London's Emirates Air Line losing $78,000 a week

Branded cable car named after Dubai carrier has seen users dwindle since Olympics
London Mayor Boris Johnson takes one of the first rides on the Emirates Air Line. (Getty Images)
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 19 Feb 2013 04:10 PM

The London cable car named after its Dubai-based sponsor Emirates Airline has attracted so few passengers it is losing up to GBP£50,000 (US$77,500) a week, according to the UK's The Times newspaper.

Fewer than 15,000 people used the Emirates Air Line cable car in the week to February 2 - 4,500 less than in any other week since the service opened in June 2012, according to figures released to the newspaper under Britain's Freedom of Information Act.

With costs of GBP£115,000 a week and a top fare GBP£4.30, the service has been losing up to GBP£50,000 a week.

The US$99m cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks was built in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, with the city's mayor Boris Johnson boasting it would  become a new major transport route for commuters.

Dubai-based airline Emirates contributed GBP£36m towards the project in a ten-year sponsorship deal that includes naming the cable car Emirates Air Line.

But passenger numbers have fallen by more than 80 per cent since the end of the Olympics, according to The Times. Prior to the games, held in July-August, it carried about 9,700 passengers a day, less than 15 percent of capacity.

The capital's transport authority Transport for London blamed the recent poor passenger numbers on lower tourist numbers during winter and high winds, which caused the service to be temporarily closed.

Head of Emirates Air Line, Danny Price, said patronage was in line with expectations and would increase as east London’s population continued to grow.

“As with all new transport links, the number of regular users builds over time as people become familiar with new journey possibilities,” Price told The Times.

He said while it was expected that the ride would break even “over a reasonable period of time” it was too early to predict when, Price said. Targets would be reassessed when actual volumes of use had been more clearly established.

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