Delays hit Boris’s Greenwich cable car

Cable car site, 22 March 2012
Of course, it was never going to be open for the Olympics, but nudge, wink, if it gets done in time….

Well, those hopes are dampened after work on erecting the cable for the Emirates Air-Line was postponed for the third weekend in a row. When it happens, it’ll be a dramatic sight, with a helicopter due to string the cable across the Thames*.

Thanks to regular 853 commenter Otter for keeping me updated with events. You can follow them too, by studying the Port of London Authority’s Notices to Mariners.

The work was originally due for 10/11 March, even though there was no south-side tower to string a cable to (the two north-side towers have been up for a few weeks). Then a second notice was issued for 16/17 March – but at the time the notice went out, the south-side tower was still a stump in the ground.

Sadly for Boris Johnson, that weekend’s cancellation pushed the work into the election campaign, which officially kicked off last Tuesday. So he now can’t use City Hall resources to, say, please TV cameras by riding in the chopper doing the work.

Things were looking more hopeful last week, as the tower raced up. The cable apparatus was installed on Thursday, and the picture above shows the scene that evening.

But a notice for 24/25 March was cancelled. The PLA’s explanation reads:

We apologise on the contractors behalf for yet further delay to this activity.

No further Notices to Mariners will now be issued on the intention to rig cables at the cable car location in Bugsbys Reach until the building of the South Tower has been completed.

A minimum of 5 days notice will then be given by Notices to Mariners to advise the weekend on which the cables will be rigged. We regret and also apologise for any inconvenience caused by these continued delays which are out with our control and the plethora of Notices in this respect, advising of works which fail to materialise.

Ouch. So, if the work’s to be done this weekend (31 March/ 1 April), a notice to mariners will have to appear today. Otherwise, we’re looking at Easter. But we’re now looking at the project being at least three weeks behind schedule, presumably almost certain to miss a three-week long Olympics when a link between the Dome and ExCeL would be useful.

That said, the gondalas were in place at “Emirates Greenwich Peninsula” on Friday night, still in their protective wrappings, and an ad for staff appeared in last week’s edition of Greenwich Council propaganda weekly Royal Greenwich Time (so much for criticising “Pyongyang-style freesheets“, eh?). The lighter evenings will also aid a project which has demanded work at weekends and late at night.

But these delays can’t be a good sign. If a notice to mariners doesn’t appear today, expect trouble.

Monday 12.40pm update: A new notice has been published – it’s on for this weekend. Thanks to @greenwichslope on Twitter for the info.

Tuesday 12.40am update: This was the original plan as far as I know, but this now may be a chopper-free zone. Wait and see…


  1. “We regret and also apologise for any inconvenience caused by these continued delays which are out with our control,” says the Port of London Authority.

    That’s not an explanation. That’s a traditional “not us, Guv” disclaimer of responsibility.

    OK, accepted, the PLA isn’t responsible for the “continued” delays. So who is?

    Come on, this is a hi-vis prestige project which although essentially pretty futile as a serious people mover is closely tied in with how the rest of the world sees this country as it lurches into super high profile mode for the Olympics.

  2. A new pla “notice to mariners” for this weekend has appeared. Will the cables finally go up this weekend?…

  3. @tim I imagine the helicopter will be used to to take a small wire across, which will then be used at river level to haul the thicker strands.

  4. There seemed to be problems assembling the cable gear at the top of the tower, but by this morning it looks finished and the crane is down.

    Anyway, what’s the driver behind the pessimism about it being ready for the Olympics? Have you seen a construction timeline or is this just speculation? There’s still months to go and all the machinery looks to be in place. I’m sure the station buildings can be finished and the plots landscaped in that time, especially now they are working 7 days a week.

  5. @Omar – I think this is just speculation. The only construction timetable I can find (for now) is here:

    See page 2 on milestones. Interestingly, a progress report on the construction can be found on wikipedia:

    I’d assume that they would build in some slack for any potential delays. I’d bet that they are also acutely aware of the consequences of missing an Olympic-sized deadline.

  6. Hopefully they’ll knuckle down and get it down. I’m sure it’s doable.

    I’m really quite keen on this project now. The towers are lovely things. Very graceful. It will hopefully also act as a trigger for faster devlopements at Greenwich peninsula and the Royal Docks, both of which have moved at a pretty glacial pace. The northern side has the Siemens science centre which is almost complete, and coupled with the development zone status should really push things forward. Custom House will have a Crossrail station as well. It’s amazing what being on a tube map can often do to an area and getting things done (not always of course)

    So despite there being a lot of justifiable criticisms of the project, and it in no way being a proper solution to cross river links (cycle and ped bridge at Greenwich area and Thames Gateway crossing at Thamesmead please) I am positive about the project.

  7. The idea is to boost regeneration in the Royal Docks – which will become an enterprise zone – no mention of the peninsula, which won’t, and seems likely to have the same un-coordinated, uneven development as it’s had for the past 12 years or so.

  8. Regarding the development of the peninsula I suppose you could say that Greenwich is at least trying with the recently-consulted masterplans for west-side peninsula and Charlton riverside. Unfortunately the plans are gravely faulted with both GLA and PLA slamming them for contravening London-wide policy. They do, in fact, both damage local industry, reducing employment opportunities, and restrict the potential growth of sustainable goods transport on the river.
    Council Cabinet meeting regarding the masterplans on Monday 2nd April. They should be sent back for reconsideration but the betting must be that they won’t be.

  9. Who on earth agreed these monstrosities? Next thing we know someone will propose a mad DLR on stilts scheme …

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