Murky Depths

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Transport, Woolwich

Uber river services to Woolwich & Greenwich – but how long will it buy Thames Clippers?

River services between Putney and Woolwich will be partly rebranded as Uber in a deal announced today.

Thames Clippers are owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) who also own the o2. They revealed worldwide cuts last month. PR today is presenting it as a new Uber boat service, though the reality it appears to be little more than a few stickers on Thames Clipper services and piers. Someone can’t rock up to the Thames and book a boat with their app.

It will help Thames Clippers with short term income – and they will need it. Thames Clippers are a commercial organisation and not part of TfL – and restrictions on passenger numbers present a serious threat to the company.

Looking towards Woolwich pier

There is also mention of a link between river services and Uber cabs. Uber state:

“Many Londoners are looking for new ways to travel around the city, particularly when they start commuting back to work. Later this summer we will launch the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers in London as a means for people to arrange travel on the river and road, all through the Uber app.”

Uber state that initially there is no direct link but one can imagine many ads on board and the app for a cab upon arrival.

That wouldn’t be too successful at Woolwich given no road is beside the pier, and cabs blocking nearby roads is hardly an appealing prospect and would hamper cycle lanes currently in planning. Though given enforcement is so poor it can be expected.

River boat history

For decades commuter services on the river struggled. Thames Clippers have made a good go of it backed up by AEG since 2006, but an indeterminate period of restricted passenger numbers presents a real challenge.

Passing new builds in Canning Town

Travel organisations across the country are facing a torrid time. TfL are of course in severe trouble and a recent government bailout lumbered the organisation with huge levels of dept and only enough funds to operate until the end of summer. They came within hours of huge cuts which will arise again in a short period of time.

And today First Group, which operate numerous bus services and rail franchises announced a “material uncertainty” in the future of the entire company amidst a £300 million loss. Shares dropped 10 per cent.

A rebrand exercise with Uber may buy Thames Clippers a short amount of time, but ultimately the only thing that can keep it going may be Government support.

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3 Comments

  1. Charles Calthrop

    I haven’t used the riverboat services since the early 2000s and I enjoyed it immensely, though an hour or more to reach Charing Cross off-peak was made up for by the excellent commentary on the route. As a practical means of transport its calling is probably the same as the cable car: specific destinations for those with a higher disposable income, or a one-off for tourists. I hope that the Government will at least recognise that the Thames, like the Tiber or the Seine or even the Rhine, has a depth of history befitting an ancient city. As such, it should be celebrated rather than built up to the walls (at least East of Tower Bridge). Part of that begins with an affordable service along our famous river.

  2. Kit

    I would be devastated to lose the Clipper. It’s one of the major benefits of living in Woolwich/Thamesmead. For anyone starting to go out more, please consider taking the Clipper – you can sit outside, away from anyone else and see a whole different side of our neighbourhood from the water. So much more civilised and safer than the DLR or train.

  3. Frank

    We got the clipper today. The Uber stuff was confusing people everyone was asking if its still TFL, or if they had to use the uber app. Although private, the TFL brandings and signage creates a standardised feel and a degree of confidence for residents and tourists.

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