THERE’S no general piece of advice.” I’m with Transport for London’s no-nonsense commissioner, Peter Hendy, and if he has one message he wants people to grasp about public transport during next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is that every day and every part of town will be different.
“It’s unhelpful to lump the whole of London together. If you live in Harrow and work in Heathrow, you probably don’t need to make any changes. If you live in North Greenwich and work in Stratford, well, you’ll want to look at what’s going on each day.”
Not only every day but different times of day will be different. For instance, road racing locations for events including cycling, marathon and triathlons will vary. Happily, TfL have already made all of this information online for you to check, in the Travel Advice for Business section of the London 2012 website. There’s also a dedicated area of their own website for Olympic transport advice (see panel, right, for more information).
BEAT THE QUEUES
Hendy stresses that while the descent of the whole world’s supply of sports fans on London’s public transport system will inevitably make it unusually busy, that doesn’t mean that locals can’t enjoy the Games or that the disruptions to their work need to be onerous. “If you come into Canary Wharf on the Jubilee Line very early as some do, there’s not going to be a problem at half five or six in the morning. If you normally head back at five in the evening, there could be an issue. Maybe there are some days when you’re better off going to the pub, watching events on the telly and having a beer before you head home. It’s about sensible alterations, not getting out of London full stop.”
That said, it’s clear that City workers will be some of the most affected by these East London Games. Canary Wharf, Canada Water, Bank/Monument and London Bridge are all cited by Hendy as likely hotspots. “Employers need to think about what will make it easier for them. Can some back office staff work from home? Some people will want to take their holiday, especially if they have tickets for exciting events. It might be a good moment to improve options for flexible working in the office. If your business is on the Olympic Route Network, you need to think about deliveries – get all your photocopier paper in advance. It’s horses for courses, and we’re offering a lot of advice for companies big and small.”
A sign that the campaign for awareness is getting through is the number of firms signed up for site-specific advice from TfL. Businesses collectively employing half a million staff are on board (more than 215,000 of those staff are from banking and finance firms alone), and in Canary Wharf, over 80 per cent of businesses are now covered. “Our aim,” says Hendy, “is that by this time next year it will be so unusual not to have a plan that no one says, ‘what a scandal TfL didn’t tell them’; they say, ‘God, they must be stupid.’”
Hendy is plain about where he sees responsibility lying for these preparations. “We’re not nannying people. In the end, we’re relying on Londoners, on those people whose job is wealth creation, to take a view on what’s going to happen and adjust to make the best of it. And the evidence is that they are doing exactly that.”
NINE MONTHS TO GO
Meanwhile, TfL is doing its part. With nine months to go, all the major capital works are done. From March, street works will be banned on the Olympic Road Network. And non-essential staff will be redeployed from the Westminster office in Games time. As Hendy says, “we want transport to fade into the background as an Olympic subject. We can’t wave a magic wand, but I think people will understand in 2012 that we will be doing our best in difficult circumstances.”
For now, though, he needs Londoners to get on board and make their own preparations. “We’ve made lots and lots of information available. If you’re a big firm, we’ll talk with you one-on-one, small firms we’re talking to in groups. You can sign up to the workshops easily and they’re running regularly. A lot of it is common sense. Every day will be different. It’s not about working from home for the duration, but just about having a bit of flexibility. We want business to do well in the Games: hospitality and service businesses should do very well. Just think now about how it might affect your business, look at the hotspot maps to see if anything is in your area. Think about how you can carry on and make the most of it. See the information we’ve made available and develop a plan.”
Transport for London has created a website providing a one-stop shop for information on transport advice for business: www.tfl.gov.uk/2012. You can also find more information online at www.london2012.com/get-involved/business-network/travel-advice-for-business/
LONDON 2012 | BUSINESS PLANS
● London 2012 has been planned as a public transport Games. Spectators are encouraged to cycle, walk or use public transport and event tickets include a Travelcard.
● You can check if your business is in an affected area by looking at the online hotspot maps at: www.london2012.com/get-involved/business-network/travel-advice-for-business/are-you-in-an-affected-area/.
● If your business is in an affected area and employs over 200 employees in that location, or if it has multiple affected sites with over 200 employees across them all, it should be eligible for free, personalised advice from a travel adviser. To check, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details, the organisation’s address and the number of staff.
● Smaller firms are also eligible for help, and can sign up for free, two-hour workshops on a range of Olympic planning issues. To sign up, send an email to email@example.com with your business location, sector, number of employees and the session you wish to attend.
The following SME workshops are now available:
19 Oct: 9-11am & 2-4pm, Hammersmith
8 Nov: 9-11am & 2-4pm, Greenwich
9 Nov: 10am-12 & 4-6pm, Westminster
Additional dates and locations will be posted online as they are confirmed.
● Full information on Olympic schedules, maps of hotspots and the Olympic Road Network as well as online tools to help a business plan for 2012 can all be found by visiting www.tfl.gov.uk/2012.