'Emirates Air Line' cable car opens in London

Britain's first urban cable car service opened to the public on Thursday, carrying passengers across the River Thames in London - just in time for the Olympic Games.

The five-minute ride takes visitors from Greenwich in southeast London to the Royal Docks in east London, joining Olympic venues on both sides of the river.

Each car provides 360-degree views taking in the Canary Wharf financial district, Greenwich and its historic maritime and timekeeping sites, the Thames Barrier - one of the world's biggest flood defence systems - and the Olympic Park.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said it was "a must-see destination in its own right", as he opened the service.

"Get on this cable car immediately. It's beautiful, worth every penny and a stunning piece of engineering," he said after a taking a trip on it himself.

The gondola system has been described as the most expensive in the world, with the overall cost of the project hitting £62.6 million ($A96 million).

Construction costs totalling £45 million were offset by a £36 million, 10-year sponsorship deal with Dubai airline Emirates.

The 1.1-kilometre long cable car system, named the "Emirates Air Line", can carry up to 2500 people per hour in each direction - the equivalent of 30 London buses - the British capital's transport authority said.

An adult cash fare is £4.30 - the same as a central London journey on the Underground train network - while it costs £3.20 for those with London's Oyster transport swipe cards.

The opening comes around a month before the start of the London 2012 Games, which officially begin on July 27.

The ride connects the O2 Arena in Greenwich, which is staging gymnastics and the basketball finals, with the ExCeL exhibition centre in the Royal Docks area, which will host events including boxing, taekwondo and table tennis.

AFP