The last time I managed to catch one home, I don’t remember there being any other passengers on board beyond central London. That said, it’ll be a shame to see them go – I’ll definitely miss cruising down the Thames late at night with a drink in hand, but it also provided a civilised alternative to the late “vomit comets” from Charing Cross on Fridays and Saturdays.
But I expect most people barely knew the late service existed – it was stuck under a timetable misleadingly branded with a “commuter” label, and received little promotion.
The news will be a blow for those who see the river as an under-used transport artery – Labour mayoral hopeful Oona King wanted to turn the river into “a new Tube line”, while Greenwich-based journalist Andrew Gilligan teamed up with a Tory thinktank to push for more subsidies for river buses.
Others see river buses as less of a priority – after all, not that many of us live close enough to the river to make full use of them, especially with speed restrictions west of Wapping dragging the full Embankment-Woolwich journey out to an hour.
Indeed, the O2 is now looking to promote Charlton station as a transport hub alongside the Tube and boat services to the venue.
So if you’ve someone to impress, or just fancy a different way home late one night, you’ve not got long. And if the bar’s open, raise a glass to the glory days of the midnight boat to Greenwich.