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Glasgow must take heed of London travel lessons

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John Beattie | 08:44 UK time, Saturday, 11 August 2012

Glasgow 2014 has to be very careful as to the travel message it gives out before its hosting of the Commonwealth Games.

I hate traffic jams. Being stuck in thousands of pounds worth of steel cage designed to swoop along highland roads or fly down an airstrip - or so Top Gear would have you believe - is my idea of a complete waste of time and a break down in the transport system.

And if the build-up to London 2012 was to be believed then this great city was going to give every traveller a heart attack.

One of the Olympic bus lanes during London 2012

One of the Olympic bus lanes during London 2012. Pic: Reuters

The BBC Scotland team arrived here early and television and radio stations pumped out dire warnings as to the havoc the Olympic lanes were going to cause.

Oh, the statistics were harrowing. 200,000 people were going to the Olympic park on 'Super Saturday'. Around 8.8 million tickets were available and 21,000 media were in attendance. Residents weren't happy, and the implicit advice was that people shouldn't travel.

Before all of the recent Games there have been problems. Two years ago at the Commonwealth games the Delhi athletes' village was a mess. Huge big tame monkeys called Langoors were called in to chase away the native monkeys and travel was to experience delays. Actually, it all worked.

In Athens at the 2004 Olympics the venues were meant to be unfinished. They were ready. Without tempting fate, Glasgow will be ready too.

So, what happened in London? Because Londoners were told not to travel, the shops have been hit hard. I even think that some people who had bought tickets didn't turn up to watch events they had paid for because they had been warned that the roads and the subway would be so busy.

But there have been no stories about travel delays. The travel network coped thanks to extra busses and trains and the Olympic bus lanes for media, dignitaries and athletes worked for a simple reason I will come back to.

London attracts 30 million tourists every year, which is 1.2 million people for the two weeks of the Games. The population of London is just over eight million. The reality is that a huge city like London could have, of a weekend, three Premier League football matches taking place with 150,000 people moving around the city.

In Edinburgh of a rugby weekend, around 70,000 people walk from the stadium to the city centre and the pubs, hotels and shops make money.

In Glasgow the same goes for an Old Firm match. 50,000 people watched AC/DC and Take That at Hampden Park in Glasgow and, having been to one of the concerts - I won't admit to which one - they were sadly let down by lack of travel capacity laid on as fans queued for trains from Mount Florida.

But here in London, Olympic tourists did not create such a big splash that the system ground to a halt.

Let's come back to the Olympic bus lanes. Oh, it's easy to dislike them. The Olympic rings are painted on, and, dear oh dear, the outside lanes were commandeered - the go faster lanes. The people who usually use them were kicked off them.

But Olympic venues here in London have been on the fringes of the city. And it will be the same for Glasgow. As people are coming in to work, the Glasgow 2014 lanes will, primarily, be taking people from their city centre hotels in exactly the opposite direction!

Just think of the venues. Ibrox, Hampden, Scotstoun, Kelvingrove, the SECC, mountain biking at Carmunnock, the wet stuff at Strathclyde Park or Tollcross.

As the citizens of Glasgow travel to the city centre to work, the athletes and media will be travelling the other way - except for evening events.

And the truth of the matter too is that so many of the Glasgow venues will be accessible by trains, subways, busses or even on foot.

But what of London? There has been over-capacity in the system for the Games with so many extra busses and trains put on that some travel empty. You never have to wait. Entrances and exits from stations have been split so as an arriving crowd comes in one door, those leaving are guided to another. Crowds move together.

London's transport worked. Glasgow needs to provide that extra public transport capacity.

Looking ahead just two years, the organisers have a crucial role to play in 2014. They must tell people to throng the city and make it the vibrant place we all want it too be.

When the Games come to Glasgow, travel to the events and come to our city, no matter where in the world you are from. It will be fine.


  • Comment number 1.

    A note from a pedant in the UK re spelling - according to the OED, in British English the plural of bus is buses [the American is busses] - have the Scots gone to American spelling?

  • Comment number 2.

    Well John, maybe if Glasgow becomes the biggest charity case city in the UK (taking over from London ) and receives £billion's in investment for infrastructure at the expense of all other regions of the UK, then quite possibly Glasgow will be able to cope with the traffic.

    My suggestion, stick to commentating on sport - it's pretty obvious you don't even have the most basic grasp of funding/politics or economics to make ask even the most basic of questions. I can't believe I pay a licence fee to send the likes of you off to London.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Commonwealth Games will struggle to sell tickets, TV revenues are poor because the global audience is not interested, and it will be a finacial disaster for Scotland. No need to worry about transport as numbers will be poor.. I agree with the above why did BBC scotland have to spend money on covering the games as it was being well covered by radio 5 and BBC HQ

  • Comment number 4.

    obeahman - I personally don't care what the OED says. English is, well, English. Not British English. If they want to call things American English then fine but we do not need British English.

