London’s transport system is grappling with its biggest Olympic test to date as the main stadium hosts the first events since the opening ceremony, drawing 200,000 spectators and workers to the games site.
The Central Line, one of two subway routes to the Olympic Park, was suspended in the morning following signal failures, prompting thousands of people to divert to the Javelin rail-shuttle service from St Pancras station, where crowds swelled.
As many as 1 million extra visitors are expected each day during the games, boosting daily journeys on the public-transport system by 3 million to 15 million. Westfield Stratford City, Europe’s biggest urban shopping center, is closed between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to people not using it to access the Olympic Park, which is staging track and field events including medal contests in the men’s shot put and women’s 10,000 meters.
“Today and Saturday will be the busiest days of the games so far as the Olympic stadium opens its doors and sporting events continue to take place across the capital,” Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said in a statement. The official reiterated a call for people to use restaurants, entertainment venues and shops away from games sites after businesses reported a drop in sales following earlier advice to rein in travel.
Central Line services between Liverpool Street in the City financial district and Leytonstone, beyond the Olympic Park, were halted for an hour, Transport for London spokeswoman Nancy Ryder said, with spectators advised to use alternative routes.
While the Javelin service, which takes 7 minutes to reach the Olympic Park, is “extremely busy” there are no delays, said Rupert Atterbury Thomas, a spokesman for Go-Ahead Group Plc’s SouthEastern Trains franchise, which operates the service.
“There are queues, but they are moving,” Atterbury said. “We have eight trains per hour, so every six or seven minutes a thousand people move out the queue.”
In addition to the 80,000-seat main stadium, the Olympic Park in the Stratford district of London’s East End is home to the velodrome, BMX track, aquatics center, hockey pitch and basketball, handball and water polo arenas.
TfL today lifted some restrictions on road traffic that were imposed earlier in the Olympics and said that fewer than 40 percent of so-called Games Lanes have been in operation.
Streets have been reopened in Wimbledon, where the tennis tournament reached the semi-final round today, and black taxis are being allowed back over Westminster Bridge. Thousands of cab drivers have staged a series of protests over their exclusion from 30 miles of lanes restricted to athletes, officials and the media at most times between 6 a.m. and midnight.
“More alterations will follow as venues cease operation,” said Leon Daniels, TfL managing director for surface transport.
Roads in central London will be closed tomorrow as the women’s triathlon takes place around Hyde Park and the men’s 20 kilometer walk is held near Buckingham Palace. Both are open to non-ticketed spectators, TfL said, predicting large crowds.