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Jul 19, 2011

Olympics-London commuters fear strain on the trains

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – Faulty signals and crowded
carriages are just part of the daily grind for London commuter
Nick Maggs, even on a good day; this time next year, things
could only get worse, he fears.
    Maggs, who travels by train and underground services to his
job in the City financial district, despairs for sports
fans hoping to get to events at the 2012 Olympics on London’s
busy transport network.
    “The system is going to be overloaded,” he told Reuters. “To
chuck that number of people on means it can only go wrong. On a
normal day you have signalling failure and congestion.”
    The capital’s transport system is already near capacity with
24 million journeys a day, and Maggs is not alone in wondering
how it will cope with a possible extra three million journeys on
peak days during the Games in July and August next year. 
    Transport has been a constant worry for the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) and in April a London Assembly report
said “getting transport arrangements right remains one of the
biggest risks to the smooth running of the 2012 Games”.
    Olympic organisers hope that Londoners taking summer
holidays, working from home or changing their working hours,
will combine with a drop in the number of regular tourists to
produce a 30 percent fall in transport use during peak times,
leaving room for Games traffic.
    Some Londoners, questioned on the city’s streets by
Reuters, were sceptical about such figures.      
    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful (if there was a 30 percent
reduction), but I can’t see it happening,” said James, a
41-year-old pub landlord who preferred not to give his surname.
    “I can’t see how 30 percent of people will change their
patterns of travel. I’m not going to change mine.”
    Chris Doulou, 38, a self-employed plumbing and heating
engineer, said: “I will not be able to change my hours, I will
have to struggle to get to work.”
   
    MAJOR EVENTS
    Others, though, are already thinking about ways to avoid the
congestion.
    “I will probably work from home, which is not a bad thing,”
said a 39-year-old office worker who did not want to be named.
“I think the transport will be okay.”
    Vicki Plimmer, 30, a clerk, said: “I live in south-west
London so I should be alright. I have got lots of ways to come
in to work.”
    London is experienced at staging major events, such as
April’s royal wedding, but the Olympics stretch for more than
two weeks and sports fans will be jostling for seats on trains
and buses with art lovers attending the Cultural Olympiad, as
well as business people and tourists.
    Seb Coe, chairman of London’s Olympic organising committee
(LOCOG), warned in December that failure to handle the extra
load could result in London spending the next 50 years trying to
live it down, being bracketed with the much-maligned Atlanta
1996 Games.
    The London Assembly report said people could face delays of
more than an hour if travel patterns remained unchanged on some
key lines serving the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.
    Strikes on the London Underground in recent years have
raised fears of another stoppage during the Games. The National
Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) told Reuters
it did not plan any industrial action during the July 27-Aug. 12
Games but talks over a pay deal are ongoing.
    Billions of pounds have recently been invested in public
transport, including upgrades to the Docklands Light Railway
which serves the Olympic Park and a refit of Stratford station,
boosting capacity and reliability and providing a rapid link to
St Pancras International in central London.
    “We’re very confident that the transport will be off the
front pages of newspapers during the Games,” Mark Evers,
director of Games transport for Transport for London (TfL), told
Reuters.
    “We have put in the plans and the infrastructure to make
sure that we can make it work.”
    Organisers are also pushing for spectators to travel by
bicycle or foot and to take river boat services, to help fulfil
their pledge of delivering a “public transport Games”.
    However, only about five percent are expected to use pedal
power or walk, while river boats are limited in number.
   
    CONGESTED ROADS
    “I think TfL and the Olympic committee are putting in
efforts, I am just holding my breath and waiting to see whether
it is enough effort and pinpointed in the right areas,” Karen
Anderton of the University of Oxford’s transport studies unit
said.
    Games planners are also keen to get motorists off the road.
About 11 million journeys a day are made in London, making the
city’s streets the most congested in Europe.
    Park-and-ride schemes will be put in place for spectators,
encouraging them to leave their vehicles on the outskirts of
London, and the Olympic park will have no public car parking.
Businesses will be encouraged to change their delivery times to
keep lorries off the streets by day.
    More than 80,000 athletes, officials, dignitaries, sponsors
and the media will be driven to venues along 90 kms of
dedicated Games Lanes, and any motorist straying into them faces
a fine of 200 pounds ($322).
    London has a tough act to follow – Beijing built multi-lane
highways to get people to and from venues in 2008. The roads
around London are narrow by comparison and prone to long delays
if cars break down or accidents happen.
    Authorities will be stress-testing the transport system this
summer, something that was absent in Atlanta where travel to the
venues became a major headache.
    “You can’t guarantee everything is going to be perfect but
there’s a danger of taking an unduly negative line as
well,” Peter White, professor of public transport systems at the
University of Westminster, said.
    Police will be carrying out security exercises between now
and the Games.
    Since 52 people died when four young British Islamists
carried out suicide bombings on tube trains and a bus in 2005,
the threat of further attacks has been a major concern.
    Olympics minister Hugh Robertson told reporters last month:
“We’re absolutely aware of what the threat is and I am as
confident as I possibly can be that we can meet that threat.”
($1 = 0.620 British Pounds)

