Figures released today show that the taxpayer funded Thames cable car is running significantly below capacity despite the capital enjoying a tourism boost from the Olympics.
Transport for London says around half a million passengers have used the cable car since it launched in June, and that “more than 20,000” journeys have been taken each day.
However TfL originally said the service could carry “up to 2,500 people per hour in each direction” – a maximum daily capacity of 35,000 during its 14 hours of weekday operation.
Today’s figures suggest the cable car has averaged just over a half of that figure.
A TfL spokesperson told MayorWatch the 2,500 figure is a theoretical maximum which doesn’t take account of differing loading times for passengers with mobility impairments and other requirements.
Of the 500,000 journeys, up to 10,000 were free trips offered to local residents who were each given two complimentary return journeys to “thank them for their patience during the building phase.”
When he first announced plans for the cable car Mayor Boris Johnson promised it would be funded “entirely from private finance” and that no costs would be incurred by TfL.
Despite this he later announced TfL would provide the scheme’s “upfront funding” which would then be recouped “from a range of sources including the appointed commercial partner, fare revenue and sponsorship.”
The Mayor’s sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline subsequently secured just £36m of the scheme’s £60m cost with the sponsorship money paid over a ten-year period. TfL has since plugged some of the shortfall with European Union funding.
The Mayor has previously confirmed that receipt of the full sponsorship sum is dependent on the cable car’s performance.
Despite appearing on the Tube map, the scheme isn’t integrated into the rest of TfL’s transport network. Travelcard and Freedom Pass holders must purchase a separate ticket to travel on it and fares are excluded from the Oyster PAYG daily capping.
On Wednesday Mayor Johnson claimed the cable car “is fast becoming an iconic way of traversing the Thames and an important link for Londoners living in the east of our city.”