Ken Livingstone has called for changes to planned road and pedestrian crossing closures during next year’s Olympic Games.
As part of arrangements to ensure “the smooth flow of key people to and from the games”, an Olympic Route Network will be set up, closing lanes to non-Games traffic.
Any driver not authorised to use the ORN will face fines if they stray into a reserved lane.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, the former Mayor says it is important arrangements for Olympic traffic are “not balanced too far against ordinary Londoners” and calls for Taxis to be allowed to use the Olympic route.
Mr Livingstone has also called for greater public information about who will be able to use the reserved lanes.
He writes: “Londoners will understand and accept inconvenience for those who need it. The problem is not the athletes or the one-hundred or so IOC delegates’ cars but the next tiers down of people who will also have passes.
“We need to know who, and how many, and be sure that only those who need it are getting this privilege. Otherwise it will convey a sense of an elite enjoying the luxury of zooming past whilst others experience disruption.”
Livingstone has also warned that reported plans to remove pedestrian crossings will see “chunks of London divided in half for months with motorways where Londoners cannot even cross the road.”
In April the London Assembly warned a lack of public awareness about the ORN risked drivers being fined for straying into reserved lanes.
Assembly Members from all parties have repeatedly called on the numbers of people using the lanes to be restricted to athletes and support staff with officials and other non-vital figures using public transport.
Despite undertakings from the Mayor and IOC President Jacques Rogge they would “would encourage members of the Games Family”, an Assembly report says “organisers have resisted calls to reduce the size of the Games family” who will be able to use the lanes.
Full text of Ken Livingstone’s letter to Boris Johnson:
We need to use the next twelve months to make sure that in every way the Olympics go even better for London than is planned. That approach ought to beyond party boundaries.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a fantastic moment for London. They will be an extraordinary global showcase and a catalyst for improvements for the next generation – such as the extension and upgrade of the East London Line rail service that is already benefiting commuters. That’s why I wanted London to bid.
Now that the Games are impending we need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make it go as well as possible.
One area where there is room for improvement is plans for the lanes that will ferry athletes and IOC members – and others – around London. It is a condition of bidding that we have lanes that enable the smooth flow of key people to and from the games but we must make sure it is not balanced too far against ordinary Londoners.
I believe there are five ways we can look at this again to make things better.
Firstly, there must be better information provided about the Olympic Route Network plans and their impact on Londoners and businesses. I have had many complaints – from the Regents Park area of Camden to the Greenwich peninsula area and town centre – about problems with what is proposed. As both Mayor and chair of Transport for London you will have a role to ensure smooth transport arrangements. A clearer picture must be given of all the proposed traffic changes and how the agencies involved will give a commitment to real consultation.
On the Olympic Route Network itself businesses will not be able to get deliveries in normal hours; postal and refuse collection services for residents will be disrupted; taxi and private hire drivers may face long delays and loss of custom. There’s too little information about the likely changes to traffic signals, the congestion impacts these will cause throughout London and how these will be managed. The agencies involved including our city authorities should make all this public without further delay.
I have not met many cab drivers who think this is going to be great news for their trade, as it’s currently set out.
Secondly, we need more details in the public domain of who will have access to the Olympic lanes. Londoners will understand and accept inconvenience for those who need it. The problem is not the athletes or the one-hundred or so IOC delegates’ cars but the next tiers down of people who will also have passes.
We need to know who, and how many, and be sure that only those who need it are getting this privilege. Otherwise it will convey a sense of an elite enjoying the luxury of zooming past whilst others experience disruption. The Mayor and TfL should encourage as many of those beyond the athletes, IOC members and key officials to voluntarily use public transport wherever possible which in most cases should be a quicker way of making journeys.
Thirdly, I simply do not believe pedestrian crossings should be removed, given the priority for road safety. The latest projections are that over 60 pedestrian crossings will be closed by TfL for months on some of the busiest roads in London.
I don’t want to see chunks of London divided in half for months with motorways where Londoners cannot even cross the road.
Fourthly, we need look at letting taxis use the Olympic road network wherever possible. We will be able to do so if the official use of the lanes is allocated intelligently.
And finally I believe the lane restrictions should be in place for the shortest possible time.
The current proposals would have elements of the restrictions in place for one hundred days during the summer of 2012. The Games last from July 27th to August 12th and from August 29th to September 9th, yet the Mayor’s own transport officials show considerable changes in force from June 2012 throughout the whole period.
We should aim to ensure that the lanes are in force for a more discreet period of time. The combination of lanes with dignitaries hurtling past and at the same time many road crossings removed, with London’s taxis not permitted to use key roads, and with some roads closed to Londoners for more than just the Games period, has the potential to create a sense of alienation. This must be avoided.
Traffic changes are essential to the running of the Games. They will cause some inconvenience. We need to ensure that plans for the road network do not go beyond this.
Some may fear that under the current plans many parts of London life will go into shutdown mode.
The best way to avoid this is to take a tighter grip of the transport plans. The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be great – we need to make them even better.
Yours, Ken Livingstone