London's travel network clears its first Olympic hurdle

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London's transport network has passed its first big test of the Games: the combination of commuters and Games spectators during Monday's two rush hours.

London workers seem to have heeded warnings that extra restrictions and Games Lanes combined with spectator congestion might result in nightmare commutes - and changed their patterns.

With sports events taking place from east London's Olympic Park and Greenwich, through the city centre, and out to Wimbledon and Wembley, there are restrictions around 10 sports venues in the city.

The Olympic Route Network is in action with 30 miles of Games Lanes for the "Olympic family".

Organisers anticipated Monday's one million extra visitors in London would make some three million journeys on public transport - a 25% increase on the city's daily staple 12m public transport journeys.

It was the first time we can gauge whether Londoners were willing to change their well-worn travel habits to make way for Olympic spectators, says BBC London's transport correspondent Tom Edwards.

And transport bosses' advice about "rerouting, retiming and remoding" journeys seems to have been followed, as it was on Friday when London's traffic levels were around 15% lower than normal ahead of London 2012's opening ceremony.

Marathon, not a sprint

Today all eyes are on London Bridge: It will be the busiest day of the Games - if not ever - for the rather old station.

It is normally at capacity during peak times and 50,000 more spectators heading through it will be a huge challenge.

The station struggled during the Jubilee - much to the anger of passengers - and has taken the unprecedented step of making six platforms exit-only from 18:00 to 22:00.

That means passengers commuting to Kent will have to catch their trains at other stations like Charing Cross - which will cause confusion.

Connecting tube lines like the Jubilee line will also be under huge pressure.

Unless you like queues, I would avoid it.

On Monday morning, roads were quieter than normal - with TfL estimating a 19% reduction on normal summer weekday flows - and train and tube lines ran smoothly.

The overall impression from commuters was of less crowding, more helpful staff - including both station officials and an extra 3,500 TfL back office staff and 700 Network Rail officials in unmistakable pink and purple travel ambassador uniforms - and an Olympic spirit befitting the warm summer sunshine.

At Victoria underground station, the announcer's "Stand behind the yellow line" before the train departed was replaced by "Ready. Set. Go!"

Prime Minister David Cameron gave a positive review of a ride on the Bakerloo line.

Even at London Bridge, where passengers faced their own Olympic time trial - diverted away from the usual routes in case of overcrowding - there were no complaints.

Pink signage and barriers were in place to guide passengers through the station, while officials used loud-hailers to provide the latest transport information.

But this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Exit-only station

There were concerns about London Bridge's narrow corridors and winding pathways between London Bridge's Tube and mainline platforms.

Platforms one to six, which are used by trains bound for Kent, were to be exit-only from 18:00 until 22:00 BST as 50,000 equestrian spectators all headed home from Greenwich Park during the evening peak.

But the only reported problem came on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line after a fault on the track at Southfields, the stop for the All England Club where the tennis is taking place, meant no trains were running from the station during the evening.

The crunch transport test comes on Friday - the first full day of athletics in Stratford's 80,000-seat Olympic stadium.

While commuters seem to have successfully "rerouted, remoded and retimed" journeys so far, concerns remain they will see the clear routes, get complacent and fall back into old habits.

TfL chiefs would not feel a good job had been done until the end of the Paralympics.

"When everybody's on their flights home and we have a hopefully very successful victory parade for winners of both Olympic and Paralympic medals then we'll set about getting London back to normal," he told the BBC.

Stand on the right

Monday's Olympic events included:

  • Olympic Park: Aquatics Centre, Basketball Arena, Copper Box, Riverbank Arena, Water Polo Arena
  • River Zone: ExCeL, North Greenwich Arena, Greenwich Park, Royal Artillery Barracks
  • Central London: Earls Court, Lord's Cricket Ground, Horse Guards Parade
  • South/West: Wimbledon, Wembley Arena

The capital is awash with Games spectators who might think oysters are for eating, standing on the right is for politicians and that the commuters' speed-walking style is for, well, Olympians. Not all of them will speak English.

Olympics coverage online

Olympics images

The Piccadilly and District lines were being used by spectators heading to Wimbledon and Earls Court for events, and the beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade increased crowds at Embankment.

At Stratford, where the Olympic Park is hosting swimming, water polo, hockey and basketball events, one pinch point was expected to be the bridge between Westfield and the station.

Passengers were advised to use the District Line via West Ham or take a train from Liverpool Street for a quicker route to the Olympic Park.

Those intending to travel in the city were warned to leave extra time for their journeys and plan ahead by using a dedicated transport advice website.

Will you be travelling from work via an Olympic "hotspot" in London? Tell us your experiences using the form below.

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