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Thames cable car goes down to the wire for 2012

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 10:34 UK time, Friday, 17 December 2010

Remember the cable car project in East London that's meant to link the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsula?

The one about which the Mayor said:

"The aim is to fund the construction of the scheme entirely from private finance and discussions are ongoing with a number of private sector organisations that have expressed interest in the project."

And:

"The aim is to fund the scheme's construction entirely from private finance and discussions are ongoing with a number of organisations"


Well, it has emerged that tax-payers money will actually be used to get this project off the ground and it'd be "challenging" to get it finished by the Olympics.

It appears the London Development Agency weren't prepared to put funding towards it, given their severe financial problems. So it was necessary for the Mayor to issue a legal 'direction' to them which requires them to do it.

The documents say:

"The Mayor is asked to direct the LDA to fund £1.213m in 2010-11 towards the development phase of the East London Cable Car project."

The £1.2million will be spent on:


• Planning and associated consents to include funding of professional fees in support of
consents stage: £500,000 (in capped contribution to TfL)

• Initial land referencing and strategic advice on acquisitions: £25,000

• Legal fees in support of land strategy and commercial development of the scheme: £180,000

• Shared costs with Greenwich Peninsula Regeneration Ltd for planning application: £75,000

• Support of acquisition process and property consultancy fees: £120,000

• 3rd party legal fees for current landowners: £120,000

• Design development resulting from masterplanning changes: £100,000

• Sponsorship strategy: £75,000

• Support of business development process: £18,000

An LDA document (PDF) also says

  • Construction costs are estimated at £40m
  • Should these not be fully met through private sector investment or funding, the scheme would require public sector capital subsidy.

And there's the warning:

Timescales for planning, land assembly, procurement, contracting with a potential concessionaire and their subsequent design would be severely constrained, with significant cost and time risks. Whilst at this point it remains a project objective to explore ways to do this, completion by the Olympics would be extremely challenging.

Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group has this to say:

"A cable car crossing the Thames might well be a great idea, but the bottom line is that the Mayor promised Londoners that it would be funded entirely from private finance and that has already turned out to not be the case. The Mayor now needs to give a clear account of why he rejected the views of the board of the London Development Agency and forced them to divert public funding into his pet project."

I await a response from the Mayor's Office and / or TfL.

UPDATE: 4.55pm

I've just received this comment from a spokesperson for the Mayor of London:

"The Mayor has asked officials to explore all the options to underwrite this important development whilst seeking a private sponsor."

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