    I also wonder why BBC Scotland felt the need to send people down, much in the same way that I wonder why BBC News felt the need to relocate theirs new coverage team to the Olympic Park.

    Anyway, back to the subject in hand. The people best placed to ensure success for the Commonwealth games are the people of Glasgow and I, for one, believe that the good people of Glasgow will rise to the challenge and ensure that those who choose to attend the Commonwealth games will have a great time.

  • Comment number 5.

    Just what we need John, a sports pundit advising our transport if traffic isn't bad enough in Glasgow. You stick to pontificating about sports you know little about and I am sure Glasgow City council won't start blogging about how dismal Scottish Rugby is......

  • Comment number 6.

    John, further to obeahman's comment on the use of correct English, you will also find that we refer to the metro system in London as the 'Underground'. 'Subways' are subterranean passages for pedestrians, not trains. Americans use the term 'subway' for the underground but we're not in America and you are Scottish. Please help to keep English English and not American!

  • Comment number 7.

    John Beatties blog....... pontifications of a man who treats the English language like a Rubic cube

  • Comment number 8.

    The BBC has to be commended for saving money. It's fairly apparent that Beattie has not, in fact, been to the Olympics at all. Each one of these blogs could have been written by someone in a box in Orkney.

    Incidentally, john, having complained about the amount of money being spent on sport earlier this week you'll be disappointed that the govt is increasing the amount being spent on school sports. If only we all could go to Glasgow Academy.

  • Comment number 9.

    Another error - the plural of bus is buses not busses. If you cant get the straight forward stuff correct what about the stuff we dont know??

  • Comment number 10.

    I used to read John Beattie's blog to see what drivel he had written about Scottish rugby.. Now I read to see what drivel he has written on a subject he has no insight of or even a well balanced blog.. First he complains about investment in sport, now he is saying that Glasgow will not cope with a few extra people in the city to watch the commonwealth games.. Come on BBC give us a someone who is intelligent and can write about something they know about or at least done some research on.. John, I am sure you have enjoyed your jolly in London.. Please do us all a favour stay there...

  • Comment number 11.

    Re: Buses/Busses

    According to my Collins English dictionary (©HarperCollins Publishers, 2005) both are correct.

    Going slightly off-topic;

    10:50 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2012 John Beattie wrote

    "Oh, and I want to mention the armed forces. Again, unfailingly courteous and efficient.

    Young men and women who should really be on holiday smile, search us, protect us, and offer solutions.

    Last night one came to my aid in a small way. It was to do with liquid I shouldn't have been taking through an X ray machine.

    He calmly offered to put it aside for me to collect later on leaving the park.

    Seriously, I'd pay the army to provide security for Glasgow."

    So would I, Mr. Beattie. So would I.

  • Comment number 12.



    Where to begin? I shall give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that what appears to be a dismissive attitude towards spelling and puncuation is, in fact, subtle irony.

  • Comment number 13.


    Hoist by my own petard.

    Pure serves me right, by the way...


  • Comment number 14.

    I agree John. The Glasgow games can and will be a grand success, however like you I believe that there are some significant lessons to be learned from London and it is imperative that we learn them to ensure that games are a success.

    Having read through the comments on this blog, it amazes me that there are so many hair shirt wearing nay sayers in the world. As my old dad used to say, "If you have nothing positive to contribute, its best not to contribute at all."

  • Comment number 15.


    The railway began as 'subway' and is again called 'subway', although it was changed to 'underground' for many years, if I recall correctly. As a Glaswegian of 60+ years, it has always been 'the subway' to me, regardless of American or English definition.

  • Comment number 16.

    I miss the Olympics. Best games ever. Better than RWC, WC or any other sports event. And third in medal table with 29 golds is greater achievement than 2003 RWC or 1966 WC.

  • Comment number 17.

    The major difference between Glasgow and London is that London's transport is integrated: buses integrate with other buses and the trains, the metro and trams while Glasgow has a system akin to a third world country. If Glasgow cannot provide buses in a decent system for it's own residents who find that they have no buses to take them home in the evening, how can they provide for the many additional visitors who will be here for the Commonwealth Games?

  • Comment number 18.

    With bottle necks all over the road network in & around Glasgow on a normal work day - add in even enough spectators to half fill the various stadia and you are looking at a logjam. John mentions concerts & Old Firm games - funnily enough, these are NEVER staged at between 4 & 6pm on weekdays - wonder why? The success of the public transport for London 2012 was mainly due to the fact that public transport was the ONLY way to reach the Olympic Park - cars were not allowed. Clearly, that is not going to happen at Glasgow 2014 - so where exactly are we planning to put all these extra cars & buses?


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