In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
London’s Emirates Air Line cable car service launches
Emirates Air Line, the UK’s first urban cable car, now operates between the O2 and ExCeL conference centre in London.Opened to the public at midday on June 27, the London Emirates Air Line cable car now runs between two newly constructed terminals (Emirates Greenwich Peninsula by the O2 and Emirates Royal Docks beside the ExCeL conference centre) and will be capable of transporting up to 2,500 people in each direction per hour, in one of 34 cabins.
With the bulk of the construction work completed within a year, the new structure has a cable span of 1,100 metres and is supported by three helix towers. At its highest point, passengers will be 90 metres above the Thames. Journeys will take approximately five minutes during peak times, and approximately 10 minutes at other times, when transit will be purposefully slowed to accommodate tourists and leisure users experiencing the service.
Speaking at the launch, Mayor of London Boris Johnson lauded the service as: “A stunning addition to London’s transport network, providing a much-needed new connection across the Thames… [which supports] my ambitious plans to revive the neighbouring areas, which have been neglected for decades, creating jobs for Londoners and stimulating growth.” Asked whether the route would fall out of favour once Olympics visitors had left the capital, the mayor responded that the cable car is vital in ensuring the long-term development and prosperity of the locality: “This area will undergo a tremendous transformation in the next 10-15 years; great economic growth has always been preceded by infrastructural development… [The journey] provides a panorama of some of the most opportunity-rich areas in the capital.”
Diving with sharks in Dubai at Atlantis
While a handful may live up to their reputation as apex predators with a taste for human flesh, most species of shark are entirely uninterested in feasting upon us.
Nevertheless, we’ve watched Jaws too many times to be entirely unaffected by the myths surrounding these carnivorous fish. So, it was with some trepidation that we slowly submerged ourselves in the Shark Lagoon pool at Aquaventure at Dubai’s Atlantis hotel for its new visitor attraction.
The water park’s Shark Safari experience utilises the Sea Trek system, which is essentially a modern version of the old-style diving helmet that has air continually pumped in, creating a bubble that allows you to breathe.
While the equipment is cumbersome, weighing you to the bottom and denying you the freedom of being able to float freely, it does mean you can take in subaquatic sights without the steep costs of learning to scuba dive.
In fact, our instructional session beforehand – which consisted of a series of flash cards commanding us not to handle any of the wildlife, reminding us to keep breathing and showing us how to communicate with our guides underwater via hand signals – was over in less than two minutes. Once you begin the experience, undoubtedly your first observation will be that sharks clearly like their water cold. Really, really cold. But once you’re inured enough to these icy temperatures to submerge yourself up to your shoulders, one of the staff will position the weighty helmet on your head, then you’re edging your way down the rungs of the ladder to the floor of the tank, some 10 metres down.
As you descend, the atmospheric pressure intensifies, causing head pain similar to the kind that flares up during lift-off or the landing of an airplane. Hence, you’re continually required to hold your nose and pop your ears as you lower yourself.
Can’t find Olympic accommodation? Stay in a taxi hotel!
With fears about a shortage of accommodation in the lead-up to the London Olympics, an enterprising taxi driver has decided to turn his black cab into a hotel room.
David Weekes has decked out the cab with a foam mattress, pillow with an official Olympic pillow case, doona and bedside lamp.
It even has a Paddington Bear teddy, the UK Telegraph reports. There is also a solar-powered fridge, a radio and an iPad. Camping chairs and a portable table are available on request.
While the taxi is now available for bookings through home rental website Wimdu.co.uk, guests have to fit into Mr Weekes’ work schedule.
They would be left with the taxi at night and need to be packed up and out by the morning before he starts his shift.
They also need to work out with the driver whether they want the taxi left outside Mr Weekes’ house in north London overnight or somewhere else legally-permissible in the city.
If they stay outside his house they will be allowed to use Mr Weekes’ toilet.
Mr Weekes said he was trying to make up for a feared fall in revenue during the Olympics.
Why it’s cheaper to park a light aircraft at the airport than a car
If you thought it was expensive to leave your car in Britain as you jet off on holiday, you were right.
Most of Britain’s busiest airports charge more to park a car than a plane. Research carried out byThe Independent at the UK’s top 10 airports has found that parking a six-seater light aircraft on the apron for 24 hours is cheaper than leaving a Mini for the same time in the short-term car park, exposing the dizzy heights of car parking charges for holidaymakers.
At Liverpool airport, a car costs almost four times as much as a plane.
Britain’s most expensive airport parking is at Heathrow Terminal 5, where the 24-hour rate of £51.80 costs more than an off-peak flight to Aberdeen. Heathrow, along with Gatwick and Stansted, does not routinely handle light aircraft. Manchester is by far the biggest regional airport. It charges £35 for 24 hours in the short-stay car park, but only £21 to park a Piper PA-46 – a six-seater light aircraft that weighs just under two tonnes.
While the rule for parking a car is usually “one charge fits all”, aircraft are charged by weight. The rate for 24-hours parking of the world’s biggest aircraft, the Airbus A380, is almost £4,000 at Manchester. But Emirates, which flies the “superjumbo” between Manchester and Dubai, pays nothing for parking because the first four hours are free for aircraft; the A380 is scheduled to be on the ground for 105 minutes.
Russell Craig of Manchester airport said: “Years ago airports made all their money from the planes. Now at Manchester, aviation income makes up less than half of our revenues. To be able to keep investing, you’ve got to find new revenue streams and some of that is car parking. But pre-booking is the way to save money. The turn-up prices are what they are.”