London's sightseeing boats get pre-Olympic upgrade

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The Independent Travel

A London tour guide company has revealed plans to build the city's largest sightseeing boat ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

City Cruises, which runs river sightseeing tours in the British, said May 27 that it would launch its new 600-passenger vessel on the River Thames by Spring 2012, describing it as a "next generation leisure and tourism vessel."

The design, which the firm says will be London's largest scheduled sightseeing vessel, is being built at a cost of £4 million (€4.6 million) and will ferry passengers between popular tourist spots such as Parliament, the Tower of London and Maritime Greenwich.

The catamaran holds an enclosed, air-conditioned main deck with 360-degree windows for panoramic views, two bars and an open top deck.

It also features solar panels to continuously recharge the batteries, energy-efficient diesel engines and onboard recycling facilities.

London's frequent boat services, provided by companies such as City Cruises and the commuter-oriented Thames Clippers, are one of the easiest ways for travelers to reach the east of the city, where many Olympic events will be held.

The city's river services have been described by London mayor Boris Johnson as a "vital part of the 2012 transport strategy" and are expected to carry some 7.5 million people in 2012, up from just 2 million in 2000.

During the Olympics, organizers estimated that roughly eight percent of spectators could arrive at games events by boat - some 150,000 people.

Meanwhile, a new cable car project across the Thames in East London may not be ready in time for the games, according to reports.

The cable car, which is to run every 30 seconds to transport visitors over the Thames, between the O2 Arena and Excel exhibition center could be delivered after the games, London's Evening Standard reported earlier this month.