I was listening to Tessa Jowell being interviewed on Radio Five this morning about how much investment there would be in London’s public transport infrastructure were the city to be awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. I’m afraid her argument fell a long way short of convincing me.
It went something like this: the Olympics are held in August when the numbers using public transport drops by 20%, that the people attending the games will only add an extra 5%, therefore there will be a nett reduction of 15% on the numbers normally using public transport. Add to the this the extra investment and the city will easily be able to shift hundreds of thousands of bodies about the place every hour.
Where this falls down is that the reference point is a normal August. Were London to be awarded the games, then August 2012 would be far from normal. Yes, around people who would otherwise be commuters will be on holiday, but a large proportion of them won’t be off to Cornwall, or Wales or Faliraki, they will be going to watch the games. After all, if the government has blown a huge chunk of GDP to host a worldwide event on your doorstep, well you’d probably want to witness some of it.
And they will be using public transport, so far from having a 15% nett reduction in travellers, I reckon there will be at least a 5% increase on the system at its busiest which those that have experienced it can testify is hell on earth.