What the bloody buggering hell is going on here, then?
Transport for London (TfL) and MySingleFriend.com are hosting a free dating event on board MBNA Thames Clippers and the Emirates Air Line on Thursday 12 February. Singles and their loyal wingmen and wingwomen are invited to take to the river and skies to find a date for their single friends in two romantic settings.
That, best beloved, is not something we've made up. It's from an official press release, issued by London's official transport authority. It's on their website. It's real, that's what we're getting at here.
On the night, singletons and their friends will enjoy a moonlit boat ride on a MBNA Thames Clippers before embarking on speed-dating with a twist on the Emirates Air Line – London's only cable car.
Yes, well, there's a reason for that.
Being the crack news-gathering outfit that we are, CityMetric decided it was time to find out more. A press officer told us that this was, in not so many words, exactly what it looks like: a marketing pitch for some of TfL's lesser known services.
The cable car and the boats are "very different to some of our more conventional transport modes," she told us. Consequently they receive rather fewer passengers. Events like this are a way of alerting people to the fact that London has regular river boats and a cable car dangling over the Thames. “They’re incredibly romantic and popular with couples,” the spokeswoman added. “So there's a natural fit with Valentines Day."
The partnership with MySingleFriend.com came about because why should couples have all the boat-based fun.
As it turns out, this is not a one off. Past attempts to market the Emirates Airline cable car have involved giving away chocolate at Easter, and piping in an edited version of The Snowman & The Snowdog at Christmas. Basically, hardly anyone's using it, because it goes from nowhere much to nowhere much, so any opportunity to remind people that it’s there is a welcome one.
Deficit hawks will be delighted to hear that public money isn't being spent on any of this: it's being funded by MBNA Thames Clippers and MySingleFriend.com, who also think the whole thing is a marketing opportunity. They might be right, too: the spokesperson told us that, since the event was announced yesterday, 70 per cent of the tickets have already gone. Better move quick, singletons.