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Friday, 27 July 2012

Routemaster carries the flame

So the countdown to the Olympics continues and today, completing its journeys on different forms of transport, the Olympic flame travelled aboard First's RMC1510 - an open top Routemaster - along Oxford Street.

This event took a great deal of planning. The Torch bearers themselves had to be convinced, and the organisers comfortable that the bus did not interfere with the tightly timed event. No branding was allowed so the bus was all red without any fleetnames.

McKenna Brothers kindly made the destination blinds - there are more displays than this photograph shows too!

So the RMC was taken to Great Cumberland Place where our guests, including the Mayor of Westminster, boarded. The Torch convoy consists of several elements and all has to run precisely to time. The "Activation" module came into position and started its progress along Oxford Street. Then under Police escort the Wrights Streetlite bus brought us the Torch bearers. The first went to receive the flame from the bearer carrying the flame along the Bayswater Road whilst the others boarded the bus. The usual Police escort runners came too.

The flame lit, the Torch bearer boarded the bus and in no time at all the bus pulled into the traffic stream and we made our way along an Oxford Street crammed with crowds. They weren't just in the street but hanging out of windows and on rooftops.

The flame is transferred by "the kiss" - the two torches held together to transfer the flame from one to another. This was done on board the bus. The Torch bearer stood at the front on a special platform built to make sure he or she was head and shoulders above the bus.

The bus was driven by Peter Hendy, the Commissioner for Transport in London. After its last Torch bearer left the bus, we followed the convoy along Regent Street and into Haymarket.

So now the flame is in Hyde Park and soon will transfer for its last journey - to the Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremony.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Opening Ceremony preview

I really did take this in the Olympic Park but
not necessarily yesterday!
With so little time left now we have had the last rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. All 50,000 of us were sworn to secrecy so no photographs!

In public transport terms all the guests were delivered to the Olympic Park in good time and the system whisked them away again afterwards. The park was clear by 2300 and there were trains to spare.

There is now a great feeling about the Games. Traffic is flowing in Central London, the Games Family is travelling to and from their venues, broadly in line with target journey times, and everyone appears to be ready for it all to start.

Meantime, as I write the Torch is on its final day of touring the London Boroughs and very shortly we will join it for its last few miles before arriving in Hyde Park. It has one more unique mode of transport to enjoy and will be uploading photos later!


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Torch goes Underground

A week of late finishes and early starts. As the dust settles on Monday night's dress rehearsal for the Olympic Opening Ceremony Tuesday morning sees me on an early train to Wimbledon to be ready for the arrival of the Olympic Torch for its historic ride on the Underground.

The Torch is now visiting every London Borough before arriving at the Olympic Park on Friday. The last time I saw it was in Newcastle when it arrived on a high wire on the quayside. Now it was transferred to the care of long-serving London Underground employee John Light, a Signalling Operator who has worked for us since 1963.

John, 64, carried the Olympic Torch along platform 1 at Wimbledon station this morning before taking it into the cab of the train adorned with Olympic rings for its unique journey one stop to Wimbledon Park.

On arrival there were media interviews and photographs before the flame was carefully taken onto its next whole day run which ended in Ealing tonight.

The public were delighted to see the Torch travel by train and many early morning commuters were surprised to be part of the trip.

Later on, a flag bearing the Olympic rings was hoisted on the flagpole at 55 Broadway in a short ceremony.

So we approach the final few hours before the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. In that short time the Torch has more Boroughs to visit, there is a further rehearsal at the Olympic Park, and tonight the last of the mayor works on London's roads takes place. Tomorrow morning at 0600 the Olympic Route Network is operational. As a result the "big peel" takes place as the next layer of road signs is unveiled.

The hot weather has certainly cheered everyone up. Not long to go!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

My diary continues

So that was Thursday - all eight LTs together for a photocall at Ash Grove. 

What happened on Friday?

Well of course a stream of important things as London gets ready and on Friday night an army of highway contractors moved in to make the final changes to London's road network: three nights of major works ahead of the final week before the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games.

These changes are now the physical ones - banned left and right turns, removal of pedestrian crossings and barriers to prevent illegal movements. In addition we continue change London's traffic signals. This is a gradual process as the traffic has to adapt. But in essence we are creating the capacity needed for all the additional people in London. These measures give priority to the Olympic Route Network to deliver the journey times to and from Olympic venues which we are required to deliver, by the Olympic authorities, and create space by adjusting the rate of flow into Central London.

But on Friday night the Torch itself came to London, Two Sea King helicopters flew in from Surrey, through Tower Bridge to the Tower of London.

The first Sea King swooped in, took up a position just above the Traitor's Gate to allow several personnel to descend by rope to the ground. It's job done, the first Sea King departed and took up station near The Shard.

Then the second Sea King hovered above the Traitor's Gate and Royal Marine Martin Williams descended the rope carefully carrying the Olympic Flame. Once on the ground a new torch was lit and Dame Kelly Holmes proudly carried into the Tower of London itself.

With military precision it was all done in minutes but with typical flair it arrived at 2012.......

