2 Jul 2012

Londoners prepare for transport disruption

12:09 pm on 2 July 2012

The latest sign of the Olympics impacting on Londoners' lives appeared overnight in the English capital, and they'll probably be the most annoying.

Workmen have painted the iconic Olympic rings on some of the capital's roads, marking the 30 miles of tarmac which will be out of bounds to motorists between July 27th and August 12th.

Although not operational until two days before the Olympics, the Games Lanes are shaping up to be one of the biggest irritants to those living in the capital.

Used to crawling along the city's clogged narrow streets, motorists will now have the added insult of watching 80,000 athletes, officials, sponsors and media moving freely in chauffeur-driven vehicles on the specially designated lanes.

London's public transport authority Transport for London, aware of the potential additional gridlock, is keen for motorists to get out of their cars and on to their bikes and into their walking boots.

Walking maps have been distributed at Underground rail stations and people will have access to the 8,000 self-service bicycles dotted around the city for hire as part of a drive to get an extra 16 percent walking or cycling.

However, an early report suggested uptake may be only five percent.

River and canal boat journeys are also being promoted but there is limited capacity.

A new cable car, largely privately funded, opened last week which should help ferry passengers across the River Thames near Olympic venues in Greenwich.

Park-and-ride schemes will be put in place.

But catching a bus may not be so easy if bus drivers, who ferry about 6.5 million passengers a day, fail to settle their dispute over Olympic bonuses.

They have already held a 24-hour strike over their demand for an extra 500 pounds for the stress of working during the Games, pointing to other pay deals agreed with London's rail staff.

Another walk-out will take place this week, with a further one scheduled for shortly before the Games.

The ageing underground rail system is already near capacity and is blighted by overcrowding and unreliability.

Queues are already a common occurrence during rush-hour, compounded by engineering problems such as signal failure.

People have been warned they can expect to queue for more than an hour at certain key intersections, or "hotspots" during the Games.

So TfL is also encouraging commuters to linger over a drink before going home and cajoling office workers to stagger their trips by offering a voucher scheme with cheap theatre and cinema tickets.