One thing that never ceases to amaze me about London is how the place never stands still – there is always something new being developed or introduced. The place that I am proud to call home has a lot of history but it is always moving forward. The transport network is no exception, and with a few days off work following my return from Paris I ventured down to the Docklands to check out the latest means of getting around in London.
I remember being taken to the Docklands when I was a child, the principal attraction being the (then) new Docklands Light Railway. Back then, I loved the fact as the DLR is fully automated I could sit right at the front, and to be honest I still try to make sure I get the front seat even now on the rare occasions when I get to use it.
This time, the DLR was the means by which I travelled to the cable car service over the River. That’s right, London now has a fully-functioning cable car over the Thames! It links the Royal Victoria Docks with the Greenwich Peninsula – or, in this Olympic year, it allows for easy access between the ExCel Centre (the venue for the martial arts and weightlifting events) and the O₂ (artistic gymnastics and basketball). The idea is that it will be used by commuters as well as tourists once the Games have finished; in this context it’s worth noting that both stations are well-served by the existing transport network.
To my delight, I found that as I have a pay-as-you-go Oyster card I didn’t have to actually buy a separate ticket; all I needed to do was swipe my card at the barrier like I do when entering a Tube station. Oyster card holders get a discounted fare (£3.20 instead of £4.30 for adults going one way), a great idea if you ask me.
And so to the flight itself! Each flight – and yes, as with the London Eye, a journey on the cable car is officially referred to as a flight – lasts for around ten minutes and takes you 300 feet above the River, allowing views of (among other landmarks) the Dome, Canary Wharf, the Olympic Park, the Thames Barrier and the Royal Observatory.
I found the whole thing highly enjoyable – here was the opportunity to get a real bird’s-eye view of some great London landmarks, as well as the boats on the River! I thought it was a lot of fun, and well worth visiting. I walked away with a smile, glad to have seen London from a new perspective. It is definitely worth doing.
On the Greenwich side, I had a quick look around the Dome – not somewhere I have previously had cause to visit – and was impressed by the transport options available for me to continue my journey. As well as the Tube and the buses, there’s the option of taking the Thames Clipper into Central London should one so wish. I got the Tube to Stratford, not to check out the Olympic Park (that’s an adventure for another time) but because I could get an Overground train from there to North London while bypassing the City.
What I hadn’t bargained for was the identity of one of my fellow-passengers, something I was only alerted to when someone shouted out: “Hey Boris, have you got any spare tickets for the Games?”, followed by someone else approaching the well-spoken, suited-up man with the scruffy blond hair to ask if she could take his picture. Yes, the Mayor of London was travelling between his various engagements and appointments by public transport. With no security presence, Boris (note to non-Londoners – our Mayor is universally known by his first name alone) was perfectly happy to chat to people about whatever people wanted to talk to him about, and he was OK with posing for photographs as well.
I told him that Allison thinks he needs to get a haircut. He laughed; apparently, he gets told that a lot.