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Thames cable car set for planning permission

A cable car spanning the Thames in East London, and due in time for the Olympics in 2012, is set to get planning permission tomorrow.

John East, Newham Council’s divisional director for planning said his team have recommended the scheme to its strategic development committee, which will vote on the plan on Tuesday 18 January.

The urban cable car, first mooted in July 2010, will provide a river crossing between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks connecting the O2 Arena and ExCel – both major Olympic and Paralympic venues.

The scheme is contingent on Transport for London attracting the £25 million build cost from private sources. TfL said the search for the funding was ongoing. But Mr East said it was unlikely the transport authority would have allowed the scheme to have got this far down the planning path without being confident that the funds would be found.

Mr East said: “All the discussions I have had with Tfl suggest they will be able to secure that private funding, or sponsorship to enable the cable car to happen.

“Bearing in mind where we are with public finances and the scrutiny that public bodies are under, why would TfL come this far if they weren’t sure?”

He added that procurement would have to be swift to have the scheme ready in time for London 2012.

The 1,100 m cable car would cross the river at a height of over 50m and take around five minutes. It is designed to provide a crossing every 30 seconds carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 buses per hour.

The scheme is being proposed in response to London Mayor, Boris Johnson’s desire to increase the number of river crossings east of Tower Bridge.

The cable car would be a first for the Capital, and the only urban system in the UK, seeking to replicate the success of cable cars in many cities across the world such as Lisbon and Barcelona.

Mr Johnson said: “A cable car spanning the majestic Thames would not only provide a unique and pioneering addition to London’s skyline, but also offer a serene and joyful journey across the river. Passengers would be able to drink in the truly spectacular views of the Olympic Park and iconic London landmarks whilst shaving valuable minutes from their travelling time. It would also provide a much needed enhancement of cross river options to the east of the city.”

London’s transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: “We recognise the need for additional river crossings east of Tower Bridge and a range of options are currently being examined including how they will be funded. However, many of these measures such as a new vehicle crossing at Silvertown will take years to deliver. A privately funded cable car system offers a relatively quick and cost effective way of improving connections across the river for pedestrians and cyclists while road links are progressed in parallel. It would be frequent, with cable cars every 30 seconds carrying up to 2,500 passengers per hour in each direction, equivalent to the capacity of 50 buses per hour.”

TfL believes a cable car system can be built quickly and cheaply. The estimated construction cost is likely to be around £25m.

East London and the Royal Docks is the focus of a raft of regeneration projects whilst developments such as Canary Wharf have increased the overall demand for travel across the river.

Much of the land in the Royal Docks is in public ownership and the London Development Agency on behalf of the Mayor of London and Newham Council are developing plans to regenerate the whole area. Improving transport connections across the Thames to the Greenwich Peninsula will provide a significant boost to these plans. These include the Mayor’s recently announced Green Enterprise District in east London, spearheaded by a £30m Siemens Pavilion.

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