We often forget that the River Thames is one of London’s most important transport corridors. That means there are a range of riverbuses and ferries linking Londoners along it.
One of the more unusual services is riverbus RB4, which is a shuttle service between Canary Wharf and the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on the opposite side of the river. The hotel has its own pier and offers its guests free travel on the RB4, which costs £5 for a the three minute journey for everyone else.
It is operated by UberBoat by Thames Clippers, who operates all of London’s riverbus services, which are licensed and branded by Transport for London (TfL). As a result, you can use your Oyster card on the service and anyone with a Travelcard can obtain a discounted fare.
The DoubleTree by Hilton is a four-star hotel which sits directly behind Nelson Dock Pier, which has now been rebranded ‘DoubleTree Docklands Nelson Dock Pier’ on TfL literature.
The exclusive DoubleTree by Hilton hotel is on the left
(Image: Callum Marius)
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The hotel subsidises the operation of the RB4 in order to offer its guests free travel and to ensure a regular service is maintained. Riverbuses tend to run every 10 to 20 minutes. When the hotel was closed during the first lockdown, the RB4 stopped running for nine months until the hotel started operating normally again, despite the service also being used by local residents.
The hotel has several ‘executive rooms’ and suites, several of which have amazing views over the river. King suites cost upwards of £303 per night, although cheaper rooms start from £122.
Whilst there are no immediate plans to bring the RB4 to a halt, the route it follows has been subject to a public consultation over how to improve cross-river links in the area. TfL has considered enhancing the ferry service, building a tunnel or even a bridge which can open/pivot to allow large ships to cross, stating the latter as its preferred option.
The bridge option would remove the need for the RB4 and be more accessible to local residents given it would likely be free-to-use. However, in 2019, TfL said it would scrap plans for the bridge as it would cost a whopping £600 million, more than it would be able to allocate for it. Over £10 million had been spent investigating the bridge’s feasibility by that point anyway.
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Enhancing the RB4 now looks like the next best option, with plans for another public consultation being made but yet to come to fruition. The improved crossing remains a “long-term ambition” for TfL according to internal documentation but for now the shuttle service remains in its compromise state for now, with the principal beneficiary being the exclusive riverside hotel.
Have you ever travelled on the RB4? What do you think should be done to improve the Rotherhithe-Canary Wharf river crossing? Tell us in the comments below!
Read all of MyLondon’s news stories, trivia pieces and features about the River Thames on our dedicated page here.