For a long time the idea of commuting to work by boat seemed the type of lifestyle fantasy that could only be achieved by moving to Sydney. But for many Londoners – around a million and growing, according to MBNA Thames Clippers, the capital’s largest river bus operator – that dream has become a reality.
It’s more expensive than a train, but you can still use your oyster card, you’ll always get a seat and you can also pre-order a coffee (travel on the 150-seater Neptune or Galaxy and you can order gin, too.) At present, five routes run from Putney to Woolwich, covering 20 piers, but with a number of new waterside developments all along the river, and the Port of London Authority’s ambition to double the current number of river journeys made each year from 10 to 20 million by 2035, there’s clearly a need for more.
This year saw the extension of two piers, Bankside and Westminster, meaning Clippers can now stop there 66 times a day. There are also plans afoot to create entirely new piers, which would extend London’s river commuting options considerably.
Lookout for these imminent new pier stops that could have a ripple effect on London property.
After lying abandoned for years, Battersea Power Station is finally being brought back to life with a development that will include accommodation, shops, restaurants and Apple’s new London HQ. The new pier here, served by MBNA Thames Clippers, is due to open in 2017.
New Providence Wharf (Canary Wharf East)
New Providence Wharf will serve a community of the same name, made up of 1,000 luxury homes – all of which are currently under construction. Also served by MBNA Thames Clippers, the pier itself is due to open in the next two years.
Trinity Buoy Wharf
Touted as ‘Dockland’s most exciting arts quarter’, Trinity Buoy Wharf is also home to Clipper House, built from recycled shipping containers and home to MBNA Thames Clippers Head Office, the Royal Drawing School and the University of East London among others.
A short walk from Canning Town underground is Royal Wharf, an entirely new community centred around Sovereign Place, envisioned as the dockland’s answer to Marylebone High Street. The development is now in its final stages and the pier, also serviced by MBNA Thames Clippers, will follow shortly after.
Enderby Wharf, on the Greenwich Peninsula, is a key part of the Greenwich regeneration project, with just under 700 homes being created here. London City Cruise Port is building a purpose-built cruise terminal at the wharf, which is due to be completed next year. It will also include a facility for a river bus service, expected to provide both scheduled and charter services.
Woods’ Silver Fleet has planning permission to build a private pier on the north side of Waterloo Bridge. The pier will be largely used for private charters, but you can also hire the company’s river taxi, the Silver Darling. It seats 12, boasts its own Damien Hirst and costs £900 an hour – and is how stars like Adele and Justin Bieber get to the O2 Arena.
In the pipeline
The Port of London Authority’s Thames Vision is a proposal for how the river might be used to fulfil its maximum potential by 2035. The report suggests there is potential for several additional new piers, most notably at Barking Riverside, Thamesmead, Erith, Purfleet, Greenhithe, Grays and Tilbury. Watch this space.