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Friday, 17 August 2012

Eye of the storm

We find ourselves at half time - after an extraordinary 17 days the Olympic Games are over and the athletes have returned home. A time with very little sleep, huge exhilaration, and when London's transport system performed admirably. Everyone got to their events: the athletes, the spectators, Games Family and the media. And London kept moving, as we promised.

I was regularly invited on BBC Radio London and LBC onto the Travel News but as the Games wore on there was less and less to talk about. Paul & Gabby on Radio London and I ended up discussing other things including superstition and tea.

Londoners did what we asked them to do. They changed their travel habits. The Games Family was quick to learn to use public transport. As a result, the controversial Games Lanes were kept open to all traffic for more than 50% of the time. We carried a record number of passenger journeys on London Underground, Emirates AirLine and DLR. There was flatter peak hour demand and a longer, later more intensive service.

Leading up to the Games, there were those who predicted traffic chaos, the TV series “2012” immortalised it. Yet, from my control centre we observed free flowing roads, a “Good Service” on the rail and underground network and trouble-free airports.

But demand was up throughout the Games and by the busiest weekend we were delivering a huge 27% more passengers into the West End after 1600. No wonder retailers, West End theatres and other customer-facing organisations reported a 'feel good' factor with extra spend. Only a few - who perhaps were out marketed and had not adjusted their product to the Olympics - did not do so well.

And then it was all over, at least for some. The first Paralympic athletes arrive this weekend, the village reopens, and a record number of spectators head for the venues. And this time there will be fewer special arrangements, but there are many more groups, more people with mobility difficulties, and an Autumn School Term starting on 3rd September.

Team TfL and its associates are taking a short breather to get ready for part two. A no-less challenging second half for sure.

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