There were once plans to build a cable car that would link the Millennium Dome with the DLR on the north side of the river. Obviously, no such cable car was ever built.
What am I talking about you are thinking, but, I am talking about the other cable car — planned for the turn of the century, and in a totally different location from the Dangleway that eventually arrived.
Fly back to 1997, and plans were announced for an £8 million cable car to take the vast crowds expected to visit the Millennium Dome across the river from Canary Wharf.
This was at the peak of Cool Britannia, and the Dome was expected to be the key event of the decade. But with the Jubilee Line extension running late, there were concerns about how people would get to the exhibition.
Along comes the cable car, and what was known as the Meridian Skyway would have seen a cable car running from East India DLR Station just to the north of Canary Wharf over to the Dome.
Granted planning permission by both Greenwich Council and the LDDC, the Meridian Skyway was expected to open in October 1999, in time for the excited visitors to the Dome.
The cable car would have carried 5,000 people per hour at a cost of £2 per single trip lasting just 3 minutes. There would have been 23 gondolas carrying 15 people, and the design was based on an alpine ski lift from Charmonix.
Planning permission was initially for a 5-year installation, but the backers of the scheme were certain that it would become a popular tourist attraction and secure a long term future.
An idea which was also ahead of its time, was the expectation that a major sponsor would be found for the cable car, and that East India DLR station might be renamed to include the sponsor.
Unsurprisingly considering the topic of this article, it was never built. In October 1998, the firm announced that the cable car plan had been scrapped.
The backers of the cable car blamed the government owned organiser of the exhibition, the New Millennium Experience Co., for deterring investors by claiming that just 2 percent of Dome visitors would use the cable car.
This was contrary to the cable car backers statements that 60% of visitors would use its service, although the DLR which was expected to deal with most of them at its station predicted a lower figure of just 12 percent.
At a meeting with the investors held in early October 1998, Jennifer Page, CEO of the Dome company told them that the cable car was not an essential item, but just nice, and that they would be relying on the Jubilee Line for the bulk of their visitors.
Thus warned, the investors took fright, and left the cable car with an idea, but no cash.
The cancellation came as close to the wire as is possible, with it being scrapped just days before the first foundation piles were due to be drilled into the ground
Considering the flop that the exhibition was, it was fortunate for the cable car that it didn’t happen, and there may have been some schadenfreude later at how wrong Miss Page’s predictions about her own exhibition center also turned out to be.
Incidentally, amendments to the original planning application for the design of the Dome-side station are still pending with Greenwich Council (98/1164/V).
Could the Cable Car be less than dead, and simply… delayed?
The Times, 5th March 1998
The Times, 21st October 1998
BBC News, 4th March 1998
Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Third Report, Appendix 4
House of Commons Research Paper, 98/32