Yesterday The Financial Times spoke to a number of transport experts at the £9m Transport Co-ordination Centre which is at the heart of efforts to protect London's global reputation this summer. The question on everyone's lips is "Will our transport system stand up the pressure". Tony Travers, an urban government expert at the London School of Economics said “It’s a bit like asking if the weather will be good. It might be, but it might not be”.
As much as officials want the focus of the London Olympics to be on sport - inevitably the media and Londoners will be talking about transport. I've already been asked by two national publications for my views on the London Underground & transport during the Olympics (more on that in April) and most Londoners aren't that optimistic.
We hear that capacity has been increased on the Tube's Jubilee and Central lines, the main lines carrying spectators to the Olympic park in Stratford, and about £125m has been spent on giving Stratford a much-needed facelift. Travellers to the games will also be able to use the high-speed Javelin® train service (pictured above) that will run from St Pancras to Stratford in seven minutes.
The FT point out that much of the investment was already planned. David Brown, chief executive of the Go-Ahead Group, which will run the Javelin, says “Even I can’t differentiate cause and effect. It has been built. Was it just for the Olympics or was it going to be built anyway?”
As we edge nearer and nearer toward the games there's clear evidence that London is "patching up and polishing its existing system". The FT says: "Transport for London portrays this as an advantage over previous hosts, noting that if a Tube line breaks down, it can reroute passengers on to one of several lines serving the Olympic park. The downside is that the system is old....
TfL is battling to persuade commuters and businesses to help reduce demand on the network by 30 per cent. However, surveys reflect mixed levels of preparedness and willingness among businesses to adapt."
On busiest days there will be an extra 3 million journeys on the transport network with a 30 minute wait to get on a Tube train. Three million extra journeys. 30 minutes to get on the Tube. Picture it. An extra 3 million journeys. In a day. The Tube system is currently a nightmare in the rush hour, even if that number is optimistically reduced by 30% - thanks to TfL telling us to not use it - that is still a huge strain on an already over capacity, overcrowded, old and under funded system.
So what's the overriding goal? David Brown stresses it's to “keep transport out of the news”. Good luck with that one then Mr Brown & TfL.