London Transport Troubles Feared Ahead of Olympics
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
The average London commuter already complains enough about overcrowding, lack of air-conditioning and delays.
With an extra three million journeys a day on London’s already crowded public transport system expected during the three weeks of the 2012 Olympics, they could have more to moan about.
Those used to driving around could also face delays as streets are closed off for events, and special Games Lanes are created on London's roads for athletes and VIPs, which will take up around 110 miles of London road.
Ordinary drivers who try to use the lanes will be fined 200 pounds ($312).
The Paralympics later in the summer will add an expected two million spectators over 11 days. And businesses located close to the center of the city are grumbling.
More than 6 billion pounds has been spent on upgrading the transport infrastructure, including a major upgrade to the neglected East London Line, and transport authorities will pay workers extra to ensure the smooth running of the system.
Yet there is still plenty of potential for glitches.
Transport for London (TfL), the body in charge of the system, has already launched a campaign attempting to persuade people to change their commuting habits when the Games start in July.
They are encouraging London businesses to allow employees to work from home – although, with the distraction of the Games in the background, that might prove difficult – and to get their workers to travel at non-peak times.
The powers-that-be are also doing their best to make sure that there is no risk of industrial disputes souring the Games.
London's tube drivers, who have been increasingly restive and gone on strike several times in the past couple of years, should be kept in line by being paid up to 1,200 pounds extra for additional duties during the Games.
Workers at Network Rail, the train network, are getting a 500 pound bonus.
They're not the only people getting a pay uplift.
Black cab drivers, a notoriously grumpy bunch who were angered by not getting to use the Olympics lanes, are likely to charge around 15 percent extra for working during the Games.
Bob Oddy, chief of trade association the London Taxi Drivers Association, said: "Because of the widespread chaos that's been predicted during the Olympic period with regard to road closures and other disruption, 40 percent of our members are currently saying that's when they're going to take their summer break.
"If we get 40 percent of cabs off the road, I'm afraid the average passenger won't get a cab at any price. They won't be there."
Peter Hendy, London's Transport Commissioner said in a statement: "We are on track to get all athletes, officials and spectators to their events on time and keep London moving.
"I am confident London will provide the stage for the greatest Games we've ever seen, but I also know that this is a huge logistical challenge that will rely on everyone working together."