I am what is known as a 'new commuter'. I go to work in London, and have been for little over three weeks now. My journeys are pleasant enough, with people who are smiling and ready for another day at work. But I'm lucky if I get a seat, and an elbow inevitably ends up in my face at some point during my travels.
Back in 2004, the International Olympic Committee gave London's bid a 'poor score' in relation to public transport, and how the current system would cope in holding hundreds of thousands of extra fans and spectators, all going to get a glimpse of the world's biggest stars. Seb Coe, leading the Bid, stepped in himself, promising free transport for spectators, and 200 extra trains an hour across the Tube system. It was enough to win over the British public, and ultimately helped win London the Olympic Games.
But despite all the promises and improvements made to the systems, I just can't see how London is going to cope with all the constant movement around the city, alongside those who use public transport day in, day out.
I've thought about this long and hard over the last few weeks. Even with all the major changes made to the transport system, there is just no logistical way that the journeys to and from events and venues will be a comfortable one. Comfort is the least of Transport for London's worries.
The new Olympic Javelin service, operating between St Pancras and Ebbsfleet International, via Stratford, will ensure quick and easy travel from the biggest and arguably most important train station throughout the Games. 25,000 of the 240,000 people expected to use trains to get to the Olympic Park will get on a Javelin train. Improvements to the East of the city in terms of the Underground have been substantial, and the whole of the £10bn improvement project of the Underground has had the Olympics as the core goal. So much work has been undertaken to help increase capacity, but I don't honestly think we'll understand quite how stretched the system will become until July 27th.
4,000 extra trains will run during the Games to try and take the strain off the railway lines. There's also going to be a £45m cable car that runs across the Thames, providing access between the O2 and ExCel Centre, and a crossing will be made every thirty seconds. We haven't even mentioned the hundreds of extra bus services, or the public footpaths opening across the east, allowing for easy access to the Park.
But from my experiences, London can't even cope with current capacity, let alone the million extra people expected in the capital come the summer. Bus drivers pull up halfway through a route, and decide they'll go elsewhere, and tell you to get off the 'wrong bus'. Tube trains are packed beyond belief, with your face jammed hard against a door - and that's if you're lucky. National Rail services out of London are okay, but the scrum leading towards them as the platform is announced is nearly as fierce as our national rugby squad. Roads are going to be one lane short, with the Olympic VIP lane used to get the likes of Sepp Blatter to his heated seat whilst we sweat it out in another traffic jam. It all seems a little crazy to me.
I really hope I'm proved wrong. But right now, this transport malarkey can only lead one way. And even then it'll 'terminate here'.
You can come and say hello on Twitter - I'm @AdamMillsUK. You can also let me know your thoughts via the comments box below!
I really hope I'm proved wrong
I really hope you are proved right. People need to know how bad it is in London and I hope the Olympics just crashes the whole system. I have been commuting in London for 3 years now (never mind 3 weeks) and it is getting worse year on year as prices skyrocket.
Perhaps global shame will finally lead to something being done about it. If not then I for one will have to get out of this nightmare city because commuting to work takes years off my life each week! In the time it takes me to travel 3-5 miles in London (using public transport) I could drive from Manchester to Birmingham...
It has begun to take the mick. The money poured into the system year on year - let alone in the run in to the Olympics - is crippling a destitute economy. Rising prices aren't Boris' fault, but the government's itself. I agree that we should be improving the system continually, but not at these sort of costs...
A well written article as ever adam but there are a couple of flaws in your arguement in my opinion.
1. Your experiences of being packed like sardines on the tube is accurate however only at rush hour - i,e 6.30 am til 9ish? - with the vast majority of events starting after this time it would be reasonable to assume that the majority of 'Olympic commuters' would be travelling after that time?
2.The games will be taking place during a period when alot of industies - in particular 'the city' - take their summer holidays, therefore the peak capacity will be reduced.
3.The majority of investments & extra services that you mention - Javellin, extra trains etc- havent come on-line yet. These services are specifically designed to seperate the extra passengers from 'regular' passengers. A system within a system if you will. So to bin them before they have even started is purely speculation.
4. There is nothing to suggest that the "million extra people" expected for the Olympics will be using public transport. On the guardian website last year there was an article that suggested that only 1 in 6 tourists to the city use public transport.
5.Regarding cost etc. The problem is that London transport is facing a constantly increasing demand and suffers from a delayed supply. All the money raised via fare for investment is improvemnts that commuters won't see for 4,5 or even 10 years. There fore whilst it may look like money going down the drain it actually makes more economic sense to invest in an infrastructure capable of supporting the level of use 5 -10 years from now rather than current capacity.
I can understand the possibility of frustration when a city of so many millions can hardly cope on a normal workday without the added confusion of another million or so. I believe the obly bad reports that will come out of the Games will be from journo looking (searching) for daily content,
My first trip on the Underground network was in 1953 and as a country boy it was fantastic to go all over the city at the drop of a hat although I will admit connecting bus travel was and probably still is a bit of a joke. I have experienced the 'joy' of falling asleep on the Inner Circle after a night shift in the City and waking miraculously just one stop from my destination albeit a complete circuit later. Travelling from Sloane Square to all of the London football clubs was always crowded with like minded travellers but so were the venues and I believe after all is said and done the Games visitors will still go away with pleasant memories of The London Games.
I visited the UK last year and despite the increased numbers of Xmas shoppers it was still an easy way to move around so do not despair all WILL be well and if it is not then you can find me sitting in my lounge in Brisbane in front of the TV feeling sorry for you.