“ Location: Greenwich Peninsula / Royal Docks / London „
We have a tradition in our family that when someone gets married, the day after the event we try to get some of the members of the family together again to do something fun so you get chance to do something a bit slower paced and more relaxed. This past weekend we were down in London for my brother in laws wedding, and we planned on a trip on the London cable car followed by some time in The Crystal building to entertain the children within our party.
I was aware of the cable car because of its launch last summer ready for all the Olympic activity, but I must confess to not knowing a lot about it before our journey on it last weekend. Sponsered by Emirates Airline, the cable car provides a means of crossing the River Thames between two points - Greenwich Peninsula, and Royal Docklands.
The siting of this next to the Peninsula means that it is a way of providing a direct way to get to the O2 Arena, the former Millenium Dome, and at the Docklands end is the ExCel centre which also hosted some olympic events.
We drove to the southern Greenwich terminal to start our journey, parking in the car park there which is a ticketed barrier system, paying for the amount of time you use. It was quite a pricey car park to me, but then again I am used to Northern prices really. Our outing was about 3 and a half hours, deliberately so that we didn't need to spend more than £7.50 on parking our car. Payment at this car park was also only with cash - we couldn't pay with a card.
We arrived at the cable car terminal at about 12pm. The cable car runs between 8am and 9pm on a Saturday currently. (For full timetable on other days, please refer to the transport for london website located here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/23850.aspx) There were not that many people waiting for the cars, but our group was quite a large one with nearly 30 people. We found that the staff were helpful when buying tickets, though the process was not entirely clear.
If you have an Oyster card, you can just join the queue ready to board. However, if you need to buy tickets there are two ways to do so. We were directed towards a machine where a male staff member was helping us with the tickets, but we quickly realised this wasn't a suitable method for us as we needed to buy a child ticket for our oldest son and you can only do this at the ticket booth. Because there was only a short queue, we did sort this out fairly quickly.
Fares are on the high side for me for the length of journey and how limited you are to where you can get to. However, we were doing this as a tourist experience rather than as a way of commuting around London for a particular purpose, so we were happy to pay as a once off.
Costs are £4.30 single, £8.60 return for an adult, which reduces to £3.20 and £6.40 with your Oyster card, and for children over 5, it is £2.20 single and £4.40 return, which reduces to £1.60 and £3.20. If you are a frequent traveller you can get 10 single journeys for £16, or if you qualify for the 5+ scheme using it to commute every day, your fare is reduced by 50%. I suppose it is on par with the travel cards we've bought for travelling into Central London by train before, but like I said, we had the limited boarding points in this case.
Another option is to hire a whole cabin for £86. This would be good for a group of 10.
The queue time was quite short both ways. On our outward journey at midday we were on the cars within minutes. We found there was a lift available which was essential for our group as we had a wheelchair user and a pushchair within our party. The staff were pretty good at letting our party travel in their own cabins as we had enough to seat 8 plus people in each cabin. On the return journey, the lady getting people on the cabins was very efficient at shepherding smaller groups of twos onto the spare seats in the departing cabins.
The cabins rotate round pretty quickly, so you need to be pretty sharp at getting yourself organised and onto them. They don't actually stop, but the staff do steady them if there is a wheelchair or pushchair user. As you leave the platform the doors shut and you are reminded to stay seated during your journey.
The journey itself felt pretty short. It was less than ten minutes. We had 9 people in our party, and you are sat on two benches within the cabin facing each other. Part of the group has to travel backwards. The upper part of the cabin is made of glass so you get good views of the river and some of the landmarks as you rise up to about 90 feet at 6m/s.
I am not great at picking out buildings, but we got a good view of the roof of the O2 Arena as some people were walking across it, and our children enjoyed seeing the Thames barrier, the boats on the river and seeing a water ski-ing experience going on below us.
We were able to use a map shown on a little TV screen to try and pick out some of the other buildings like the Excel centre and the Crystal that was our destination point.
The journey was pretty smooth on our outward journey, but on our return journey at about 3:30pm the wind had picked up, and the cabin was moving about a fair bit. Not for those who feel sick at this sort of thing, and definitely not an experience for people who are not fond of heights.
I noticed as we disembarked from our cabin that the staff were very efficient at having a quick look round for litter so that the cabin was clean for the next user.
Overall, I am glad that we did this experience as a one off. I am not sure I would repeat again in the near future as we don't live in the area and when we visit we like to try and show our children new things within the capital. However, my children really did enjoy crossing the river in this way and getting the great arial view that we did. So we might be tempted if they request it again. It was a quick way to cross over the river, and warmer than when we have done it by boat, and more scenic than travelling by train. There are tube stations near the Docklands end, so it could be a way of getting to other places more central, and it would be a great way for people to get to events held at the Arena as you can walk to it from the Greenwich terminal.
I think it was quite well managed apart from the miscommunication over buying tickets at the start, and the staff getting you into the cabins were polite and efficient. It's quite expensive doing this as a family though in my opinion. We were also a little disappointed that there was no group discount like some things do when you have so many people within a party.