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Emirates Air Line

Emirates cable car contract gags London's next mayor

By Darryl Chamberlain
15 July 2013, 22:30

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The sponsorship contract for mayor Boris Johnson’s cable car means his successor would be prevented from criticising the deal with the Dubai government-owned airline Emirates, it has emerged.

The contract, which has appeared on the TfL website under Freedom of Information legislation, outlines the £36m deal struck between Docklands Light Railway Limited, which operates the system, and airline Emirates to sponsor the cable car for 10 years.

Should any future mayor be tempted to criticise the deal, then clause 6.5 in the Emirates Air Line contract should be enough to deter them..

DLRL shall not, and shall procure that none of TfL, each member of the TfL Group, the Air Line Contractor… and their respective directors, senior staff and official spokespeople acting in the course of his or her employment shall make any statement in connection with the subject matter of this contract that is disparaging or defamatory of the Sponsor, any member of the Emirates Group, or any person forming any part of the Government of Dubai and/or the Federal Government of the United Arab Emirates or any member of any of the Royal Families of the United Arab Emirates.

Johnson – who as mayor is the chairman of TfL – claimed in 2010 the cable car would be built “entirely from private finance”. But the Emirates deal covers only just over half its costs – and the way it is structures means it will have only paid out £13.2m so far.

Emirates will pay the rest off in a further eight £2.85m instalments each summer until 2021. European Union funding covers another £8m, leaving a £16m shortfall which the mayor hopes will eventually be covered by the premium fares charged on the link between Greenwich and the Royal Docks.

The clause may have been written with Johnson’s predecessor – who last year branded the cable car a “disaster” – in mind. But the UAE, whose human rights record has been criticised in recent years, was praised by Ken Livingstone when it agreed to pay its congestion charge bills in 2006.

But it certainly means any future mayor will have to be very careful when talking about the deal. Emirates will have no such worries about Johnson, who earlier this month opened a visitor attraction promoting the airline at the cable car’s Greenwich terminal. The opening of a visitor “experience” is included in the contract.

The contract also includes restrictions on firms which TfL could have dealings with on the cable car, who the cable car could be sold to, which would appear to block dealings with Israeli companies. The UAE does not recognise Israel as a state, and the contract specifically rules out individuals or organisations from states with which the UAE does not have diplomatic relations.

It also includes provisions for Emirates to “upgrade” some gondolas to its own design and to name the three towers which carry the cars across the Thames. It also commits TfL to run the cable car from at least 7am each weekday – despite the pitifully low user figures in the morning rush hour.

Darryl Chamberlain
Darryl writes Greenwich's 853 Blog and contributes to the Charlton Champion.

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