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{08/06/2012}   Transport during the Olympics

I have never supported the idea of London getting the Olympics, but I am not going to rant and rave about that.  My issue at present is more to do with transport into, out of and in London, particularly in light of my challenging afternoon on tubes yesterday.
Yesterday I got on the much delayed Central line, it having been very badly flooded the day before around Stratford, with no service between Bethnal Green and Leytonstone.  I was on the platform for over ten minutes (about 2pm) and couldn’t get on the sardine-packed first tube that came along.  Below ground, on a reasonably mild but wet day, it was stifling, even worse on the tubes.  My three or four tube journeys took longer than they should have, it was hot and busy and an entire line (Central) was either partly closed or running an erratic service.  This was not rush hour, though it was half-term.  I kept thinking how much worse it would be during the Olympics.
How long is London going to be even busier than normal?  Will it be sporadic or just a full-on onslaught of chaos from the end of July until the latter half of September?  It’s all very well encouraging people to work from home but there are a lot of us who can’t.  As it happens  I don’t get much work over summer, but even if I did I would struggle to get to work as the high speed trains that I use are largely suspended so the service can shuttle people between St Pancras – Stratford – Ebbsfleet.  The other trains take almost an hour longer and I expect they will also be extremely busy.
As for the bus lanes being made into VIP lanes, what about the buses?  Is normal traffic going to be held up at each bus stop as the buses try to cut into the VIP lanes to let people on and off buses?  What about people who go to work by bus, say in the shops that are expected to flourish financially during the games?  Indeed, are tourists who are in London for the games going to want to go shopping on Oxford Street, assuming the tubes aren’t down, the taxis aren’t full and the buses aren’t gridlocked by Olympic traffic?
While battling through crowds in the stuffy Underground system yesterday, I felt the horror of weeks of challenging conditions.  The tube can’t cope during every day rush hours, there is no air conditioning (it works in the drivers’ cabins on at least some tubes), there are now fewer staff at the gateline and, as happened yesterday, the staff are often asked time consuming questions, in yesterday’s example being asked how to walk from Covent Garden to Wembley as the man had no money for a ticket.  In the end the Customer Service Assistant pointed, “That way”.  I fear that will have taken a good few hours for him to walk, especially in the rain.  But during the Olympics, that might have been his quickest and easiest option.
Somehow the UK usually manages to pull things off, seemingly against the odds.  I hope that this is how things go for the Olympics.  But with travel, I am not confident.  I am already incensed by certain unions securing extra money for certain transport workers during the games owing to the added stresses and pressures.  But, hey, there are a lot – a lot – of other workers who will also face increased pressure and security threats but they either don’t have the backing of influential unions or just see it as something they have to deal with.  In all likelihood I will lose work opportunities, as I suspect will a fair few other self-employed workers.  What about the NHS (many of whom aren’t allowed to take time off during the summer holidays, particularly an issue for those who have children on school holidays), shop owners around the Olympic Village, cleaners, emergency services; there are a lot of people whose working life will be made a lot more difficult, even more dangerous, yet they will not receive compensation for working during the Olympics (as far as I’m aware).
I hope I am just being melodramatic and am just an Olympics-in-London ranter.  Unusually, I want to be proved wrong about something; I want the Olympics to run smoothly, there to be no terrorist or other attacks and for our transport network to be efficient, both for people travelling to Olympic events and those trying to go about their daily business.  Not long to find out, though I am hoping to be out of the country for the end of July and most of August.

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