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Friday, 29 June 2012

Service "suspended"

Today London's newest transport service commenced operations. The Emirates Air Line, a brand new cable car across the River Thames, carried its first passengers this morning, with a press launch, before opening to fare paying passengers at midday.

It is less than two years since the project was announced. It runs from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria Dock - about 1km in length and some 90m above the Thames. It is the first urban cable car in the UK, can carry some 2,500 passengers an hour (about the same as the Blackwall Tunnel carries), and is sponsored by Dubai-based airline Emirates.

There was never any specific intention to include Emirates Air Line as part of the transport for the Olympic Games despite media suggestions to the contrary but an extremely fast design, approval and construction programme has brought it into service ahead of the Opening Ceremony.

Testing and certification was complete during June and was able to open for business today.

Mayor Boris Johnson, plus other VIPs including Tim Clarke, Emirates' President were aboard the first cabin to cross the Thames, heading south to a large press contingent waiting at Greenwich. After the speeches we made several trips across the Thames where, happily, the sun came out, and allowed us extraordinary views in all directions. Landing aircraft for City Airport flew over us, DLR trains, buses and boats scurried beneath us, whilst the queue for rides outside grew. The Mayor was clearly delighted with this newest addition to the transport network.

After press interest was satisfied, there was a continuous passage of invited guests followed by the long-awaited opening to the public.

The views are amazing, the ride is smooth and the whole experience one of quality. The Emirates Air Line is fully integrated into the TfL network - you can use Oyster to pay for journeys, it is fully accessible, and of course appears on the Underground map.

It's London's newest tourist attraction!


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Saturday, 23 June 2012

34 Days to go!

Key members of the team delivering the Olympic Games transport from
every agency imaginable gather together alongside RM613 in
Greenwich during a brief interlude at their last networking event
before Games Time really gets underway
Firstly to say thank you for the hundreds of messages I have received on and around my birthday. I know Facebook and all the other electronic media tell you when it is, but you all did take the deliberate step of writing to me either by email, on Facebook, and similar. So thank you!

It has always been the longest day (in terms of daylight that is, although the day I was born my mother also thought so), but this week with everything going on, it certainly was. The number of hits to this blog is always a bit of a litmus test and in the time before the strike on London's buses people were certainly checking in here for any information and news.

I am sure you will understand that this personal blog isn't the place for me to discuss the dispute directly but I do want to use it to thank all of the TfL, rail and bus company staff who worked so hard to help keep London moving. Thanks to your hard work the inconvenience to London was minimised.

This now leaves us with just some 34 days to the Opening Ceremony. The Torch Relay, today approaching Manchester, is now half way through.

But things are happening now. The Mall is already closed for the construction of the Central London venue, as is Horse Guards Road. All over London magenta signs are appearing at stations and signs indicating the Olympic Route Network are being installed.

From the start of July we will start to adjust traffic signal timings to create enough capacity on specific routes as the Olympic family, media and others start to arrive. Early in July the Kingsway Subway will operate in the reverse direction and from the weekend of 20th July all the major physical works, banned turns, stopping places, and bus route diversions will be in place. The Torch Relay is in London that week.

The message is clear. Plan ahead. You can see in great detail every area of affected London on the web - GetAheadoftheGames.com tells you everything you need to know. So in your circle of work colleagues, friends, relations; in the pub, club, gym; on the golf course or at home - tell everyone you can that the time is now and a little preparation will help everyone enjoy this amazing experience which is about to unfold onto the streets of London!

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Torch Relay Day 28

"The Kiss" here close to the Quayside in Newcastle
There are lots of potential stories and I know from the hits to this blog that quite a lot of people are coming here looking for news about a number of significant issues currently generating a high profile.

So I thought I would write about Friday when I joined the Torch Relay on Day 28 as it made its way into central Newcastle.

The Torch Relay is really well organised with a selection of interesting vehicles clearing the way, rousing the crowds before the Torch itself, led by a media vehicle, is carried by one of 8,000 torch bearers. Each one carries the torch some 300 yards before handing over to another, lighting his or her flame in 'the kiss'.

The Torch is travelling in many different ways and on different modes of transport. For the most part white-suited joggers are carrying it through the streets of Great Britain (as well as Northern Ireland and Eire).

One of the fleet of ten Wrights Streetlites here taking a break in Wallsend.
They will join the fleet of Stagecoach South Wales when finished
For the Newcastle segment we drove past thousands of cheering people from Wallsend before arriving in a thoroughly appreciative City Centre crowd. From my vantage point in the BMW behind the Torch bearer it was amazing to see all the positive reactions of the crowd - more than half of whom were filming or photographing the event. Jack Charlton was the Torch Bearer briefly in the City Centre where I made a hasty exit from the BMW and made my way to the control centre high above the Quayside. From there it was incredible to see a wire hung from the Olympic rings of the Tyne Bridge some 200ft above the water. From there, soon after 1900, adventurer Bear Grylls, clutched the Torch and flew down a zipwire which brought him down the Quayside and the lighting of a cauldron.

The 'Activation' vehicles which precede the convoy

The Torch's job done for the night the crowd settled in to watch a football match on huge screens across the Tyne. (Not me I should add).

The Torch has some 40 days left to go - almost entirely now in England. When it reaches its last week it will be with us in London, spiralling around the suburbs before visiting the 1908 Olympic site at White City, and threading its way through Camden and Westminster before ending up in Hyde Park. Some interesting modes of transport may feature!

When all this exciting and frantic activity is completed, we will have arrived at the moment of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. THEN it REALLY starts!

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Monday, 4 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee weekend

A short distraction to the busy weekend of events, road closures, bus service diversions and river pageants is the occasion once again of public access to the deserted village of Imber on Salisbury Plain.

Commandeered in 1943 and never returned the village itself remains at the centre of a military training location and is a curious mixture of what has been frozen in time plus the construction of other types of buildings.

As ever a bus service numbered 23A is in operation today with Routemasters but making its debut is LT1 which is also in action there today.

Of course I'm afraid I haven't been able to venture out of London this weekend but fortunately I already have news and photographs beamed from Wiltshire so here indeed is LT1 along with RM1005 at Warminster Station before setting out onto uncharted and mobile phone-free territory on Salisbury Plain.