Sunday, July 03, 2005

The London Olympic bid

And so Tony Blair is trying to get support for the London Olympic bid. The way in which nearly everyone in London at least seems to have jumped on the bandwagon is shocking, and has resulted in a number of home truths being overlooked.

Living in Newham, at the heart of the bid (Stratford station has "Back the Bid" signs everywhere and even an electronic countdown to the decision on the forecourt) one gets a rather different perspective on this. Perhaps the most obvious and truly daming is the pathetic state of public transport.

It's true that Stratford station has been transformed in the last decade or so, with the mainline and low level stations merged into a single complex (even if the street maps haven't noticed this) and with extensions to both the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line greatly enhancing the area's connections. There's also a good bus station integrated into the station forecourt. But despite this there are still major transport problems. The local commuter services are overflowing at peak hours and there simply isn't the capacity to add on more trains into Liverpool Street. The North London Line and its little brother the Gospel Oak-Barking Line are both extremely restricted in their capacity (some of the platforms can't handle more than three carriage trains). Despite talk for decades Hackney still has no tubes. And of course Crossrail still hasn't been built.

Okay the East London Line extensions have finally begun, but almost immediately they were delayed by a series of objections and will inevitably open late. The Jubilee Line Extension opened nearly three years later than scheduled - and even that was a hasty rush job and the consequences bedevil the line to this day. The Underground simply does not have a good track record in building extensions on time and within budget. One has to seriously question the claims that all the proposed transport links would be ready for a 2012 Games.

Perhaps the best comparison is with the Millenium Dome. It is often forgotten that the Dome was only sited in North Greenwich because the Jubilee Line Extension would be opening a new station there some two years before. But the extension dragged on and on and in the end London Underground were forced to start a shuttle service to North Greenwich from Stratford in the summer of 1999 to make up for the fact that key parts of the route still weren't ready. Had the committee that selected the site known from the outset that a through service would not begin until one week before the end of 1999 they would never have located it there.

If the Olympic Commission decides that London doesn't have what it takes to host the Games then don't be too surprised. As someone who regularly travels what is earmarked to be the Crossrail route I've long given up any dream of seeing the fantastic service the brouchures and websites promise. Soon this will be brought home to the rest of London one way or the other.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...