UK: BDB's Work With TfL On The Emirates Air Line Cable Car System

Last Updated: 28 November 2012
Article by Charles Clarke

This week BDB will be celebrating its nomination as Real Estate Team of the Year at the British Legal Awards for its work with the Transport for London (TfL) legal team on the Emirates Air Line cable car system.  Whilst these blogs will generally concentrate on topical real estate issues, this week I thought it would be useful to outline some of the complexities involved with the project.

From conception to construction it was a particularly tight time scale.  The project was formally announced in June 2010 with project completion and opening in the summer of 2012, in time for the Olympics.

BDB, working throughout with the TfL legal team, advised TfL on three main workstreams: planning, real estate, and the statutory authority to operate the cable car.

Multiple Planning Consents - this required three separate planning permissions and multiple other marine and environmental consents.  As the project programme did not allow time to follow the usual course of powers and consents by way of a single application for a Transport and Works Act Order, TfL instead submitted consent applications to seven key authorities.  BDB's Government and Infrastructure team, led by Robbie Owen, worked with TfL and all the authorities to negotiate the planning obligations agreements and consents by the time the construction contract was awarded in April 2011.

Real Estate Agreements - there were 17 different landowners and occupiers where agreements had to be negotiated without the threat of compulsory purchase.  BDB's Real Estate team, led by Bob Perrin, worked to negotiate the 59 agreements required to secure the land and airspace rights necessary for the project.  A series of framework agreements set out the basis for how the rights were to be acquired and established processes for the subsequent grant of construction licences, cable 'stringing' rights and 250-year leasehold interests, with flexibility for finalisation of the cable car design including its precise alignment and construction methodology.  Appropriate obligations then had to be passed down to the construction contract.  The agreements also included a safety zone regime around and beneath the cable car and were adapted to accommodate the Port of London Authority's river works licensing regime.

Operating provisions - BDB's Government & Infrastructure team drafted the Transport and Works Act Order necessary to give the statutory authority to operate the cable car.  It provides TfL with bespoke powers to ensure it integrates with TfL's existing public transport network, including the Docklands Light Railway, as well as rights in respect of permitted development, making of byelaws, trespass, penalty fares and policing as you would expect on more conventional transport systems.  The Order was applied for in September 2011 and granted in February 2012.

It was a very challenging project that delivered a new form of urban transport.

Good luck to all the nominees at Thursday night's awards!

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