A shiny new cable car system has opened in London in time for the start of the Olympic Games later this month. And, as usual in the UK, Irish construction firms were at the forefront of its innovation.

The just over half-mile long transport system – called the Emirates Air Line – cost around £60 million to build. It crosses the River Thames on the east side of the capital and carries passengers – and sports fans coming to town for London 2012 – from the south bank to the north where the Olympics Village and much of the new sports arena for the events are situated.

It’s Britain’s first urban cable car system and a number of major Irish building companies working in the capital have been involved in bringing it to life.

The main contractors Mace were joined on the project by County Westmeath firm of J. Coffey Construction and the Carey Group, which was founded in 1969 by Carey family chairman John Carey Senior and his two brothers Pat and Tom. Carey’s vision when it was established was to build an exceptional civil engineering business without losing sight of traditional values. And with the new cable car system it says it has managed to do just that in helping to realising an amazing feat of engineering.

Careys were involved in the project from the get-go, building the support columns that now ferry the gondolas 160 feet above and over the River Thames. J Coffey Construction helped build the piers on the north and south sides of the river, as well as being involved in groundwork projects.

Transport Commissioner for London, Peter Hendy works with London Mayor Boris Johnson whose idea it was to commission an extra River Thames crossing by cable car in time for the London 2012 Games.

He said: “The Emirates Air Line is an amazing achievement for all of those involved given the time scale they worked within from it being an initial idea to a completed mode of transport.”

Passengers have been busy trying out the new service in its first week of operation. The crossing – between Greenwich on the south side of the river and the Royal Docks, close to the Olympics venues on the north side, has the capacity to carry up to 2,500 people per hour in each direction. That’s the same number as 30 famous red London double decker buses.

The service will initially operate seven days a week from 7.00am to 9.00pm Mondays to Fridays, 8.00am to 9.00pm on Saturdays and 9.00am to 9.00pm on Sundays. A single fare boarding pass costs £3.20.

Once on board passengers can get a fantastic view above London like as if they had travelled on the Peter Pan ride over London at the Walt Disney theme parks in Florida and California – only this time for real! You take in the sights of the City of London and the new Canary Wharf development from the port, or left side, of the cable car gondola with views out to London Heathrow Airport further west.

On the starboard side of the gondola, right side, there are views of the Olympic Park itself, including the cycling velodrome, aquatics swimming pool complex and media centre with views further east of the River Thames Flood Barrier which has kept the capital from flooding at peak river tides for more than a decade now.

Airline firm Emirates has stumped up a whopping £36 million to sponsor the new cable car for the next decade. It’s part of a massive regeneration project on the east side of the UK capital.

The eye-catching landmark is already receiving plaudits just days after opening to the public. It is yet another in a series of recent engineering feats from Irish companies in London - following on from the Shard building, the Olympic Stadium and the restoration of the old Cutty Sark tea clipper museum ship which was badly damaged by fire.

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