How will London’s Transport Network cope during the Olympics?

This article was published in The House Magazine No. 1393, Vol 36. September 26th 2011, Pg. 111-112

The opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad on 27 July 2012 will mark the start of 60 days which will test London’s transport system to breaking point and beyond.

London’s transport system has always been fair game for headline writers and us commuters, but I have always had a sneaking fondness for our creaking network. Seldom, if ever, does anyone go out of their way to thank a transport operator for a problem-free journey. We are all guilty of being furious whenever it lets us down and forgetting all the other days when it has not.

Complaints are a crucial part of stimulating investment in a vital component of London and the whole country’s economy. But the truth is, London’s transport system is nothing short of a daily miracle. Indeed so many of us trust the system to get us to and from work that when it breaks down the catastrophe which ensues is biblical in its dimensions.

1.7 million people move around London every day with 700,000 commuting in from its environs. Approximately 70 percent of those who work in central London travel by public transport. In the City this rises to over 90 percent where the population goes up from 8,000 residents to over 300,000. Our roads are so clogged that public transport is the only option for commuters from places like Eltham.

Plonk into the middle of all that the Olympic Games and we have a transport planner’s worst nightmare. Any hold up at peak demand at one of the pinch points on road or rail could result in something so memorable it could overshadow the games and live long in people’s memories.

Those of us who live in east and southeast London know from painful experiences the chaos that can ensue from the slightest blockage in or around the Blackwall Tunnel. Such problems on our congested roads will require rapid solutions which in turn require detailed planning.

Those of my constituents who cannot avoid having to travel will join the eight million Olympic-ticket holders armed with their free day passes for our public transport system.

The success of London 2012 is vital to the whole country. It will be more than just masses of people that our transport network will carry next summer.

The previous government committed itself to major investments to improve London’s transport network and this was a significant factor in convincing the IOC that London was the best venue for the 2012 games. An unprecedented £6.5 billion of investment has been completed one year ahead of schedule. It is only investment of this kind that gives our transport system a racing chance of meeting Londoner’s needs with or without the Olympic Games.

The greatest show on earth is about to roll into the city I grew up in and love. To help make it work we Londoners will have to step back and help ease the pressures on our city’s roads, buses and trains. Yes it will be damned inconvenient, but it will be worth it. Despite the fact that I failed to get any tickets in the lottery, I cannot wait!

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