It was with trepidation that I accepted an invitation to write a post for this blog. Exiled from London over twenty years ago I felt like a ‘country cousin’, re-visiting old and forgotten haunts. What an adventure and as it transpired, one of various levels of enjoyment, wonder and horror, rather like a Heston Blumenthal multi-course tasting menu. This was to be a mini sampling of several forms of London transport, traditional to innovative, in travelling across the Thames to East London.

Arriving at North Greenwich we walked via the new Ravensbourne College of Art to the cable car terminal. The new college building is stunning. Somehow, Foreign Office Architects have succeeded in celebrating a diversity of cultures and eras. Juxtaposed with the O2 arena, it appears to be a middle eastern jewel in the midst of modernity. I interpreted the porthole-type windows as a tribute to seafaring vessels and the river. Students must be ecstatic at the move from Bromley. Truly an inspiring feat of architectural design and a credit to the built environment.Passing the O2 Arena, I was informed that people now pay to walk over it inside a covered walkway. The 90 minute trek costs £22 and apart from the viewing platform, that attraction will remain a mystery to me.


The next experience for me to savour was cable car at North Greenwich, providing alternative transport to The Royal Victoria Docks. This engineering project, completed for the opening of the London Olympics cost £60m and was sponsored by the Dubai owned Emirates airline. Dubai has recently been bailed out by a neighbouring Emirate, resulting in the tallest building in the world being re-named the Burj Khalifa (previously the Burj Dubai), to reflect the investment of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. Surely someone has thought through investment against return with this venture, especially in its own economic climate and questionable judgements? Though smart and professional, signage and corporate identity bear no resemblance to the exotic livery of Emirates. The venture was obviously designed as a tourist attraction, but then offered as a method of commuting. It is beyond me as to why anyone would think this would work. Just the walk from the station and car park renders it inefficient. The cable car station was in a state of desolation. To be fair, it was a windy day and we travelled during off peak hours but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see balls of prairie grass blowing around the terminal. My companion and I plus one other, a tourist, provided the sum total of the custom and at approximately £3 for a single ‘flight’, Nelson will get his eye back before Dubai breaks even on this venture. As a frequent flyer myself, I didn’t give a thought to the quality of the flying experience until it became clear to me that I was required to hop in to the cable car while it was still moving, rather like a fairground Waltzer. What ensued then was definitely the Snail Porridge of the day. With a car to ourselves we were advised to sit in the centre of the benches as there may be some turbulence. That was an understatement. Advice that we shouldn’t be alarmed, frequently transmitted throughout the cars served only to make me more anxious. The car slowed down and at one point stopped completely, swaying from side to side without respite. Oncoming, empty cars swayed even more precariously and during one of the brief moments I ventured a peek from behind my hands I was convinced we would be hit by one of them. How was I going to write about the industrial landscape of the Thames 95 feet below when I had my eyes shut for the journey? However, during my more audacious moments I glimpsed the imposing industrial landscape, the Tate and Lyle sugar factory, responsible for the employment many European immigrants, the myriad of sailing vessels used for transporting goods as far as St Katharine Dock and the modernity of the Olympic Park. My legs were shaking as I disembarked the car and it took the sight of the Boris Bus, parked outside the Crystal to take my mind off the trauma. More of which later.

View from the cable car

Guest Post by F M W