Many of London’s dedicated Olympic road lanes, designed to whisk competitors and VIP guests to the Games without being stuck in traffic, have been turned off because many are using public transport instead.
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, told ITV News on Monday that "a lot" of road lanes dedicated to officials and athletes have been empty, prompting traffic planners to switch off electronic signals prohibiting private cars.
His announcement came as Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, took an underground train on his journey to watch the men’s diving event at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Park, east London.
“We've been able to turn off a lot of the Games lanes because so many people are going by public transport," Johnson said.
“It turns out a lot of the Olympic bureaucrat types who could go in the Games lanes are using public transport.
“[IOC President] Jacques Rogge, himself, today took the [Docklands Light Railway] and I'm proud to say and a lot of them are doing that, that is good news.”
His comments came on the first full weekday of the London Olympics, on which many feared congestion and chaos would ensue. However, none of the transport problems materialized, and many Londoners found underground trains and main stations were quieter than usual – not least because transit planners issued dire warnings of possible long lines.
London Bridge station, a big commuter terminus expected to be busy because of equestrian events at nearby Greenwich Park, was described by BBC London producer Jane Bradley on Twitter as “practically empty” during Monday morning’s commute.
Many VIPs, particularly corporate sponsors, have used ordinary traffic lanes rather than dedicated Olympic Lanes amid fear of public criticism. On Friday, Britain’s transport minister Justine Greening called for sponsors to set an example by using ordinary traffic lanes or public transport.
“I think the prime minister has been absolutely right to encourage ministers to use public transport,” she told reporters. “I have done and I am doing. We want everybody to use it," Greening said.
“I think it would be great if the sponsors could give public transport a go. Frankly, it is a great way to get to the Games; it will get them there quickly, reliably and quickly. We encourage everybody to use public transport.”
The next major test of London’s infrastructure is due on Friday – the first full day of athletics in Stratford's 80,000-seat Olympic stadium.
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