“London is being turned into a massive sporting arena and transport will be fundamentally different”

Mark Evers

Right now, Mark Evers is a very busy – and no doubt highly stressed – man. He is responsible for ensuring that London keeps moving during the Olympic Games, that buses and tube trains run on time, that traffic doesn’t jam, and – most im­portantly – that athletes and sports fans can travel, in hassle-free safety, to the stadiums and venues dotted around the capital.

If Evers is feeling the strain it doesn’t show. When Global caught up with him, with less than four weeks to go until the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad, he seemed remarkably calm and relaxed. He is proud that the investment in new infrastructure made by Transport for London (the body responsible for Greater Lon­don’s transport network) will provide a lasting legacy for the East End. And he is confident that the city’s transport system will be able to cope with whatever the Olympics – and the 3 million ad­ditional passengers expected to travel each day of the Games – throws its way.

Global: Could you tell me about the preparations Transport for London (TfL) has made for the Olympic Games? What infrastructure projects have been undertaken and at what cost? What long-term benefits will Londoners see as a result?

Mark Evers: Transport for London, alongside the ODA [Olympic Delivery Authority], has spent £6.5 billion since London won the bid on improving transport infrastructure for the Games. A lot of that investment has been focused in the east of London, around the Olympic Park. There is the Jubilee Line, which we have upgraded – it is now running 30 trains per hour, an increase of a third on its capacity. We have extended the Docklands Light Railway to Strat­ford International, so that provides a really important link between the [Olympic] Park and Excel, another Games venue. We have worked with Network Rail to make a really important improve­ment to King’s Cross Station. We have also done a lot to improve the accessibility of the transport network.

We are very pleased with the investment we have made. The area around Stratford has been very much neglected since the Second World War, and the opportunity of having the Games in that part of London has meant that we have been able to accelerate the spend­ing in that area and, as a result, we will have a proper legacy for transport infrastructure.

Millions of additional journeys will be taken during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. How many extra passengers do you expect will use public transport and how will the system cope with the increased volume?

On the busiest day of the Games, we are expecting an additional 3 million trips on the public transport network. To give you a sense of scale, on a normal day we would transport 12 million people. Not all parts of the network are going to be affected in the same way – the hotspots are going to be very much in certain locations at certain times and on certain days. So we expect that the system will cope well. However, we are encouraging regular travellers to plan ahead, to go to www.getaheadofthegames.com so that they can un­derstand where we think the hotspots are going to be [and] when, so they can stagger their journey or perhaps cycle or walk instead.

You mentioned that you would be encouraging people to cycle. Have you provided any additional facilities for this?

We have extended the Barclays Bike Hire scheme to the east. We have also continued to work to ensure that the existing bike hire areas are serviced effectively so that we get the bikes around the network to where people need them. During the Games, we will have several thousand additional temporary cycle parking spaces in central London. We will be working with the ODA to undertake led cycle rides, so people who aren’t familiar with cycling around the city are able to do so. We are also promoting people to cycle to the venues – the Olympic Park has 7,000 secure cycle parking spaces and there will be a bike doctor to service bikes. So we are doing an awful lot to encourage people to cycle.

How has the ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ campaign been received? Are Londoners receptive to changing how and when they travel to work?

Londoners are very receptive. But we also appreciate the fact that, typically, people only plan their journey immediately before they head out, so we have been doing a lot of work to try to get people to understand that London is being turned into a massive sporting and cultural arena and that transport will be fundamentally different, both on the roads and on the tube. Work needs to be done to con­tinue to get the message out that people need to re-plan their travel.

Disabled passengers perennially complain about the inaccessibility of London’s public transport system. You mentioned earlier that TfL has been making the tube network more accessible ahead of the Games. Could you tell me more specifically what has been done?

Compared to other world cities, London’s public transport system is very accessible already. All of our buses are wheelchair acces­sible, all of our taxis are wheelchair accessible, Docklands Light Railway is fully accessible, and by the Games, 65 of our tube sta­tions, about a quarter, will have step-free access.

We have focused our investment on getting new lifts in place at those stations where it will benefit most [and] making sure that all of the lifts that we have are reliable throughout the Games period.

What level of disruption do you expect on the road network around London? Will there be specific travel restrictions in place and how will these affect businesses in London?

Well, again, it’s a case of disruption being restricted to certain lo­cations at certain times. Our detailed modelling has shown that 70 percent of traffic in London won’t be impacted by the Games at all. However, in areas in central London around the Olympic and Paralympic Route Networks, near to venues and near to the course of the road events, it will be really busy. Our advice to motorists is to avoid those parts unless they absolutely have to. And if they do, they need to plan ahead.

We have done a lot of work with businesses in London over the past two years, focusing a lot of our attention on the freight indus­try, so that they can understand how they can service London’s businesses. There is no point in hosting the Games if you can’t take advantage of the commercial opportunities that come along with that. We are confident that London is going to remain open for business.

The original forecasts for disruption were quite dramatic and they have been steadily revised downwards. Was there a deliberate policy to raise fears of disruption and then ease them nearer the time of the Games? If not, why were your original predictions so inaccurate?

What we have been able to do, as we have got closer to the Games, is to refine our understanding of where we think the travel hotspots are going to be. We have worked with LOCOG [London Organis­ing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] and the ODA to understand who has been receiving tickets, where those people are located, how they are likely to travel to events. So, as tickets have been sold, we have got a much better picture of where people will be travelling and which stations are going to be very busy. So that’s why now we have, on the public transport network, grids for every single day of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that show for each half-hour block how busy we expect certain stations to be.

A high-profile event like the Olympics is inevitably an attractive target for terrorists. How real is the threat and what measures have been put in place to increase security during the Games?

Our experience shows that the best way to operate a safe and secure network is to have as many visible staff out as possible. During the Games, we will have additional staff on our platforms, at the gate line and ticket halls. We will also have about 3,500 Travel Ambas­sadors – our office staff who are volunteering to go out on to the network to provide travel information. Being out and very clearly visible provides a deterrent to some and a reassurance to others.

Earlier this year, TFL announced that it planned to spend about £1.5 million on iPads and iPhones for use by staff and volunteers during the Games. Is this a good investment? Why are they needed and how will they be used?

Yes, they are a very good investment. Alongside this, we are also Wi-Fi enabling many of the deep-level tube stations on our net­work. This is happening in parallel for our customers, but also for our operational use as well. And to be blunt, it is simply not accept­able that our customers have access to more up-to-date information through their iPhones than our staff. These devices will be used after the Games as well, so that we can continue to provide the best quality information we can to the users of our transport network.

What are the environmental costs associated with the increased use of public transport and the road networks during the Games period? What measures is TfL taking to reduce them?

Public transport is a more environmentally friendly way of travel­ling. Having said that, it is part of the Games [strategy] to promote active travel – walking and cycling – which, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty close to carbon neutral. However, we do appreciate that with a high number of Games vehicles using specific routes, there could be an air quality issue in some areas.

That’s why we have undertaken very detailed modelling with the help of King’s College to understand where there may be chal­lenges.

Because of the work we are doing to encourage people not to use their vehicles, we anticipate that actually the net impact will be slightly beneficial. However, there are a couple of areas, along the Embankment and near to the Olympic Route Network, where you might see minor increases. In those areas, we are retrofitting buses with filters [and] we are also going to be using dust suppression. We have done everything to try to make sure that there is no nega­tive environmental impact associated with hosting the Games from a transport perspective.

Interview by Elissa Jobson

About the author:

Mark Evers is Director of Games Transport at Transport for London


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