Transport for London has agreed to abide by UAE foreign policy when entering into contracts and partnerships relating to the Thames Cable Car.
On Monday TfL published the entire contract between subsidiary Docklands Light Railway Limited and Emirates Airline, revealing the full extent of the respective obligations the two parties have under their sponsorship agreement.
The airline is providing a maximum of £36m towards the scheme’s £63m construction and development costs.
When it was first proposed, Mayor Boris Johnson and TfL claimed the scheme would be built at no cost to the taxpayer but the shortfall between costs and sponsorship revenue meant TfL had to apply for EU grant to help build the scheme.
Under the terms of the contract, TfL would be considered in default of the agreement if it sold “a material part” of the cable car system or assigned it as security to a “Conflicting Person”.
The contract defines a “Conflicting Person” as:
“(i) any Competitor; or (ii) any person who is a national of, or who is registered, incorporated, established or whose principal place of business is in a country with which the United Arab Emirates does not at the date of this Contract or at any relevant point during the Term maintain diplomatic relations;”
That definition means the foreign policy of a non-UK Government can restrict which banks TfL might seek to raise funds from or who it might in future seek to sell the cable car system to.
It would prevent TfL from financing the scheme through Israeli-based or owned banks should they require its assets be put up as security, as the UAE does not recognise Israel or have diplomatic ties with it.
News of the prohibition follows last year’s attempt by Emirates to make visitors to the cable car’s official micro-site subject to Dubai Law.
Despite significant levels of publicity and promotion, the cable car has been a flop with passengers with recent internal TfL polling confirming the public view it as a tourist attraction, not a regular transport mode.
TfL’s decision to agree to the causes has been questioned by London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore in a letter to Mayor Johnson.
Mr Dismore said Mr Johnson “has a lot of questions to answer” and said the contract “must be renegotiated, as apart from being discriminatory, it is also unlawful on the face of it”.