As the London 2012 Games draw to a close there is pride in the transport sector at a record-breaking performance and anticipation of legacy benefits

As the Olympics draw to a close, the Games are being presented as a huge success, not just for the British competitors but for the transport industry.

“All the talk is of Team GB, but this is Team GB transport. When you think about the co-ordination that is going on and what we have achieved and learned it is phenomenal,” Passenger Transport was told.

The most challenging period of the Games was from August 3-6 with up to 600,000 spectators per day attending London events and over 100,000 watching at televised sites in Victoria Park and Hyde Park, setting new records across London’s transport system.

On Friday, August 3, 4.4 million journeys were made on London Underground, up 19% on usual traffic levels at this time of year, and breaking the record of 4.3 million set the previous day. The DLR carried 500,000 passengers for first time, 70% more than normal daily levels, while London Overground passengers increased 25% in the first week of the Games and Barclays Cycle Hire recorded one million journeys in July for the first time.

The performance prompted Transport for London to announce the success of the transport arrangements nearly a week before the Games were due to end. “London’s transport network is continuing to put in some record breaking performances of its own as it moves people into and across the city,” London mayor Boris Johnson said. “This is testimony to years of meticulous planning and billions of pounds in investment which combined has ensured that athletes, spectators, officials and media are being ferried smoothly to their events.”

Outside the TfL network, train operators running into and around London have provided more than four million seats on the busiest days, an increase of 15% on usual weekday levels and 60% for weekends. Despite many London operators running effectively a peak service for extended periods, national punctuality figures were above average at 92-95% on the busiest days.

ATOC and TfL said that extensive ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ publicity and journey planning facilities encouraging commuters and London residents to change their travel patterns had had a significant impact in enabling the system to function effectively by spreading demand. ATOC said this had generally led to usual peak level patronage rather than excessive crowding on national rail services at the busiest times, while TfL estimated that nearly 40% of Londoners had changed their travel behaviour, mainly by retiming journeys, or changing mode or route. The London Chamber of Commerce also estimated that up to 1.5 million of the five million people employed in the capital would work from home at some point during the Games.

 

Legacy benefits

In addition to demand management, key legacy benefits that are expected to be built on include effective and efficient delivery of major transport infrastructure projects. Whereas previously projects were carried out in plan, design and construct phases, during the Olympics the phases were merged and work done in parallel, providing lessons for more cost effective and efficient delivery. TfL sources said that more efficient freight operations with companies planning shared deliveries was also likely to create lasting benefits for the transport system, and that, to a degree, it was possible the Games could have a permanent impact in bringing more flexible commuter travel patterns.

 

Publicity

Despite the achievements, there was a sense of frustration in the transport industry that it has been unable to highlight the full part it has played or the full scale of the arrangements put in place. Stringent IOC rules severely limit any company that is not an official sponsor from publicising its role in the press or for marketing purposes. Although fact-based reports are permitted, clearance processes are required and penalties can be levied on firms if rules are broken. The wariness of companies involved means that the extent of the transport operation involving hundreds of firms from operators to planning consultants, transport consultants and construction firms, and stretching back seven years has not been fully publicised. The handful that have put limited summaries of their involvement on their websites were regarded as either “brave” or “sharp”.

Even major suppliers in the most significant projects such as Serco, which played a lead part in the design and then the operation of the Olympic Transport Co-ordination Centre, make no public mention of their involvement. Their role and that of other consultancy and construction firms, from the largest such as Balfour Beatty to small niche businesses, is only evident to a minor degree through personal LinkedIn profiles and legacy documents on the Olympic Delivery Authority website. These only hint at the scale of work to deliver the transport infrastructure, operate services, manage passengers and plan for daily fluctuations in demand on the roads and the rail network.

“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to test, trial and learn, and everyone is saying it has worked really well,” Passenger Transport was told. “But at some stage, the UK transport industry has to sell what it has achieved.”

 

 

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