diamond geezer

 Friday, August 12, 2011

London 2012  Olympic update
  Spectator Journey Planner

Are you worried about how you're going to travel to your Olympic event next year? I know, probably not, because you didn't get any tickets (seethe). But let's assume you did. Good news, you can now plan precisely what time you need to leave home and how you're going to arrive at your chosen venue using the Spectator Journey Planner. It pays to be prepared. So let's try a few sample journeys and see what we can discover about Olympic travel next summer...

Sample journey 1: Bow Church to the Olympic Stadium (for the Opening Ceremony)
Or, in other words, my house to the Olympic Park - a journey I can normally manage on foot in less than 15 minutes.
Leave 17:55 → walk to Northern Spectator Entrance (20 minutes) → arrive 19:30
Hang on, how does a 20 minute walk take 1 hour 35 minutes? Ah, there's a reason...
"Additional time has been allowed in your journey for airport-style security at your venue and unforeseen delays on the transport network."
I think we can discount "unforeseen delays on the transport network", because I'm walking. It looks like airport-style security is the main driver here, potentially wasting an hour of my time in a lengthy friskdown queue, so they want me to start out early just in case. Or maybe even earlier.
"However, you may wish to allow for additional time in your journey plan. To do this, please re-plan your journey with an earlier arrival time."
The underlying message here appears to be "best be paranoid and turn up as early as possible."
I'm also mystified why they want me to walk to the Northern Spectator Entrance when the Western and Southern Entrances are considerably closer. Glitch, or deliberate crowd control?

Sample journey 2: Buckingham Palace to Horseguards Parade (for the Beach Volleyball)
Well, you never know, the Queen might want to go. Usually 8 minutes on foot, or 3 minutes by Gold Coach.
Leave 12:42 → walk to Horse Guards Parade Northern Spectator Entrance (8 minutes) → arrive 14:00
Again, that's a dead-lengthy security-queue delay. Indeed, every journey in the entire database seems to have a contingency one hour tagged onto the end. It's a very pessimistic journey planner... but then one wouldn't want to be late, would one?

Sample journey 3: Wembley Arena to the Aquatic Centre (for the Diving)
A simple cross-London journey between venues - should be one Jubilee line train.
Leave 11:10 → walk to Wembley Park (14 minutes, 11:56) → Metropolitan line to Liverpool Street (31 minutes, 12:27) → Central line to Stratford (9 minutes, 12:39) → walk to Eastern Spectator Gate (12 minutes) → arrive 14:00
Ouch, that's nearly three hours to get from one venue to another! First it takes half an hour to get out of Wembley Arena, then the suggested route takes you via two trains with a change at Liverpool Street. It's a perfectly good route, but probably not one you'd have chosen unaided. I wonder if the journey planner has been pre-programmed to keep you off the Jubilee line - they won't want it getting too crowded, so they're sending you via quieter trains.

Sample journey 4: Obscure Norfolk Village to the Olympic Park (for the Basketball)
This is a journey my Dad needs to make on the opening weekend.
"An error occured attempting to obtain journey options using the details you have entered."
Bad luck Dad, it looks like you live somewhere that the travel planner can't cope with. So let me try that again, starting at your nearest rail station. There should be a direct train from Diss to Stratford.
Leave 08:10 → walk to Diss bus station (20 minutes, 08:30) → take the FirstGroup Olympic Coach towards Northern Transport Mall (3 hours, 11:30) → walk to Northern Spectator Gate (2 minutes, 11:32) → arrive 12:37
So that's a mammoth 4½ hour journey, including 3 hours on a coach. You can already buy yourself a return coach ticket for £25 (saving a fiver because you're over 60). Mysteriously there's no mention whatsoever on the journey planner of the "go by train" option. That would cost only a pound more, but could whisk you down in less than half the time. Alas the rail-booking website is a complete nightmare and, even though there are supposed to be 2012 Games Train Tickets "valid for any train on the date of travel without restriction", I can't find any. Flexibility fail. Bet you take the coach.

Sample journey 5: Lord's to North Greenwich Arena (for the Gymnastics)
Just to be different, let's plan this journey by bike (via the quickest route).
Leave 11:45 → cycle 17.4km to North Greenwich Arena Cycle Parking (58 minutes, 12:43) → arrive 14:00
That's less than an hour to cycle across London, but then more than an hour to guarantee entry to the Dome. Not great. On the plus side the website plans your route for you, which is impressive stuff. Except there are no maps. The route is only available as a downloadable GPX file - a GPS-friendly format for those with appropriate gadgets or software skills. How middle class is that? It's great that there'll be cycle parking facilities at all venues, but navigating there won't be as bike-friendly as it ought to be.

Sample journey 6: York to the Olympic Park (for the Hockey)
Four hours, this takes, of which two hours is getting to London, six minutes is on the Javelin from St Pancras to Stratford, and the remaining nearly two hours is spent getting to your seat.

Sample journey 7: Wyke Regis to Weymouth (for the Sailing)
Even a short journey from the suburbs of Weymouth to the harbourside takes 1 hour 20 minutes - that's 20 minutes to get there by bus and on foot, then (unbelievably) an hour to queue to get into a small park.

Enough examples, you get the idea. Getting to London, or across London, should be easy (unless serious disruption occurs, which it probably will, in which case it's advisable to travel early). Getting into your venue, that could take an hour (but if it doesn't you'll have plenty of time to waste before your session begins). This isn't so much a journey planner as an extra-cautious journey estimator. Summer 2012... it's going to be a long wait.

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