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

Jul 5, 2011

Security tests begin on London 2012 venues

LONDON (Reuters) – British police have begun testing Olympic venues against all potential terrorist threat, including from Irish dissidents and Islamists, the policeman in charge of 2012 security told Reuters.

Next summer’s London Games are predicted to be Britain’s biggest peacetime security operation, and will be policed at severe threat level, the second-highest status.

Jun 20, 2011

Church of England set to standardise wedding fees

LONDON (Reuters) – The Church of England wants greater standardisation in wedding and funeral fees, which could see some couples paying up to 50 percent more to walk down the aisle.

The church is due to debate a proposal for a national fee of 425 pounds, up from the current level of 284 pounds, at its national assembly next month.

Jun 9, 2011
via FaithWorld

Archbishop of Canterbury attacks UK government policies as radical

Photo

(Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Canterbury Cathedral, April 4, 2010/Toby Melville)

Britain’s coalition government has embarked on “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” causing anxiety and fear, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an article on Thursday. The comments are his most outspoken against the year-old Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Jun 9, 2011

Archbishop attacks coalition government policies

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s coalition government has embarked on “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” causing anxiety and fear, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in an article on Thursday.

The comments in an article in the New Statesman magazine are his most outspoken against the year-old Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. “With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted,” the spiritual leader of the 80-million strong Anglican communion wrote.

Jun 9, 2011

Not all plain sailing at 2012 Olympic venue

WEYMOUTH, England (Reuters) – The English coastal resort of Weymouth, once popular with the British monarchy and Royal Navy, is struggling to embrace its new status as an Olympic town.

Selected with its neighbour Portland as the venue for the 2012 sailing regatta, it has received 250 million pounds ($411 million) of investment and been given the chance to showcase its dramatic Jurassic coastline.

Jun 9, 2011

Not all plain sailing at 2012 venue

WEYMOUTH, England (Reuters) – The English coastal resort of Weymouth, once popular with the British monarchy and Royal Navy, is struggling to embrace its new status as an Olympic town.

Selected with its neighbour Portland as the venue for the 2012 sailing regatta, it has received 250 million pounds of investment and been given the chance to showcase its dramatic Jurassic coastline.

Jun 9, 2011

Olympics-Not all plain sailing at 2012 venue

WEYMOUTH, England, June 9 (Reuters) – The English coastal
resort of Weymouth, once popular with the British monarchy and
Royal Navy, is struggling to embrace its new status as an
Olympic town.

Selected with its neighbour Portland as the venue for the
2012 sailing regatta, it has received 250 million pounds ($411
million) of investment and been given the chance to showcase its
dramatic Jurassic coastline.

Jun 7, 2011

Minister says fans not put off by ticket process

LONDON (Reuters) – Olympics minister Hugh Robertson predicted on Tuesday that sports fans would not be deterred from re-applying for London 2012 tickets despite media reports saying less than half had received any in the first round.

Robertson predicted stadiums would be “bursting” with spectators, while he warned sponsors to make sure their 700,000 allocated seats were taken.

Jun 7, 2011

Olympics-Minister says fans not put off by ticket process

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) – Olympics minister Hugh Robertson
predicted on Tuesday that sports fans would not be deterred from
re-applying for London 2012 tickets despite media reports saying
less than half had received any in the first round.

Robertson predicted stadiums would be “bursting” with
spectators, while he warned sponsors to make sure their 700,000
allocated seats were taken.

    • About Avril

      ""Avril is a Reuters politics and general news reporter in London, specialising in the 2012 Olympics, religion and the regions. Before that, Avril wrote for www.reuters.co.uk. She has worked at the Daily Telegraph, CNN and Financial Times Business.""
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