From the window of his warehouse apartment on Woolwich’s waterfront, Canary Wharf commuter Adrian Charity can see his daily taxi to work arriving to collect him.
- © Rebecca Reid
“When I see it coming through the Thames Barrier I know I have to get my skates on, says the 35-year-old banker.
Soon he is boarding the 7.50am Thames Clipper riverboat, one of a fleet of fast catamarans operating between Woolwich and Millbank.
The Clippers are one of the reasons that the number of London workers commuting by river has trebled over the past year from 900,000 to
Adrian pays £67 for a monthly season ticket, which guarantees him a seat there and back for the 25-minute journey. From November 2009, he and other riverboat passengers will be able to use their Oyster cards for the first time, qualifying for 20 per cent travel discounts, as part of a Boris Johnson initiative to integrate river services into the wider transport network.
Under the Mayor’s plan, the frequency of ferries will be increased, new piers built and routes extended. The wider strategy is to make much better use of the river as a transport artery, with the aim of ferrying thousands of visitors to 2012 Olympic venues, such as the 02, which will go some way towards relieving pressure on the Tube.
More than 30 organisations, including boat operators, pier owners, property developers and Transport for London, have signed up to a “river concordat”, which aims to promote and improve services.
All this is very welcome news for thousands of commuters like Adrian who have chosen to live at riverside developments, while buying an apartment overlooking the Thames has become even more alluring.
'The level of comfort on a Thames Clipper is better than on a short-haul aircraft'
Thames Clippers, the river’s main commuter operator, has been pleased and surprised by the rapid rate of growth and says the expansion of housing along the river justifies an improved service.
“The level of comfort is better than on a short-haul aircraft,” says Sean Collins, managing director. “Everyone is guaranteed a seat on our boats, which serve tea, coffee, snacks, and, in the evening, you can have a cold glass of wine on your way home. A lot of commuters will pay extra for comfortable seats, a wonderful ambience and brilliant view.”
Currently, river services operate along three sections of the Thames: Wandsworth to Westminster via Chelsea Harbour; Embankment to Tower Bridge via Blackfriars; and Docklands to Woolwich via Greenwich. City Hall is exploring the feasibility of extending regular services to Putney in the west and to Barking and Dartford in the east.
New piers have already been agreed in principle at Battersea Power Station, St George’s Wharf in Vauxhall, Somerset House, Oxo Tower, Convoys Wharf at Deptford, Charlton, Silvertown and Thamesmead. A priority is for a faster service running every 10 minutes from London Bridge to Canary Wharf.
'Thousands more new riverside homes are in the pipeline'
Since the demise of the old docks, the Thames has staged a remarkable comeback. It is Britain’s most valuable development site and after being declared biologically dead in 1957, the river now sustains more than 122 species of fish and its banks attract 16 million visits a year from walkers, joggers and cyclists.
Even passenger cruise ships are starting to come in and the river is used by about 2,000 private boats. More people now live alongside the central stretch of the Thames in London - from Wandsworth to Woolwich - than at any time in the capital’s history. Thousands more new riverside homes are in the planning pipeline.
“People can buy into a development such as Battersea’s Albion Riverside and get a long lease, 24-hour concierge, spa and underground parking, and know it’s only a short walk across the river to Chelsea; often the views are better too from the south side,” says Sarah Haslam, head of Knight Frank Riverside.
She deals with 45 developments between Westminster and Putney. Currently Bankside and Vauxhall are “hot areas”. Apartments at Aquarius House, the final phase of the giant St George Wharf scheme in Vauxhall, cost from £399,950. Call 020 7627 8699.
River-facing two-bedroom apartments at Battersea Reach - the location is more Wandsworth than Battersea - cost from £839,950. For more information, call 020 7978 4141.
At Imperial Wharf on the Fulham waterfront, prices range from £1.25 million for a two-bedroom riverside flat to £4.95 million for a penthouse. Call 020 7610 9693.