Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Traffic gridlock grips London 48 hours to Games

As Olympic planners prepared for Friday's opening ceremony, 'Games Lanes' came into force across London, causing inevitable traffic chaos on already busy road networks, as well as delays on the London Underground as those trying to escape queues opted for public transport.

There were also reports of traffic queues going back 32 miles on the M4, as the opening of the Games Lane coincided with an accident near Reading.
Aside from the occasional errant motorist, the majority of road users decided not to risk a fine in the Games Lanes, sitting instead in gridlocked traffic
There were also hold-ups for motorists on the A12 at the Lea Interchange in east London and at the A13 Canning Town Flyover.
The A40 around Ealing and at Westway in west London was also congested, while Grosvenor Place in Victoria in central London and the Hyde Park Corner Junction were also busy.
Other areas of London where there were rush-hour jams included Tower Bridge and Baker Street.
On the Tube, there were severe rush-hour delays today on three Underground lines, two days before the start of the Olympics.
One of the affected lines was the Metropolitan which will carry thousands of people to Wembley Stadium for Olympic football matches.
The Cabinet minister responsible, Jeremy Hunt, admitted: ‘The next 48 hours are absolutely critical.’
But despite pleas by the Prime Minister for ministers not to use the lanes he also did not rule out taking advantage of them himself – though only when on official business and for ‘operational and security’ reasons, he insisted: ‘It might happen from time to time.’
Culture, Media, Sport and Olympics Secretary Mr Hunt denied this was a ‘cop-out’ and stressed that if going to the Games purely for the ‘enjoyment’ of watching the sport he would use public transport like everyone else.
Speaking on BBC News 24, Transport Secretary Justine Greening said it was not surprising there had been some disruption to traffic on the day the lanes became operational.
'There will be a lot of disruption and London is a congested city anyway.'
The AA said the Games Lanes will make traffic in London 'pretty hectic', adding that the best way for motorists to keep ahead of delays is to watch temporary signs which show when the lanes are live and inactive.
Motorists will be told which roads have active Games Lanes through 150 temporary signs placed around the capital.
Londoners and road users took to Twitter this morning to describe the condition of the roads as the Games Lanes opened.
One user, James Shrager, said: 'The #gameslane on the m4 is an embarrassing joke. There isn't one on the elevated section and it's a car park. Poor athletes.'
The lanes have been nicknamed ‘Zil lanes’ after the limousines used to ferry communist leaders in specially reserved lanes from the Kremlin during the Soviet era in Russia.
One of the most notorious symbols of Whitehall’s  war on the motorist - the controversial M4 Bus lane – sprang back to life a week ago as the first ‘Games Lane’ ferrying VIPs from Heathrow Airport to the Olympic village and the capital’s top hotels.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Ministers will be using public transport to get to the Games wherever possible, unless particular operational or security reasons mean that cars are required.
A spokesman added ‘If ministers are accompanying foreign dignitaries – for example to help firm up trade – then they will be allowed to use the lanes.
‘But if they are going as a fan to support Team GB at the volleyball or a running late for a meeting, then they should not.’
David Cameron has said: ‘I will be using public transport and that is how I recommend [everyone] should travel,’ he said. ‘I now use the Tube, I drive my protection team mad in London by saying why on earth are we in the car, the Tube is quicker.’
However, Number 10 said there would be times when operational reasons meant he too would use the lanes.
The full 109-mile Olympic Road Network, including the controversial reserved 30 miles of ‘Games Lanes’  went live from 6am on Wednesday ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, with drivers straying into them or stopping along the route  facing £130 fixed penalty fines.
Any illegally parked vehicles will be removed to a vehicle pound and may incur a release fee of £200
The phasing of more than 1,300 sets of traffic lights has been changed to give priority to Olympic vehicles.

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