Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Taking a Thames Clipper

Thames Clipper

This is the third in a series of posts about what we did on our recent trip to London.

After lunch, we decided to head back towards central London. We could have caught the DLR from Cutty Sark and gone back the way we came, but instead, we caught a Thames Clipper waterbus from Greenwich Pier. The Thames Clippers are a fleet of catamarans that run up and down the River Thames in central London, and are currently sponsored by MBNA. Recently, they have started accepting Oyster cards as payment, and so we thought we’d give them a try, seeing as none of us had been on one before.

Although they operate on water, as they are catamarans rather than regular boats, they’re actually very quick. Certainly quicker than catching a bus, and probably competitive with the Tube – worth knowing the next time there’s a strike or signalling problems. You can sit outside at the back, but there’s a large amount of indoor seating too, and the seats are very comfortable – far better than most other forms of public transport. There’s even on board bar serving coffee, snacks and alcohol. And whilst I’m not usually one for getting sea sick, the Thames Clippers are pretty smooth and so even if you normally get queasy on a ferry, you shouldn’t have issues with these.

Tower Bridge

As well as being quick, you can get a very different view of London’s landmarks. We travelled from Greenwich to London Bridge Pier, which took us under Tower Bridge and offered a square on view. It was worth it to take photos.

The two main downsides of the Thames Clippers are waiting times and cost. Although they are regular, we just missed one at Greenwich and it was around 15 minutes until the next one. Whilst that’s more frequent than many bus and rail services outside the capital, it doesn’t compare so favourably with buses or the Tube.

It’s also rather on the pricey side. I think we paid £8 for our journey on our Oyster cards, which is significantly more expensive than other forms of public transport. Whilst people can and do commute to work on the Thames Clippers services, they’re really aimed at tourists who are happier to pay a higher price. Still, you get a comfy seat, a fast journey, and get to see parts of London from new angles, so it’s worth the extra cost.

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