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I had an unintentionally free trip on the Emirates Air-line (cable car / dangleway) this morning. For future reference it’s cheaper if you have a travelcard (mine’s annual 1-3 so I got the return trip for £7 instead of £9) although I think they’ve stopped the discount for local residents who had a Greenwich or Newham card.

It’s a lovely relaxing trip – I don’t really think of it as a journey, more a fairground ride with the option to get off at the other side and have some noodles or a mooch around the eco centre. I highly recommend it as a fun thing to do in London.

Sadly they’ve started blasting out music in the passenger-loading area (the bit where you get onto or alight from the cable car pods). Nothing particularly wrong with the music (I heard Tiny Dancer and something from Stevie Wonder) but it’s really quite loud and unnecessary. I know some underground stations have music (often classical) playing in the background but it’s usually not deafening, though I could do without it. Apparently on the underground it’s to deter teenagers (!) but I’ve no idea what it’s deterring at the Emirates Air-Line. Commuters probably.

About a year ago the cable cars introduced an in-car/pod/cabin audio commentary but at least they advertised the fact that you could ask for your pod to be quiet. Incidentally, this turned out to be a fairly good way to get an emptier cabin during busy periods as most people seemed to want the audio, or at least didn’t care, but I was shunted into a nice silent empty one after letting a couple of people go ahead of me.

Today I asked for the same – no audio – but I was really annoyed once the doors shut to realise that I was going to suffer bloody awful piped library music for the duration of the short journey. On repeat loop. Dear god. While I appreciate that there are worse things in the world to worry about I’m afraid I lost my temper and demanded a refund and a guarantee of silence on the return journey. The staff were extremely efficient, understanding and helpful, promptly refunding me, providing me with a free return ticket, apologising for the annoyance and checking mid-dangle on my return journey that the cabin was indeed quiet (it was, lovely).

Why is there loud music at the start and end of the journey? Why is there quieter music during the journey. Neither improved my experience, the silence was appreciated. It’s a real shame that it’s currently quite hard to hear the lovely hypnotic sound of the cablecar’s bullwheel (the massive rotating wheels at either end that push the cables around and around, and across the river). I remember the first time I heard it, shortly after the cable cars opened, when I walked towards the North Greenwich terminal and heard this amazing whum-whum-whum sound emanating. Also as the cable cars leave the terminal they make a nice little trundling noise as they ‘go over the points’ or whatever it’s called when they ‘take off’ and pass over some small wheels.

Dear Emirates – please shush the music, it’s unnecessary – thanks.

Things I’d like to hear instead while waiting for or crossing the river by cable-car

  • Press Option 1 for silence 😉
  • Press Option 2 for a talk by an engineer explaining how the cable-car system was constructed and works
  • Option 3 for tourist information and pointing out landmarks
  • Option 4 for radio transmissions to and from Air Traffic Control at London City Airport

Also they’ve a massive Rolls Royce engine at the North Greenwich cable-car station. It would be paired with three others and hung from a very, very large aircraft. I don’t know which type of Rolls Royce engine it was but a quick google tells me that the Rolls Royce Trent 800 series (used on a Boeing 777 for example) has a diameter of about 9 feet. The fuselage of a Boeing 737 is just a little larger than that at 11+ feet.