diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 12, 2012

As the Games have progressed, TfL have become increasingly desperate to divert Olympic Park spectators via West Ham station. On the Jubilee line, for example, the initial plan was that all passengers would continue to the end of the line and alight at Stratford. The line maps aboard Jubilee line trains still specifically earmark Stratford for the Olympic Park, with West Ham entirely unlabelled. But partway through the last fortnight new magenta signs have appeared on every train, one on either side of every doorway, urging spectators to get out early. The given reason is "to avoid delays due to congestion at Stratford", although what's not mentioned is that these delays don't necessarily exist. They do sometimes, so I'm told, although every time I've been to the Olympic Park via Stratford I've walked straight in with no queues whatsoever. What the magenta signs fail to mention is that if you get off early you face a 25 minute walk, whereas if you stay on one more stop it's only five. That lengthy trek comes as a shock after you've exited the station, there's no mention anywhere beforehand that West Ham might perhaps be sub-optimal. It's a particularly cruel trick to play on the elderly, the unfit and the infirm, gullibly heeding official advice then absolutely wishing they hadn't. But it's a trick that's worked, with the Greenway full of spectators nobly (and unwittingly) sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

Leaving the Park, even more extreme measures have recently been added. On exiting the Aquatic Centre a cluster of staff now stand around with big pink placards pointing desperately towards the Greenway Gate. "Quickest route out of the Olympic Park", the placards say, and that's true. Only fractionally true - the Greenway Gate's mere metres closer than the Stratford Gate - but technically correct. What's not mentioned is that the quickest route out of the Olympic Park dumps you nowhere near a station, but by the time you discover that you're out, and the trek to West Ham beckons. There's worse been installed on the lighting poles between the Orbit and the Stratford Gate. Thin magenta signs point invitingly towards West Ham, announcing that this is the "Fastest route to Central London". Like hell it is. It's 5 minutes walk from the Stratford Gate to the Greenway Gate, then 25 minutes to West Ham, then at least 13 minutes to travel to any station that might possibly be described as 'Central London'. Three quarters of an hour in total, and that's to the wrong end of the City, not the West End. In the time it takes to walk to West Ham you could have reached Liverpool Street via the Central line, or indeed St Pancras via the Javelin. I can vouch for the Javelin route on Friday, from inside the Aquatic Centre to St Pancras in 30 minutes flat, no queues. Unless congestion throughout Westfield is bad, which it only occasionally is, these pink signs are telling a blatant lie.

I understand why a certain proportion of Olympic visitors need to use West Ham. Stratford station needs to stay unclogged, and packed trains have had unfortunate queueing repercussions at peak times further down the line. But I have a real problem with ignorant tourists being duped by pessimistic messages which wrongly assume full-time congestion at Stratford. There's a thin pink line between behavioural nudging and unprofessional coercion, and TfL's white lies are sadly the latter.

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