Two problems... • At the Olympics, everyone knows that transport flowed brilliantly • The Paralympics are smaller than the Olympics
Which means, whatever contingencies Londoners took last time, it's going to be much harder to persuade them to do the same this time. But with only a week to go, perhaps we should be a little more worried. Here's why.
1) The Paralympics are the second largest sporting event in the world London's just hosted the number one, now here comes number two. For what's usually the Cinderella partner of the main Games, Britain's certainly taken these Paralympics to heart. More than 2½ million spectators will be turning up, about a third the size of the Olympics, but crammed into two-thirds the number of days. Expect far fewer from abroad, and far more from the UK. They might at least know where they're going, but they're still going to clog up the tubes.
2) Partway through the Paralympics, schools go back and the working crush returns The Olympics had it easy. School holidays, lots of Londoners off sunning themselves abroad, a deliberately low-key time of year. But there'll be nothing so straight-forward this time. The August Bank Holiday will be over and everyone'll be back to normal, back to routine, and back to filling up the same trains the spectators want to use. Could get tricky.
3) The Paralympics are a lot more focused, geographically Whereas the Olympics were spread out across town, the Paralympics are more compact, with East London bearing the brunt. Nothing in Herts, nothing in Essex. Nothing at Wembley, nothing in football stadia around the country. Nothing at Earl's Court, nothing at Wimbledon, and only one single event in central London (on the last day of the Games). People in these locations do have justification in deciding not to make special arrangements for the Paralympics. Those around Stratford, ExCel and Greenwich should probably steel themselves, as before.
4) A lot of the events take place almost every day Swimming, every day. Events at the ExCel, every day. Wheelchair Basketball every day, sometimes in two different locations. Football and athletics, every day but one. This isn't some minor patronising sporting festival, this is big time. Below is a table summarising roughly when all the Paralympic events take place. Events in the Olympic Park are underlined.
5) The Olympic Park is going to be full almost every day In the first week of the Olympics the Park ran below full capacity, only stepping up in the second. During the Paralympics the Park is likely to be as full as that second week, not the first. Take Athletics, for example. At the Olympics there were fifteen sessions in nine days, whereas at the Paralympics there are eighteen sessions in the same time. That's even more stadiumfuls of spectators this time than last. Ditto the Swimming has been scaled up from fifteen sessions to twenty. That's great, because it means hundreds of thousands more people will be able to enjoy all the special attractions that the Olympic Park offers. Just hope not to meet them all at Stratford station afterwards.
6) Yes, there's a Paralympic Route Network There'll still be Games Lanes on our roads, but there won't be so many of them, because the PRN is smaller than the ORN. East London's segregated lanes will return, but Central London retains only a single lifeline along the Embankment out to the Cromwell Road. World leaders and the Olympic Family don't come in numbers to these Games, so Park Lane escapes and Russell Square stays media-free. And nothing kicks in on the roads until the morning of Wednesday 29th August, and it's all cleared away after the Victory Parade on Monday 10th September.
7) Keep off the Jubilee line, Central line and DLR if you can These three lines will be extra busy, as workaday commuters and shoppers mix with spectators and tourists. They won't be stupidly busy all the time, and they may be busy only in the opposite direction to the way you're going, but if you have a sensible alternative route then it's probably a good idea to take it.
8) The Get Ahead of the Games website is still relevant I know last time round we panicked and maybe it wasn't justified, but perhaps this time you should dig a little deeper on the website. Rather than just looking at the shiny tube map and going "ooh, that station's red", click on the station and scroll down for a lot more information. Congestion forecasts are available in half-hourly slots, and this time the transport planners have made different predictions. London Bridge will allegedly be over-busy every weekday morning between eight and nine-thirty, and every weekday evening between six and about eight. St Pancras International may be rammed on the Javelin for the hour before 9am and the hour after 5pm. Getting on a Central line train at Chancery Lane in the evening rush hour might be hell, although Holborn nowhere near so bad. And as for Stratford itself? Probably not advisable after 10:30 in the evening but other than that, flowing fairly well. So when you see all those magenta signs urging you to go to West Ham instead, stuff those, because the official predictions say you're wasting your time.
9) And which entrance to the Olympic Park should I use again? Eton Manor Gate: No queues, but expect a long walk Victoria Gate: No queues, but it's in the middle of nowhere Greenway Gate: A breeze to get in, but an unnecessary hike from West Ham Stratford Gate: Yeah, almost certainly fine (expect for late night exits)
10) Brace for business unusual Who knows how bad, or otherwise, travel will be during the Paralympics? Best be prepared for whatever happens, just in case.