Posted by

Peter Campbell, Policy Adviser

06 Aug 2012

Halfway through the Olympics and with Team GB riding high in the medals table (39 medals, including 17 gold at the time of writing), perhaps we should celebrate another success. The major concern coming into these games was how well the transport network would cope. Millions of extra journeys are expected to Stratford, which is particularly reliant on the Jubilee and Central lines, two already over-crowded underground lines prone to signalling faults and broken down trains.

With one or two exceptions, however, the first week has passed largely without incident. There were two relatively short suspensions of the Central Line, but passengers seemed to have coped and used another of the multiple ways to get to the Olympic Park. Commuters seem to have heeded official advice to alter the time or mode of their journey, or indeed stay away altogether, with an estimated 1.5 million people taking holiday (including a number of BCC staff!)

It is clearly too early to tell what the final economic impact of this is going to be (for the BCC view click here), but with Transport for London (TfL) reporting Friday 3 August saw a 27 per cent increase in numbers using West End stations on the same day last year, signs are positive. Indeed, even TravelWatch, the independent passenger watchdog agrees, saying ‘London’s transport system has risen well to its own Olympic Challenge [last] week’ while ‘...commuters have also responded very well indeed to their advice and deserve some recognition.’

Before we pat ourselves on the back though, let’s not forget the reality, that this is a once in a lifetime event that people have planned around for years. Holidays have been taken, shift patterns and delivery times temporarily altered, home-working extended and, importantly, upgrade work suspended. With the London Plan anticipating an extra 776,000 jobs in the capital by 2031, in a short time we could expect Olympic levels of traffic to be the norm.

The answer is continued investment and development of the existing network, with new, more spacious trains and more advanced signalling increasing capacity, and brand new capacity in the form of projects like Crossrail. Businesses need a transport network they can rely on at all times, that is fast, comfortable, well served and cost effective, not just during special occasions.

And besides, we are only half way through the Games.