Cable car
Tfl representation of completed Emirates Air Line across Thames (TfL)

Transport for London (TfL) has insisted that a project to build a cable car across the Thames is not connected with the Olympics, amid concerns that it will not be finished in time for the games.

TfL has never formally announced an Olympic link to the £60m Emirates Air Line project between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks, although it has long been seen as providing a key alternative transport link to help London keep moving during the huge influx of Olympics visitors.

Original projections for the cable car system, where construction began in August 2011, aimed for an official opening in late spring, with the construction group Mace as lead contractor.

A TfL spokesman told IBTimes UK that the project remained on course for a "summer 2012" opening, while stressing that any connection with the games would be coincidental.

"The project is making good progress," he said. "Mace has made several major steps and everything is on track.

"This is not an Olympic project, however. This is a London transport scheme and will be operating and running for many years to come, long after the games have finished.

"The Air Line will be providing a very useful link across the Thames, making that crossing more efficient for people who currently have to make several changes to do so."

Under construction
TfL claims project is going well, with all towers built and cables connected (TfL)

The spokesman claimed the project was on course to be completed before the games open on 27 July, but repeated that this was not a priority.

"There will be a touristy feel to it and, hopefully, it's something that people will go out to have a ride on and come and see, but it will provide a real and practical use. We are hoping to create something that can be both practical and an attraction."

Mace celebrated a "major milestone" in the construction of the cable car system earlier in April, with the completion of all three towers and the stretching of a cable across the 1.1km gap.

The pylons, manufactured in Bolton, were erected in sections using cranes and reach heights of around 90 metres. The cable, made up of nearly 300 strands of steel, was pulled into place and tensioned using a 12-tonne winch. It has been installed to give a minimum clearance of 50m above the Thames.

"Work on the Emirates Air Line is gaining momentum. This is a major milestone for the project," said Danny Price, TfL Emirates Air Line operations manager.

"It won't be long before we see the rigorous testing and commissioning process starting, with a cabin taking its first flight across the river."

Spanning the Thames
Another representation of completed cable car system (TfL)

Matt Randall, project manager for Mace, said: "The stringing of the cable across the Thames has been a highly complex and intricate part of the construction of this landmark project.

"We used boats to make the initial rope connection during the short night-time window when the tide was at its lowest, working with the Port of London Authority to keep the river clear and this [the rope] was eventually replaced with the cable.

"Now the cable has been tensioned to the correct height, the next step will be to commence the testing of the whole system."

It is thought that the project's main sponsor, Emirates, was keen to see it completed in time for the games for the publicity boost it would give the £36m investment.

The possibility of the cable car not being active before the start of the games did not seem to have been raised with Boris Johnson when he spoke to the Guardian after the scheme was announced in June 2010.

"Passengers would be able to drink in the truly spectacular views of the Olympic Park and iconic London landmarks while shaving valuable minutes from their travelling time," he said at the time.