Londoners Quit Roads as Tube Bears Burden of Olympic Crowds

Londoners Quit Roads as Tube Bears Brunt of Olympic Travel Surge
Access to London’s streets is limited during the Olympics, with 30 miles of Games Lanes restricted to athletes, officials and the media from 6 a.m. to midnight. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Roads in central London are carrying one-fifth fewer vehicles as Olympic-only “Games Lanes” push more people to use rail services. The morning rush was hindered by a fire alert on a subway line to the Olympic Park and high-speed “Javelin” shuttle trains suffered disruption in the afternoon.

While the number of inner-London road users is 20 percent below the norm, Tube journeys yesterday were 5 percent higher than the average Monday peak, Transport for London said today. Passenger journeys on the Docklands Light Railway, which serves four Olympic sites, surged 65 percent to a record, though the predicted jam at London Bridge station as 50,000 people left the equestrian event in Greenwich failed to materialize last night.

“As a city, we’ve coped extremely well,” Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. “Londoners have listened to the messages. We have lots of people who are actually working from home.”

Access to London’s streets is limited during the Olympics, with 30 miles of Games Lanes restricted to athletes, officials and the media from 6 a.m. to midnight. Roads in the southwest of the city were shut for hours at the weekend for cycle races that attracted more than 1 million onlookers, with more to be closed today as the route of tomorrow’s cycling time trial is tested.

Taxi Dispute

London’s black-cab drivers may extend protests over their exclusion from the lanes, with thousands of taxis staging a go-slow for 15 minutes a day, Cabbies Against Boris, which is named after London Mayor Boris Johnson, said in an e-mailed statement.

Drivers are also unhappy that police cited anti-terrorism laws in requiring them to leave the Hyde Park Corner area before July 27’s Olympic opening ceremony, spokesman Dave Davies said.

London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said today in a statement that congestion at London Bridge station had been eased thanks to changes to commuters’ travel habits.

“We are very grateful to customers for following our advice to avoid London Bridge and for major businesses who are enabling their staff to work flexibly during the games,” he said. “Our advice to all users of the transport network continues to be to plan ahead, avoid hotspot areas and leave plenty of time.”

Smoke Alert

The Javelin service was disrupted at about 2 p.m. as police attended a person threatening to commit suicide at Ebbsfleet, further down the line, according to Sarah Boundy, a spokeswoman at Go-Ahead Group Plc’s SouthEastern unit, which runs the train.

Commuter services beyond Ebbsfleet to Kent were suspended, and while shuttles from St Pancras station in central London to the main Olympic site at Stratford were running normally, the Get Ahead of the Games travel advisory twitter feed said earlier that people should avoid the Javelin because of “severe delays.”

Central Line subway services were this morning suspended east of Liverpool Street, a section that includes the Olympic site, as Leyton station was evacuated when a driver reported smelling smoke shortly after 7 a.m., TfL said. A train had to be removed before services could resume, according to spokeswoman Chantelle Warner. The route was later cleared to reopen.

Hunt, who was speaking on Sky News television, said such incidents are “a totally normal” occurrence. “Systems were put in place. The Central Line was got up and running very quickly.”

Pinch points today will include routes to Greenwich for the climax of the equestrian eventing competition, TfL said, while the Metropolitan and Jubilee subway lines will be thronged as the first evening soccer match takes place at Wembley stadium.

Heathrow Strike Ballot

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.

Rail, bus and subway networks survived the Monday morning 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, TfL said yesterday.

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.

Workers at Heathrow Express, which provides a high-speed rail link between the airport and Paddington station, are to be balloted on a strike over pay. Staff employed by Ferrovial SA’s Amey Rail and BAA Ltd. units have been denied the Olympic bonus and a wage increase higher than inflation granted to directly-contracted Heathrow Express workers, the RMT union said today.

RMT spokesman Geoff Martin declined to comment on whether a walkout might take place during the Olympics.

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

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