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Задание 716

According to the title of the article, the author thinks that the river transport …

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Ordeal by water

It is tempting to see the river Thames as another artery in London’s integrated transport system, the same colour blue on the map as the Victoria Underground line. In this ideal world, passengers move effortlessly from river ferry to train, bus or Tube, continuing their seamless journey carefree.

Unfortunately, that is not exactly how it is. Father Thames is not as kind and even-tempered as it might seem as one is looking at the map. It is a muddy, tidal creek whose flukish currents insidiously rip round the base of bridges. Navigation is hard. And the river is not straight: it does giant loops, especially around the Canary Wharf financial district. A passenger alighting from a river ferry often has to walk five or ten minutes to the nearest land connection.

With London’s Tube and buses bursting at the seams, a succession of entrepreneurs have braved these negatives and tried unsuccessfully to set up commuter services on this natural highway. Sean Collins reckons he is the 15th since 1905  but this time things may have changed. His business, which started as Collins River Enterprises in 1999, shows every sign of surviving its second decade, despite the economy’s woes and volatile fuel costs. Thames Clippers, as the firm is called these days, carried 3.2m passengers in 2009, running fast catamarans between Woolwich, downriver of the city centre, and Waterloo.

Perhaps Mr. Collins, now its managing director, simply was lucky enough to pick the right time. The past decade has been kind to the Thames. Big property developments have sprung up on both sides of the river, and more are on their way before the 2012 Olympic games. And so far, at least, Canary Wharf seems to be weathering the financial storm. But there has been still another advantage: both public and private backing for the firm have been crucial.

Thames Clippers gets a small subsidy from Transport for London (TfL), part of the Greater London Authority. A big step towards welcome integration came in November, when passengers were first allowed to use their TfL Oyster fare cards on Thames Clippers, too. And recently, Greenwich Council agreed to pay £269,000 for guaranteed service between Greenwich and Woolwich over the next four years.

One big problem is the jumbled ownership and management of landing piers: TfL owns 7 of the 13 in central London and various property developers the rest. At piers used jointly, the situation does not favour the ferries trying to stick to a timetable. They can be delayed by tourist boats hanging on for passengers. To have more control of its schedule, Thames Clippers took over the lease of the privately-owned London Bridge City Pier in November.

Another impediment is the unnecessarily rigid restriction on speed. The Port of London Authority (PLA) imposes a 12-knot limit west of Wapping, which means that boats can show their exhilarating 30-knot cruising speed only on the eastern stretches of the river.

The PLA supports the plan to get more people on the river but insists that safety is paramount. It also points out that tourists and freight, not just commuters, use the Thames. So for the moment, Thames Clippers’ civilised catamarans to and from Waterloo remain a secret pleasure for the cognoscenti.



needs improvement. - Правильный ответ
is not very promising.
is suitable only for tourists.
provides big business opportunities.
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