The Torch is now visiting all of the London Boroughs. Greenwich to Newham today; Redbridge, Barking, Havering and Bexley on Sunday. This carries on all week until arriving in Westminster on Thursday.

The Torch has already travelled on the TfL network - it was on the Woolwich Ferry today, and it has an Underground train and a bus to use yet.

London is really different and each day the excitement is growing. More news here and on Twitter as it happens!


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Not long to go!

It is now very exciting and I promised something of a diary.

The weekend was dominated by concerts in Hyde Park - Springsteen on Saturday, Paul Simon on Sunday and Madonna on Tuesday. All late finishes as there are road closures and we have been working to reopen them a soon as possible. Also we have practiced the mixed operation of a general road closure of Park Lane whilst allowing LOCOG cars to circulate, as we will have to do on the night of the Opening Ceremony.

This week we have really made changes to the road network, building on two consecutive weekend changes. In short we are using traffic signals to constrain traffic so that there is enough room around the Olympic venues (including Central London) for all traffic to flow. This week we have the most - schools still active, Olympic family arriving, and London going out its business.

Yesterday we officially reopened London Bridge bus station - a really useful by-product of the investment in the area now dominated by The Shard. I was delighted to meet the Chairman of the developers Irvine Sellar whose foresight and confidence has delivered this magnificent building despite the economic downturn which has taken place during its construction. I declared the new bus station open and with The Shard. London certainly has a new compass from which to take its directions.

This morning I gathered together all eight of the New Bus for London together at Ash Grove bus garage for a photocall.

I know the detractors would like to say something else but all eight are running fine. We are winding up their daily mileages and we remain pleased with their amazing fuel consumption and low levels of emissions. Each is now carrying commercial advertising for a different West End production.

Here they all are!

Tomorrow (Friday) the Torch comes to London and then things really get busy. I've been defending all we are doing on radio and TV this week and it was great to have Mayor Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Justine Greening pay an official visit to our Transport Co-ordination Centre to thank all the troops for their work which has now been going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since the Torch has been out and about.

Of course the Torch is going to travel on our transport system. Woolwich Ferry on Saturday, on the Underground early next week and then on a red London bus on Thursday. Stay close for news.

Am sending updates by Twitter too.

An exciting time for London - keep you all posted here.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Two weeks to go!

There are just two weeks before the Olympic Games and you would expect things to be becoming VERY BUSY.

Today I have been at one of the training sessions for our 3500 Travel Ambassadors who shortly will be deployed all over London. These are managerial and office staff from TfL who are joining some 8000 people helping deliver a successful Olympic Games by working on the front line. An exciting time for everyone involved. Today they were all excited about the challenge going forward. We are hugely grateful to them for their hard work and enthusiasm.

It is all happening now. Athletes and media are now arriving. Fortunately the M4 reopened this morning. The media didn't quite grasp the need for the motorway is actually now - not in two weeks' time. People are arriving and the good folk at the Highways Agency have delivered what is needed.

Now we continue to change the way in which London's traffic works. The normal summer reduction in traffic is being supplemented by our Travel Demand Management which has worked for many months to discourage usage now. Many businesses are, as a result, "Games Ready". Undertakers, Stem Cell transporters, The Army and the Evening Standard have all become so.

But let's be clear. With all the people coming here this month life in London will change. We are building Olympic venues, changing the road layout, and all ready to host the biggest cultural and sporting event of our lifetime.

Plan ahead has always been out watchword - make sure you see where everything you could possible want to know is available in granular detail, including journey planners for spectators, public transport users, and freight.

Everyone is now working hard to deliver a great Games and keep London moving. I will try and keep something of a diary going here....


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Locked in

On Friday night I stayed at the Olympic Athlete's Village as part of a "pressure test" of the facilities.

Of course we were late, so were the last to be admitted before "lock-down". So I have experienced the vehicle screening and personal security checks as well as the same "check-in" as the athletes. In due course climbed aboard a Go-Ahead Scania single-decker to be taken to the residential area.

All very interesting - reminds me of the places built by the Soviet countries to train their spies: nearly English but not quite - e.g. belisha beacons but no crossings!

Anyway found my accommodation, and then to test the catering arrangements.

The food was great and the bar attractive (although during Games time there will be no alcohol). We tested the plumbing, beds, catering and transport and all went quite well. Easily ahead of the facilities provided to athletes at previous Olympic venues at this stage of the Games!

The Village Service Centre, gym and police station will all become a school post-Games.

In the catering facility the tent is 18000 sqm - 880 double decker buses could fit in here. It sits 5000 people. On its busiest day will serve 65,000 people.

Those who made it to the bar also found themselves "exposed" in the Observer on Sunday. Members of the Press Office were immediately caught by our "rule" that any of them who are caught IN the media must buy cakes.

The village is amazing and very soon real athletes will be arriving here. Meanwhile outside tonight the first white lines and Olympic rings are being painted on the road surface. From here on every weekend will deliver more changes to the road network both in terms of traffic signals science and physical changes.

All the details are at of course.

I left early Saturday morning - somehow the early morning shoppers at Westfield appearing unaware of the deluge about to arrive at Stratford.

One of my near neighbours filmed it all - you can see it here