Bloomberg News

London Olympics Bus Drivers Learning to Locate Stadium

July 17, 2012

London’s Olympic organizer said bus companies responsible for transporting competitors from Heathrow airport (FER) to the stadium are “becoming familiar” with routes after reports of lengthy delays yesterday as drivers became lost.

Only “two issues” occurred during more than 100 return trips to the stadium and Olympic Village yesterday, Sam Dennis, a spokesman for organizer Locog, said today in an e-mail. In one of those incidents, U.S. sprinter Kerron Clement said on Twitter, athletes were “lost on the road for four hours.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson said today during a visit to the Olympic Transportation Coordination Centre that delays to that journey and another involving Australian competitors had been closer to 2 1/2 hours, and that athletes were “bowled over” by the facilities when eventually arriving at their accommodation.

“There will be imperfections and things will go wrong,” Johnson said at the center, set up to cope with travel demands during the Games, adding that the operation is “ginormous.”

Britain’s Olympic preparations are subject to increased scrutiny after G4S Plc (GFS) said last week it couldn’t meet the terms of a 284-million pound ($442 million) contract to recruit 13,700 guards for the Games, forcing the government to assign 3,500 extra soldiers to provide emergency security.

‘Shambles’

G4S Chief Executive Officer Nick Buckles apologized for the company’s performance when appearing before U.K. lawmakers today and said he agreed that it was a “humiliating shambles.” The stock fell 5.8 percent after dropping 8.7 percent yesterday.

Stagecoach Group Plc (SGC), the operator of Britain’s busiest rail service, says on its website that it is contracted to be lead operator of bus travel for athletes and media at the Games.

“With the athletes needing to be on top form when they arrive to compete, it is crucial that their journey is comfortable, convenient and hassle-free,” the website sys.

Lindsay Reid, a spokeswoman for the Perth, Scotland-based company, said that under the management contract services are provided by about 40 individual operators. She referred all other queries to Locog, which didn’t say whether satellite navigation devices are being checked or paper maps issued.

Arriva, the U.K. bus and train business purchased by German state rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG in 2010 for 1.6 billion pounds, also has contracts to provide “vehicles and people” to Locog, spokeswoman Joanne Kerrigan said, without elaborating.

On the second day of athlete arrivals at Heathrow, competitors from more than 80 teams are being processed, according to BAA Ltd., which owns Europe’s top air hub. There are no issues in baggage handling or immigration, where queues are limited to about 25 minutes, spokesman Simon Baugh said.

Sail Away

“There are going to be one or two issues with something this size, but the important thing is to respond promptly,” he said. A sail from the Australian yachting team wrongly diverted to a cargo warehouse by a Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN) ground handler was located within 30 minutes yesterday and reunited with its owner.

The U.K. government’s Highways Agency said traffic was flowing smoothly on the M4 motorway near Heathrow, where one of the three lanes is reserved for Olympic VIPs during peak hours.

No Fines

“Traffic is normal, if not better than it would be on a Tuesday,” spokesman Stuart Thompson said by telephone. “I can’t say if in the future it will be same. It’s really important that people take notice of the overhead signs.”

Mayor Johnson said today that no fines were issued yesterday for unauthorized use of the so-called Games Lane, adding that “it is working well and people are respecting it.”

London has spent about 6.5 billion pounds improving its subway, rail, tram and cycling infrastructure in preparation for the Games, according to his office.

Still, local authority-controlled Transport for London predicts congestion will worsen as the Olympic torch reaches the capital next weekend before easing off when people realize they need to change their travel habits. Something similar happened last month, when road journeys fell by about 50 percent during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it estimates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleanor Lawrie in London at elawrie@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net


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