diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 24, 2011

London 2012  Olympic update
  10 travel tips for ticket-buyers

1) Travelling to the Olympics might be a lot easier than you think.
If you're not fortunate enough to live nextdoor to the Olympic Park, then the hassle of travelling to the Games might be putting you off buying a ticket. Fret not, because London 2012 really want you to buy a ticket, so they've gone out of their way to provide lots of travel options to get you there. Long distance coaches, park and rides, even pre-bookable train tickets. It's just that you probably haven't realised these options exist yet. Let me advise you.

2) Your Games ticket comes with a free one-day travelcard.
And not just any travelcard, but the top-whack zones 1-9 travelcard. That means free travel from Heathrow to Stratford, or Amersham to Woolwich, or Epping to Wimbledon, or whatever. The Games Travelcard even entitles you to free travel on Javelin services between St Pancras and Stratford International, for that special seven-minute cross-town whizz. The only services you won't be able to use are the Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick Expresses. Olympic folk have even gone to the effort of providing a map to show the Games Travelcard zone, 16 months in advance, so you can see for yourself what good value it is.

3) Some Games events outside London also come with a free one-day travelcard.
Some events are only just outside London, like the rowing at Eton Dorney, canoeing at the Lee Valley White Water Centre and mountain biking at Hadleigh Farm. Good news. Tickets for these events will include a free London Travelcard and free travel by National Rail out of London to the nearest stations. For events at Eton and Hadleigh, there'll even be shuttle buses laid on to take you the last couple of miles from the station to the venue. Good news, that is, unless you live further out of London (like Reading or Southend), in which case you'll have to pay for all your travel yourself.

4) Rail tickets to the Games can be booked over 12 months in advance.
Normally you can't book a long-distance UK rail ticket any more than three months in advance. But some very special arrangements have been made to ensure that rail tickets for Games journeys can be made this summer once ticket allocations are known. If the train you want has non-reservable seats then you don't need to book a specific-timed train, any will do, plus you can travel back up to midday on the following day. If the train you want needs a reservation then you can travel back up to three hours later than the train you booked. Peace of mind, one year early. Unheard of.

5) If you find travel difficult, you can plan an accessible journey to the Games.
London already has a step-free travel map, but London 2012 have generated a new one and it goes one step further. Yes, there are blue blobs denoting step-free access from street to platform, but this map also has pink blobs. These denote step-free access from street to train, and are only to be found at a few stations like Stratford or Green Park which have been constructed or revamped recently. The pink blobs are terribly distracting, so I hope they're not the future for London's day-to-day tube map, but if you're in a wheelchair they're also terribly useful.
There's also an accessible map for rail travel outside London showing stations in southeast England with "step-free station from entrance to platform, and between platforms, staff assistance available." Not seen that before.

6) There'll also be special coach services from far outside London to the Games.
It's not all about trains. For those on a budget, arriving by coach may be ideal. 2012 Games coach services will run to East London from an impressive variety of places - as far afield as Norwich, Leeds, Shrewsbury and Swansea. There'll be special coaches to the sailing in Weymouth too, from towns and cities nearby. Here's a map showing all the many departure points. You'll be able to book seats starting this summer, once ticket allocations are known. But be aware that coaches will be scheduled to arrive at the venue for the start of sessions, so this might mean getting up ridiculously early in the morning.

7) Arriving by bike will be encouraged.
All London 2012 venues will have free, secure, managed cycle parking. That's an admirable commitment, and to be applauded. But there'll be nowhere to dock Borisbikes, so you'll have to leave your hired Barclaycycle elsewhere and walk the last bit.

8) For motorists, park-and-ride services will be available.
And there was everyone thinking that 2012 would be a public-transport-only Games. Not so. Park and ride facilities for motorists will be available for several venues, often nearby, but in some cases outside the M25 with coach transfer. You'll have to book a car parking space in advance, once you know you've got tickets, but we're promised that these will be "reasonably priced". And this is for one day only, there'll be no long-term overnight parking permitted.

9) Before you book tickets in two places on the same day, check how long it'll take to travel from one to the other.
It's no good planning to see gymnastics at Wembley in the morning and shooting at Woolwich in the early afternoon because you'll never get across London in time. For non-residents, a very simple map is available so you can get a sense of what's close and what's not. But for a better guide, the London 2012 website has an interactive "Journey Time Finder" which advises on estimated journey times between the recommended stations at each venue. Wembley to Woolwich might take 1-2 hours, it advises, whereas Coventry to Weymouth is more like 3-4. But in some cases the timings are highly pessimistic, or indicative of major congestion (Stratford to North Greenwich 1-2 hours, seriously? ouch!)

10) Travelling to the Olympics might be a lot harder than you think.
Depsite all of the arrangements above, it's highly likely that travelling around London will be hellish during Games fortnight. Trains will be packed, stations will have long queues, roads will be segregated, and it won't take much for the entire city to grind to a halt. This isn't hype, it's all laid out in documentation for London businesses who need to plan ahead to ensure continuity and resilience. The Jubilee and Central lines could have "significant additional delays of over an hour in accessing train services". Hotspots like Westminster Bridge "will be subject to significant additional delays, leading to traffic build-up". For several bus routes, "delays could be experienced as a result of higher traffic levels". Check out the full 22-part details on the Olympic website, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and prepare for the worst.

For those who might appreciate it, I've now stuck all my Olympic tickets posts on a single page, here.

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