Traveling the London Sky in a Cable Car

View from the cable car - Emirates Air Line

I found out about the cable car one time when we were on the metro – there is a picture of a cable car next to a line, and it’s marked as “Emirates Air Line cable car.” “Interesting”, I thought. 

I am personally quite afraid of cable cars, but less so than, say, a roller coaster. Nevertheless, I will go on them if there is no other way to get somewhere (for example, in China, there were a few mountain parks, where taking different routes was discouraged – footpaths closed, etc.) So if I need to, I will take them.

Then, quick research online showed that Emirates Air Line was one of London’s tourist attractions, allowing you to see a view of London. So I decided it was worth checking it out and seeing some sights from the car up in the sky. So one day, when the weather was less rainy and cloudy than usual – less London-y – my boyfriend and I embarked on a long journey to reach the North Greenwich station.

Thankfully, we could go there directly with just one metro line – the Jubilee line (the Jubilee line is very convenient, and as I just learned, it’s connected to all the other lines! Cool). 

According to the Emirates Air Line’s website, it’s “the UK’s first urban cable car”. It connects two banks of the Thames, from North Greenwich station to Royal Victoria Dock, and is operated by Transport for London. 

From down below, the cable car looked a bit intimidating.

The cable car has two speeds – usually, the trip takes 10 minutes and is reduced to 5 minutes per trip during the rush hour – i.e., before 9 am and between 5 and 6:30 pm. The one we took was 10 minutes. 

We swiped through the gates, boarded one car – there were almost no people around – and up, up, up we went. Thankfully, the car was relatively stable. The weather, even though still pretty cloudy, wasn’t too windy. 

Not that many people in other cable cars.

On the Greenwich Peninsula side, we could see the O2 arena, a multi-purpose hall, usually hosting a plethora of cultural events, and the skyscrapers in its vicinity. On our right-hand side, we spotted the London City Airport. On the other side of the Thames, we could see the ExCel London – an exhibition and international event center built in Victoria Docks. 

When we were riding inside, we saw that many other cars had “See <name of the city> from a unique perspective” written on them, e.g., “See Perth from a unique perspective”. Perth is the city that we previously lived in, so we thought, “Wow! There are cable car lines in other cities?! We didn’t know about that one in Perth. Maybe they just built it recently.” But then we saw Sydney and other smaller cities as well. So I guess it just meant that Emirates airline has planes going to these places, not that there’s a cable car line in each of them.

1,150 m long, 90 m high, the cable car originally was supposed to be used by Londoners to commute across the river. However, as I read, it’s not exactly profitable and has been labeled as  “White Elephant”. The reason behind it is that the people here don’t really take the cable car to, for example, commute to work – it’s more expensive than taking the metro and, probably, also slower. It also doesn’t operate during high wind, which is understandable – I imagine a journey in a shaky cable car swinging from right to left would be a dreadful experience. According to this article, there are 63 ways to cross the Thames. No wonder the cable car is losing in such fierce competition! 

View of the skyscrapers close to the O2

Finally, we reached the other side and we got off. We found that there were quite a few food trucks and food stands selling take-away food, including Thai, Mexican, burgers, and so on. We took some Thai-style chicken with rice noodles – we could choose a few different chicken flavors – and it tasted amazing. 

After eating, we started walking around in the Royal Docks. We crossed the water – “Gallions Point Marina” on a footbridge. We reached ExCel, now obviously closed for visiting and hosting the vaccination center. Then, we kept walking north, leaving the cable car behind. 

How to get there: Take the metro to North Greenwich station (Jubilee line)

£3.50 when you’re using an Oyster card (adult ticket)
£4.50 if you swipe your bank card through the gate or purchase a ticket with cash at the counter. 

Is it worth it? I think so – it’s a fun and exciting way of sightseeing traveling in the city! It’s also part of public transportation, so it’s affordable. Definitely worth checking out! 

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