Bloomberg News

Olympic Pinch May See 30,000 Commuters Avoid Canary Wharf

June 12, 2012

Olympic Pinch May See 30,000 Commuters Avoid Canary Wharf Banks

A pedestrian passes the HSBC Holdings Plc headquarters, center, in Canary Wharf, London, U.K. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Financial-services firms in Canary Wharf say they expect a third of their staff to stay home or travel outside peak hours when spectators begin piling on to east London’s transport network to get to the Olympic Games.

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Europe’s largest bank, estimates more than 30 percent of about 8,500 staff at its Canary Wharf head office may work remotely during the games, which run from July 27 to August 12. Citigroup Inc. also expects about 30 percent of employees to work from home, take holidays or work alternative hours. Both banks occupy skyscrapers at Canary Wharf, where about 100,000 people work in London’s second financial district.

For much of the U.K. capital, the most direct way to both Canary Wharf and the Games is the London Underground’s Jubilee line. The Transport for London transit agency has identified “pinch point” days where events at the Olympic Park in nearby Stratford will boost congestion, said John Garwood, group company secretary of Canary Wharf Group Plc, which developed and manages most of the district’s buildings.

“Canary Wharf is open normally for business, and we’re kitted up to deal with how many people are here,” Garwood said.

The Canary Wharf subway stop is surrounded by headquarters of U.S. and European securities firms, including at least 8,000 Citigroup staff as well as workers at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG. (CSGN) For more than five days, the station is expected to be “particularly busy,” Transport for London spokeswoman Susan Golaszewski said.

Free Transport

Each of the 8.8 million Olympic tickets grants the holder free public transport on the day of the event. The congestion would be worse if London’s banks were still booming. Employment at securities firms is shrinking as the U.K. slumped into its first double-dip recession since the 1970s in the first quarter.

About 320,000 visitors will converge on the city during the Olympics, surpassing the 250,000 visitors to Barcelona for the 1992 games and Athens’ 150,000 tourists in 2004, according to a study by researcher Oxford Economics Ltd. The number of trips taken on subways, buses and trains will rise by 25 percent to 15 million a day during the Olympics, Transport for London says.

Officials for Morgan Stanley (MS:US) and Credit Suisse in London declined to comment. Barclays (BARC), the U.K.’s second-largest bank by assets, is headquartered in a 32-story Canary Wharf tower that also houses the London 2012 Games’ organizers. The lender has made continuity plans for the Olympic period, according to a spokesman for the bank, who declined to elaborate further.

Summer Holidays

Transport for London urged commuters to Canary Wharf, which is less than 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the Olympic stadium, to choose earlier or later travel times.

“Staff who must come to Canary Wharf are advised to retime their journeys, rearrange any non-critical meetings and consider alternative ways of getting to the office,” said Nick Emery of Citigroup (C:US)’s business contingency team in London. “The idea behind the 30 percent reduction is to free up capacity on the transport networks. If all businesses on the Wharf do similar, then we can reduce the numbers travelling by over 30,000.”

As many as 20,000 workers usually leave the financial district for their summer holidays, according to Canary Wharf Group’s Garwood. That figure is likely to increase during the Games, he said.

“The vast majority of our staff have had the technology to work remotely for a number of years,” HSBC spokesman Mark Hemingway said by e-mail. “We would expect a large percentage of our Canary Wharf staff to either use this remote working facility, or simply change their working hours during the Olympic period.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ambereen Choudhury in London at achoudhury@bloomberg.net; Chris Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net


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