Olympishambles – or not?

I am already getting calls from foreign media to comment on the transport situation for the Olympics. They have already written their headlines centred around the word ‘chaos’, a term that seems to work in most languages. The story of the bus that supposedly go lost for four hours is typical of the output they are seeking. In fact, the driver took a couple of wrong turnings – the view of the main sites of London mentioned by one of the passengers was, actually,  on the planned route.

Of course there will be the odd hiccup. There will be some queues outside Tube stations and probably at least one quite incident with serious delays. However, and I am sticking my neck out here but I think the transport infrastructure (‘ancient’ as one foreign reporter suggested to me, not a word I would associate with the DLR, javeline trains or Overground) will bear up. The biggest worry, as I have repeatedly said and highlighted in a tweet to me from Robert Booth of the Guardian is security. If it will take an hour to get through, the back up of people waiting may well cause problems with trains disgorging new arrivals.

Moreover, the security is bound to be so dumb, with no proper risk assessment. I can just imagine the guards searching meticulously those Home Counties families who have brought their kids to the biggest event in their lives. A sensible system would subtly risk assess . Yes, there is a risk that it might degenerate into covert discrimination but that is where sound management should come in. The queues themselves, of course, become a risk that is not taken into account by the security robots.

  • Krafty80

    ‘I can just imagine the guards searching meticulously those Home Counties families who have brought their kids to the biggest event in their lives.’ Er, right.  So presumably nobody fitting the ‘home counties’ profile (the implication being that they are white and have plummy accents) should  suffer the indignity of security checks which are routine (slow but routine) at any airport. Whereas someone from up North without the posh accent or even (whisper it) white skin…

    Remarkably elitest comments there Christian. As a Northerner living in London, I’m pretty disgusted.

  • Christian Wolmar

    They were merely an example. Same would apply to Yorkshire ppl or Scots. The point I was making is that ppl with kids are v unlikely terrorist suspects. Not impossible, but v v unlikely.

  • Krafty80

    I am
    sure it was intended as an example Christian but it does not read that way, and
    I struggle to see how anyone outside the prosperous southeast could read it
    that way. At least when referring to the Olympics, a degree of
    London-centricity is to be expected — it is a London Games not a British one
    after all.

    equally, I note from the Tag Cloud below that far fewer than half the taxonomy
    terms relate to non-London matters, and those that do are led by HS2 — a
    project you oppose in singularly high profile fashion. There is no mention of
    the Northern Hub or HLOS in the tag cloud, perhaps unsurprisingly since the
    latter was chocked full of non-London projects. I wonder if I ran an archive
    search on this site of the London PPP versus the WCML Modernisation, what the
    results would be? 10:1? 100:1 in favour of PPP coverage? This despite the
    undisputed truth that the WCRM debacle cost the taxpayer three times more than
    the Tube PPP. No doubt I will be barracked as a ‘professional Northerner’ for
    making such quantitative comparisons.

    as someone who especially enjoyed your history of the London Underground, may I
    politely request you adapt the tagline at the head of this website to read
    ‘London’s’ instead of ‘Britain’s’, lest anyone (else) get the impression you
    view the ‘provinces’ with the kind of high-handed disdain so frequently
    exhibited by your fellow Londoners in the Square Mile…

  • Sean Baggaley

    To be fair, it _is_ an old network. Even the London Overground, which you appear to believe is “modern”, runs on some of the oldest infrastructure in London—including the Thames Tunnel, which predates even the first stretch of the Metropolitan Line by some decades. You, of all people, should know that. Even the ELLE Phase 2 section to Clapham Junction includes barely a mile and bit of “new” (technically, it’s just a reinstatement of an old connection) track. The rest of the LO network was already there. TfL have given it a new lick of paint and bought some new trains. The latter are, frankly, nothing special; even Rome’s metro has had “walkthrough” trains like those since the early ’00s! What took you so long? 

    Barring the East London Line Extension, which mostly involved the re-opening of disused infrastructure, the LO’s physical rail network has barely changed.@ee2d7de6bf4c195905b8e4ee4c798add:disqus : I do enjoy reading Christian Wolmar’s writing, even when I disagree with them, but his tagline is entirely his own invention and appears to be a running joke in the rail industry itself. It really ought to be “Britain’s most self-promoting transport commentator”. News reporting deadlines are often very tight—as little as a couple of hours—so whenever a news story breaks your interviewee’s *availability* is far more important than his CV and qualifications.

    The best rail expert for a journalist is the one who says, “Sure! No problem!” in answer to the question: “Can you get to the studio for an interview in 45 minutes?” – at five in the morning. That takes some dedication, so I don’t deny Christian’s desire to make the most of it. He writes a lot of very good books too, and self-promotion is pretty much the only way to shift those in any great number.

    Bits of the London 2012 Olympics are being held in Cardiff and in the Solent, so it’s not *just* Greater London, but Christian is right to assume most of the spectators will be from the Home Counties: 25% of the entire population of the *British Isles* lives in the south-east corner of England, so chances are most of the Olympics’ spectators will be from somewhere in the south-east. 

    And don’t forget that Brixton, Peckham and Lewisham are all part of Greater London. As are Stratford, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. None of those areas are lacking in Hindi, Jamaican, Zimbabwean, Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Muslims, and many other minorities.

  • Fledermaus

    Christian is perfectly correct.
    The security is completely insane.  The “guards” are morons, and the whole olympic fiasco is rotten, corrupt and fascist.  (And yes, I can back all of those descriptors with facts)
    It is loathed hated and feared by the great majority of Londoners, never mind the rest of the country.
    Suveys have already shown that less than 1/3rd of the population actually care about this imposition on our freedom of movement AT ALL.

    London 2012
    In your face
    On your lap
    At our expense

  • RapidAssistant

    To be honest I am getting fed up of the constant and never ending dissing of the Olympics, the cost, the transport, the security blah blah blah….etc and all that.  On that score I will be glad that when it’s over, but no doubt the media will gorge itself on a doom and gloom post mortem on the whole 7+ year debacle once the flame has been blown out.

    For now can we not just celebrate that this is going to be the only time most of us will see this spectacle taking place in the British Isles in our lifetimes??