London’s West End Denied Olympic Travel Boom as Fans Go East

London’s West End entertainment and retail district has missed out on a jump in subway visitors as the city hosts the 2012 Olympics, with a surge in passenger trips focused on major games sites further east.

While journeys increased 10.5 percent across the Tube network on Tuesday, passenger numbers at stations serving the West End remained at year-ago levels, Transport for London said today in a statement. The east of the city, where the main stadium and more than half a dozen other venues are located, has seen a “huge” jump in travel, TfL spokesman Matt Brown said.

As many as 1 million extra visitors are expected each day during the Olympics, making 3 million daily journeys on public transport in addition to the usual 12 million. After initially advising people to rein in travel to ease pressure on road, rail and subway networks during the games, TfL officials are now urging them to move about more widely away from the arenas.

“Away from the sporting venues, London has an enormous array of attractions to offer during the games, so I encourage everyone to enjoy the theaters, restaurants, shops, free concerts, Live Sites and attractions,” Peter Hendy, London’s transport commissioner, said in today’s statement.

Mayor Drops Warning

Messages from London Mayor Boris Johnson played on the Tube and warning of travel congestion during the Olympics have been dropped, TfL said, adding that the move is unrelated to the dearth of West End visitors and was initiated after games-goers and commuters traveled the network on Monday without snags.

“We have always made clear that London is open for business and we want people to come to London and make the most of all the Games have to offer,” TfL said. “Our messages across all channels have always reflected that.”

In addition to the Olympic Park in Stratford, site of the athletics stadium, velodrome, BMX track, aquatics center, hockey pitch and basketball, handball and water polo arenas, east London is also staging events at the ExCeL center, North Greenwich Arena, Royal Artillery Barracks and in Greenwich Park.

Only Horse Guards Parade and Lord’s Cricket Ground are close to the main shopping and entertainment district, with Earls Court, Wimbledon and Wembley stadium located further west.

Roads Closed

TfL said July 31 that roads in central London are carrying 20 percent fewer vehicles. Access to 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.

On Monday, tube journeys on the Docklands Light Railway, which serves four Olympic venues in the east, surged 65 percent to a record, while London Bridge station, from which trains run to the Olympic complex, equestrian site at Greenwich and City financial district, had its busiest day of the games, with 50,000 people travelling to Greenwich alone.

Westfield Stratford City, through which the bulk of visitors must access the Olympic Park, will be closed to people not headed there between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, the two busiest days at the site, TfL said separately.

More than 200,000 spectators and accredited workers are expected on each of the days, making the area around Europe’s largest urban shopping center “exceptionally busy,” it said.

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