Regular tube travel must reduce by one third for Olympics, TfL warns businesses

London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Route Network

London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Route Network

Regular tube travel in London will need to be reduced by a third in order to cope with the increased demand on the underground during the 2012 Olympic Games, Transport for London (TfL) has warned UK businesses.

Billing London 2012 as a “public transport and rail-based games”, TfL has modeled the likely demand on London’s underground system during the 16 days of Olympic and eight days of Paralympic Games and forecast the levels of delay.

It found the network would not cope with the extra capacity and has estimated the reduction in everyday tube usage, which is required. 

Anthony Jackson, travel advice to business consultant at London 2012, said: “We need to have a background reduction of a third. If we can get that, things will work pretty smoothly. In some areas, such as Canary Wharf, we will need to affect a change of 50%. And, if we need to affect more of a change, we will do.”

TfL is hosting a series of workshops designed to help retail businesses manage transport – staff and freight – during the Olympic Games and is launching an aggressive marketing campaign to drive their preparation. 

“Half the globe is watching this summer, we have to get it right,” said Jackson.

TfL has identified travel hotspots, busy areas and routes across London, but warned the locations for events extended outside the capital to Weymouth, for example, and to football stadia around the UK.

According to TfL, a third of all Olympic tickets will be for the Olympic Park and 40% of journeys will start inside the M25.
However, beyond that, retailers must consider where their other stores are located, said Jackson. 

“It’s not just 16 days of Olympics and eight days of Paralympics, it will be busy from June to September with an entire summer of events,” he said.

Jackson urged businesses to engage with TfL. “If we prepare for this, we can mitigate the problems and take advantage of the Games,” he said.

No one wanted a repeat of Atlanta when it took visitors nine hours to leave a stadium and the military had to be brought in to control crowding, TfL added.

Jackson emphasised the importance of the Olympic Route Network (ORN), a commitment from the host city ever since Atlanta. 

“Athletes have to get to the venues – some people have trained for 15 years – we have to get them there.”

TfL is advising retail businesses adopt four key strategies with regards to staff and freight movement:

  • Reduce
  • Re-time
  • Re-route 
  • Remode

“If people have to travel, we are not telling them don’t,” said Jackson, “but if some employees can work from home, let them. We need people to serve and keep London moving, but if we can reduce staff travel, let’s do it.”

In addition to providing flexible working solutions, businesses can re-time and re-route their journeys, said TfL.

The tubes, for example, will run earlier and later during the Games, although not 24 hour, due to essential maintenance work at night. Remode includes suggesting alternative transport such as cycling and walking, said TfL.

The Olympic and Paralympic Route Networks, which are designed to guarantee times for athletes and officials, will also impact businesses located near or on them, said TfL.

The ORN spans 109 miles or a third of the London network and will be implemented two days before the Games begin and removed as soon as it is no longer required. It will be enforced through CCTV and penalty charge notices. Permissions such as right hand turns and pedestrian crossings will also be suspended on key routes such as the Embankment.

In addition, on road event days, an Alternative Olympic Road Network will be implemented; and a Central London Zone will incur traffic and travel restrictions with plans to deter opportunistic parking, for example.

According to TfL, freight (everything from lorries to couriers) accounts for 40% of London traffic and will require a road freight management plan during the Games since stopping locations may no longer be in operation.

The four Rs apply equally well to freight, said Jackson. Reduce means encouraging accuracy and pre-ordering, for example.

TfL is advising businesses start stockpiling and create temporary stock rooms. Retail businesses are also being encouraged to change delivery days and times. TfL said it was a strong advocate of night time deliveries too. Companies are also urged to keep abreast of the ORN restrictions; particularly with the Olympic Torch Relay, which Jackson said would be a “rolling road block”.

Re-routing will increase journey times, said TfL; and it advised companies consider alternative transport modes, such as rail and water. 

A freight journey planner, meanwhile, is currently in development to help retailers optimise deliveries. A spectator journey planner has already been introduced.

What retailers want for their businesses and London from the 2012 Olympics 

JD Sports/Blacks Leisure/Millets

A smooth running period of time for our business and to maximise profits from the increased numbers of tourists and visitors.

To showcase to the world we can put on an absolutely fantastic games.

Financial gains to the business in key locations. An opportunity to enhance the brand’s credentials around the world.

Continuing operations in a normal manner and delivering significant growth on top of that.

No significant incident.

Urban Outfitters

Increase brand awareness and hoping for a smooth running of the office.

Body Shop

No reduction in service and flexible working.

River Island

Increase brand awareness and recovery from recession. Increase sales, deliveries on time in all stores in London. Limited delays for staff, no security issues and no major issues affecting the games.

Editor comments: While retailers want to maximise the sales opportunity the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games present and raise their brand awareness with international visitors, they will face significant transport challenges; particularly in central London locations and the so-called travel ‘hot spots’.

While flexible working may be a viable for some retailer functions such as head office staff, store based colleagues do not have home working as an option. Unless they are able to make alternative travel plans – re-time, re-route or remode – they are likely to face extended journey times and delays. As a consequence, service and sales will suffer. Similarly, if retailers are unable to reschedule and make accurate store deliveries, the products will not be on shelf or even in-store and sales, along with brand image, will suffer.

TfL has the transport facts and figures at its fingertips and is imploring retailers engage to keep their businesses running smoothly during the 2012 Games. If retailers want to realise their objectives to grow sales and showcase their brands and London to the best advantage, they must do so without delay.