News / Europe

    Smooth Transport Will Be Key to London Olympics

    Al Pessin
    LONDON — One of the biggest challenges at any Olympic Games is getting to and from the host city, and getting around once athletes, coaches, officials and fans get there.  At the same time, the city needs to continue to function as normal.

    Central London is busy even on normal days. Major events like the Olympics can bring near grid lock.

    "It's going to obviously cause traffic," said Steve McCann, who has been driving a London taxi for seven years. "It's going to make you have to drive different routes that you wouldn't necessarily drive. It'll be a bit of a challenge. But it could be a nightmare. Nobody knows how bad it's going to be or how good it's going to be."

    To make sure Olympics traffic gets through, the city will close some lanes and roads to regular traffic, making it even more difficult for taxis and other ordinary vehicles.

    To help, there is an interactive website showing the worst areas day-by-day and hour-by-hour. There will be competitions, concerts and other Olympics events all over the city.

    "Cities are not made to function ordinarily, plus having all of the Olympic and Paralympic traffic on top of that," said Jonathan Edwards, a member of the London Olympics organizing committee."So I think transport and the coordination of it to keep London working and to make the Games work is always going to be a challenge."

    And it is not just the roads. Two-hour immigration lines at London's Heathrow Airport made travelers angry a few months ago. That is bad for tourism and business. Officials say they have addressed the problem, and there is a special terminal just for people participating in the Games.

    Train stations will also be busy, particularly St. Pancras International, where trains run to and from the European continent.

    The often-crowded Underground train system, The Tube, is planning for a 25 percent increase in passengers during the Olympics. The nearly 150-year-old system is prone to breakdowns, so extra repair crews will be on standby, and extra station staff will be on hand to give directions.

    And London just opened a new transport line - a cable car that goes between two Olympics venues and will remain as a tourist attraction.

    In addition to the millions of journeys by Olympics visitors, all the transport lines will have to handle their regular traffic of commuters and visitors. That's why the Games will be held in late July and early August, a time that many Londoners are away on vacation.

    Still, transport will be crowded and confusing. So it will probably be a good idea to stay close to someone if you can.

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