Thursday 9th June 2022
Now in its seventh week after a low profile ‘soft’ launch the expanding area known as Barking Riverside in east London is enjoying a brand new direct service to the City and Westminster.
No, I’m not talking the substantial new railway station. That’s due to open later this autumn as the new terminus of the 15 minute frequency Gospel Oak Overground line so won’t take passengers directly to central London but instead necessitate a change at either Barking or Blackhorse Road.
What’s new is the Thames Clipper River boat service or as it prefers to be known in today’s world of sponsorship and product placement… UberBoat.
The finishing touches are still being made to landscaping around the newly constructed Barking Riverside pier hence no formal launch of the new service just yet, but passengers are certainly giving it a try out as I found last Friday over the Jubilee holiday weekend.
We only took six passengers out to Barking Riverside – a family of four who’d boarded at the previous pier in Woolwich and a couple of tourists who’d ‘cruised’ the whole way from Embankment but there were over 30 passengers waiting to board to return towards central London including the six who’d just arrived confirming that for now, with the Barking Riverside development still largely a building site, the new public transport option that’s just arrived is being mainly used by tourists ‘doing the River’.
The current timetable reflects that with an all day half hourly service operating at weekends and public holidays but Mondays to Fridays just has a peak hour service between 06:25 and 10:50 and 17:15 and 21:35 but includes an increased frequency of three boats an hour at key times.
There aren’t many commuters living in Barking Riverside; thousands of homes have still to be built; but under planning agreements that can’t happen until public transport is put in place in particular the 15 minute frequency Overground railway line, which is seen as the main people mover rather than the Thames Clipper boats on the River, welcome though they are.
There’s very clear information presented at the River end of the pier including a ‘route’ map, timetable and details of tickets and fares.
There’s also a large full timetable posted on the hoardings at the land end of the pier in Fielders Crescent …
… where a bus stop has been installed for route EL1 which passes by for ease of modal integration.
Except the bus stop pole and flag has yet to be installed.
And bus timetable information added.
But I’m sure it’ll all be sorted for the official opening ceremony when the landscaping is complete.
Or when the new Overground station opens which is a short walk away.
Or a few months after that.
The pier itself is quite extensive. It takes three minutes to walk from Fielders Crescent by the bus stop to where you board the boat.
It’ll be interesting to see how many residents opt for the rather expensive River option for their travel needs. It costs £4.80 for a single journey using Oyster, online and the App as far as Canary Wharf and £8.70 beyond that to Battersea Power Station. Other ticket options include season tickets, and carnets as well as discounts for Travelcard holders, but it’s more expensive than the bus and the train.
One interesting feature of the UberBoat service is it provides a very useful cross river facility with the first stop after Barking Riverside at Woolwich Royal Arsenal meaning commuters can cross the river in just nine minutes for the £4.80 fare.
I stopped off on my River trip from London Bridge towards Barking Riverside at Canary Wharf last Friday morning (having a lovely coffee and catch up with the hugely knowledgable and very friendly David Leeder) where I found the boats doing a roaring trade as Jubilee holidaying tourists were using the service to enjoy the brilliant views the River offers of London’s famous skyline.
The fifteen minute frequency was barely coping leaving many passengers wanting to head back towards the city and central London behind – I watched two consecutive departures making only a small dent in the queue.
Canary Wharf pier also sees the frequent cross River ferry shuttle service from Canary Wharf to the Rotherhithe area which is another convenient way to travel between the north and south banks.
The boat I caught heading towards Barking Riverside was also well loaded but most passengers alighted at North Greenwich where two of the journeys from Battersea Power Station pier each hour terminate.
After North Greenwich there were only a few left on board with most alighting at Woolwich.
And after that there was just the six on board already mentioned and the bank side scenery changed from familiar tourist sites to industrial and waste land with scrap metal yards …
… containers ….
… and storage terminals …
… until tower cranes in the Barking Riverside development finally come into view.
And its long pier.
Once the thousands of new homes are built it will be interesting to see how many residents take to the River for their journey into the City rather than the train.
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