Main construction works on the UK's first urban cable car have been taking place on either side of the river since July 2011 with Mace providing design and build services alongside its specialist facilities management firm, Macro, which is handling the operations of the development.
On completion, the three main towers will allow 34 cabins to cross the river at heights of up to 90m between the two terminals, Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks.
The three towers were manufactured in Bolton and have been erected in sections by crane. At around 90m tall, the South Tower is the only tower to have been built in the River Thames. It is next to the O2 arena (formerly Millennium Dome). Each tower has been topped with a Doppelmayr 'head' (named after specialist cable car contractor Doppelmayr) which allows the cabling to run across the tops of the structures. The 50mm diameter wire rope runs 1.1km across the river. It was pulled into place and tensioned using a 12t winch located on the platform of the so-called South Terminal on Greenwich Peninsula. The cable has now been clamped and secured at each station and tensioned to gain a minimum clearance of 55m above the Thames.
The 34 cabins that will be used to transport passengers across the river will soon begin a rigorous testing process. This will involve hours of running the cables and cabins across the river before it is due to open for passenger service in summer 2012.
Danny Price, TfL Emirates Air Line operations manager, said: "Work on the Emirates Air Line is really gaining momentum now. This is a major milestone for the project and helps everyone to visualise the unique and exciting travel experience soon to link the Royal Victoria Docks and Greenwich Peninsula. It won't be long before we see the rigorous testing and commissioning process starting with a cabin taking its first flight across the river."
Mace project director Matt Randall added: "The pull of the cable across the Thames has been a highly complex and intricate part of the construction of this landmark project. We used boats to make the initial rope connection during the short night-time window when the tide was at its lowest, working with the Port of London Authority to keep the river way clear, and this was eventually replaced with the cable itself. Now the cable has been tensioned to the correct height, the next step will be to commence the testing of the whole system."