While you were looking elsewhere yesterday, the 2012 planners sneaked out some bad news. Some very bad news, about travelling around London during the Olympics. They'd rather you didn't. It's going to be hell out there, what with hundreds of thousands of tourists blundering around the capital's transport network. The message to Londoners is clear - you should make life easier for global spectators by staying away. Work from home, get on your bike, leave the country for a fortnight.... but whatever you do don't try to get on a train.
A whole suite of documents has been released, well over a year ahead, to support UK businesses in their contingency planning. The advice hints strongly that public transport will be stuffed, that roads may become impassable, and that bosses probably ought to start planning now in order to minimise the Games' impact on day-to-day operations. There are action plans to download, strategies on flexible working to consider, and precise geographical predictions on how bad things could get round your way. It's these location-specific details which will worry the hell out of many Londoners. Fortunate, then, that almost nobody's noticed yet.
There will be a number of very busy areas, junctions and routes across London during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, known as ‘travel hotspots’. In particular, these will include areas around major interchange stations, such as King’s Cross St. Pancras, London Bridge and Bank, and routes that link central London with venues.
A set of 22 maps has been provided, allowing businesses and residents to download detailed information on how the games will impact on surrounding roads and the local public transport network. It's your first chance to pinpoint just how bad it's going to be where you live, or where you work. And be warned, it's not just places round the corner from an arena that are liable to be gridlocked.
Take the map named "Bow", for example, which covers the area between Bow Road and Canary Wharf. Three "road junction hotspots" are marked, two on the East India Dock Road and one on Poplar High Street. Unbelievably the Bow flyover roundabout is not marked as a road junction hotspot, which I can only assume is an oversight, or because police will be guarding it so carefully that public vehicles won't be allowed near. Then there are two "public transport hotspots". These may just scare you...
Canary Wharf (Jubilee): There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Busiest dates: 30 July and 31 August. Canary Wharf (DLR): There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Most affected on weekdays 8am–8pm. Busiest dates: 30 July and 4 August. Mile End: There could be significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services at this station. Most affected on weekdays noon–3pm, 4–7pm and 10pm–midnight. Busiest dates: 29 July and 1 August. Avoid interchange at this station.
"Significant additional delays of over an hour" suggests a crowding/queueing nightmare, and not just at venue-chucking-out time. Seriously, over an hour to get on a train? It'll be quicker to walk, even as far as central London. And this is at two stations more than a mile away from any Olympic venue. The same document also warns of "overcrowding expected at All Saints, Bow Road, Bromley-by-Bow, Bow Church, Devons Road, West India Quay, Westferry, Poplar, Blackwall and Langdon Park stations, due to lines being busy." Normal service this is not.
Stations to avoid during the Olympics Closed: Pudding Mill Lane No boarding: West Silvertown, Pontoon Dock, Woolwich Arsenal Significant additional delays of over an hour: Stratford Regional, West Ham, North Greenwich, Charlton, Mile End, Canary Wharf, Bank, West Brompton Significant additional delays of up to an hour: Stratford International, Earl's Court, Green Park, Victoria, Baker Street, Bond Street, Marble Arch, Waterloo, St Pancras International, Liverpool Street, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, King George V, Woolwich Dockyard
Railway lines to avoid during the Olympics Significant additional delays of over an hour: Central, DLR, Jubilee Significant additional delays of up to an hour: North Kent line, Northern (Bank), Waterloo & City, Overground Additional delays of over 30 minutes: Hammersmith & City, Northern (Charing Cross), Piccadilly Additional delays of up to 15 minutes: Bakerloo, Circle, District, Metropolitan, Victoria, Tramlink
This is a significant release of bad news, right down to warning Londoners precisely where not to be at, say, two o'clock in the afternoon on 1st August 2012. It's so dire that it reminds me of the nerve gas spill in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (a fictitious disaster designed to displace all local residents while the government moved in and organised something massive). Or maybe this is nothing more than a list of worst case scenarios - an example of what'll happen if London 2012 can't persuade businesses and workers to change their habits. Whatever, Olympic planners must be absolutely petrified of public transport gridlock if they feel we all need 20 months advance warning. Unfortunate, then, that almost nobody's noticed yet.