Monday, April 13, 2009
Oysters in the Thames
I've long believed that one of the best things there is to do in London is to cruise down (or up) the Thames. It really is the best way to see the city, and in over ten years of living in the city I've never got bored of it. It's one of the reasons I joined the London branch of the Maritime Volunteer Service, under whose supervision I recently steered a boat through the Thames Barrier and past Greenwich (and managed not to crash).
In the last few years, the Thames Clipper service between Westminster and Woolwich has provided an exhilerating high-speed link between Greenwich borough and the centre of town. Whenever I have an excuse to do so I love speeding down the river on these impressive craft, and wish I could afford to do it more often.
So it was extremely welcome that Boris Johnson's manifesto contained proposals to make better use of the river. And last week he published his 'River Concordat" between river service operators, pier owners and London Boroughs. The biggest announcement is that from November, Thames Clipper services will accept Oyster pay-as-you-go. I've known this was on the cards for some time, having discussed it with TfL and with AEG (who own Thames Clipper services) shortly after the Mayoral election last year.
Sadly, Greenwich Council adopted a rather childish approach, mounting a "campaign" for improved services and acceptance of the Oystercard, whilst fully aware the Mayor was already committed to these objectives. Our Conservative colleagues on the London Assembly, Gareth Bacon, was told by the Mayor that the Council had not even been in touch with him on these issues. Greenwich Leader Chris Roberts has since denied this, saying there have been meetings between Greenwich and TfL about this, but if that is the case, they would have known that negotiations to bring Oystercard to the Clippers were well advanced.
Anyway, such bickering aside, it is undoubtedly a good thing that the potential of the River is being more fully explored. I have suggested that we should look at a bigger role for the Thames in the Olympic travel plan, and I will be pursuing this in future, along with other ways of making sure that Greenwich (longest river frontage in London, trivia fans) makes the most of its riparian credentials.