Londoners Go With Flow as Olympic Tide Meets Monday Commute

Londoners Go With the Flow as Olympic Tide Meets Monday Commute
A sign directs travelers towards the Olympic park from a platform at Stratford rail station, in London. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

London commuters mixed with hundreds of thousands of people headed to the Olympics in the biggest test of the city’s infrastructure so far during the 2012 games.

Rail, bus and subway networks survived the initial rush largely unscathed as people left home early or switched travel plans to avoid well-publicized hotspots on the first working day of the Olympics, Transport for London said in a statement.

London Bridge station, from which trains serve the Olympic complex at Stratford, the equestrian site at Greenwich and the City financial district, was projected to have its busiest day of the games, with 50,000 people travelling to Greenwich alone. Bank Underground station was “exceptionally busy,” TfL said.

“I couldn’t even get a seat,” said Sarah Hills, 50, a cardiologist catching a Tube train at London Bridge station. “I left home 40 minutes earlier but there were no delays, just a lot more people. I didn’t expect it to be so crowded.” Hills was making her way from Croydon, south London, to Newham University Hospital, located in the same borough as the Olympic Park.

Architect James Strachan, 45, who spoke outside Bank station after taking the Tube there from London Waterloo, the city’s busiest railway station, said his journey was unaffected.

Evening Rush

“It all comes down to the attitude of people,” he said. “If you’re expecting it to be terrible, then it might be.”

The Docklands Light Railway, linking Bank station -- named after the Bank of England, which it adjoins -- is also likely to have its busiest day of the games, TfL said. The DLR carried a record 736,000 passengers over the weekend.

The next travel surge will come between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to TfL, with six railway platforms at London Bridge restricted to arrivals only as people return from Greenwich. Commuters headed home to Kent have been told to use Charing Cross, Cannon Street, Victoria or Blackfriars stations instead.

“We’re expecting high volumes of people today, so we’ll see how this evening goes, but we haven’t got any problems reported on our network,” said Chantelle Warner, a TfL spokeswoman.

Stephen Jedrzejlzak, 49, who was waiting for a Jubilee line subway train to Stratford after traveling by surface rail from Peckham, said that while the city was “a little bit busier than usual,” trains were arriving at twice the usual frequency.

As many as 1 million extra visitors are expected each day during the games, making 3 million journeys on public transport in addition to the usual 12 million. Events are taking place at the Olympic Park, ExCeL center, North Greenwich Arena, Greenwich Park, Royal Artillery Barracks, Horse Guards Parade, Earls Court, Lord’s Cricket Ground, Wimbledon and Wembley stadium.

Roads Closed

Access to London’s streets is also limited, with 30 miles of so-called Games Lanes limited to athletes, officials and the media between 6 a.m. and midnight unless otherwise stipulated.

Roads across southwest London were closed for hours over the weekend for cycle races that attracted more than 1 million onlookers. Cycling time trials, marathon and walking events will shut more streets later in the games.

London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, estimates its most frenetic period will come on Aug. 13, the day after the closing ceremony, with 130,000 people departing and 108,000 arriving for a total of 238,000, 5,000 more than the record.

People should check the Get Ahead of the Games website to avoid travel disruption during the Olympics, according to TfL.