As we continue to cheer on ParalympicsGB in their superhuman effort to overhaul their record medals tally in Beijing, it is time to start applauding another slightly less obvious superhuman effort by Peter Hendy and his team at Transport for London. The doom mongers predicted disaster, London’s creaking Victorian transport system would not be able to cope with the vast numbers visiting London for the Games. It all worked well during the Olympics despite these gloomy predictions. “Ah”, said the cynics “wait until the Paralympics in September, the kids will be back at school, everybody will return to work, then the system will go into meltdown”. The theory was that everybody who was not interested in the Games stayed out of town in August but they would all return in September and the system would be unable to cope.
On the Tuesday of the final week of competition this has not happened to date. My team travelled to all London venues and found the tube lines to be very busy as they often are at peak times. The Docklands Light Railway struggled a little and there were some queues but nothing like the queues of several hours that were predicted. The route to the Olympic Park via West Ham is a great option, using the less busy district line. I have used this a lot and enjoy the 20 minute walk along the Greenway with the crowds, entertainers and friendly volunteers. It is good exercise, great fun and adds to the experience of visiting the Park. Visitors can take advantage of the many walking and cycling routes available and can take the opportunity to enjoy the glorious September sunshine.
Barring any last minute hitches London’s transport network and the team of people who make it work every day appears to have met the challenge of welcoming the world to our city. I hope it will encourage more people to visit and for businesses to invest their money here.
London’s transport network has always found access for disabled people a challenge. The age of some of the infrastructure does not make this easy. There are 66 step free stations in the 270 station underground network but there are still difficulties actually boarding trains at some stations. During the Games TfL made 16 key stations more accessible with use of ramps to board the trains. These were originally seen as temporary measures but now look set to remain in legacy. The facility could be expanded further. Transport campaigners claim that there are 30 additional stations that could be made more accessible with ramps.
This is true Olympic and Paralympic legacy. Long may it continue.