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Games Legacy Series: Number 3

Welcome to the 3rd in my series of articles investigating the legacy of London 2012 on the transport system in the UK.  This month, I look at the concept of freedom and ease of travel and transport, or travel and transport 'mobility'.

During the Olympics, Mobility became a readily available commodity

The mantra before the Games was to have “Sport in the news, not Transport”.  Result!  Plenty of medals and no major home goals. 

Transport Team GB “medalled” in disciplines such as:

  • GOLD - Number of tube travellers (a personal best and up 30% with respect to August 2011)
  • GOLD - Number of DLR travellers (another personal best and up 100% over last year)
  • GOLD - Number of London Overground Users (another personal best and up 47% over last year).
  • GOLD - Number of Barclays Bicycle Scheme users.
  • SILVER/BRONZE - Road traffic and buses also performed well.

London wasn’t the only area having to rise transport challenges of course.  Early reports from Weymouth and Portland were also good.

Meanwhile, the following results came through on the Olympic fringe (my unofficial medals):

  • Lowest number of commuters for August.
  • Increased productivity for those still working (in the office, off site or from home).
  • Greatest average happiness index (transport).

I confess the last of these is my own award based on having been obliged to commute into London for business on a couple of occasions and one Olympic trip (I was lucky enough to enjoy the Olympic transport experience on 100m finals day – the sport wasn’t bad either).

Time to Review

The reviews and analysis are beginning.   It has been recognised by many that the intangible benefits of these undeniably successful Olympic Games are all the justification that is needed for having held them.  In many respects, assessing whether they were successful in quantitative terms is a spurious activity that can not add value.   However, that does not mean we should forget to identify any learnings or lessons.

Hugh Sumner, ODA Director of Transport, is hosting an event in October entitled “How London 2012 will change Transport forever”.   Given the performance during the Olympics, when Hugh Sumner steps onto the podium to report on how Olympic Transport performed, he will most likely be preparing to give himself, the ODA and LOCOG a well-deserved pat on the back. 

Marketing, Maintenance and Movement Management

What has been achieved over the last month is a result of a number of initiatives coming together.  The primary of these are related to marketing, maintenance and movement management in my opinion. 

Clearly effective work was done through the Travel Demand Management (TDM) marketing and communications campaign.  It successfully reduced and redistributed background demand.  This was demonstrated by the busyness of hotels, tourist destinations and shops; all of which claim not to have experienced the boom they expected (and hoped for).   TDM was underpinned by unprecedented work on modelling and planning.  For the last few years and right up to the Games, the ODA’s Head of Transport Planning, Bayo Dosunmo, had his team focussing on modelling and prediction of the effects of the various measures.  From early 2011, the ODA’s teams worked increasingly with modellers and planners from across London.  

Meanwhile, dividends were paid by the efforts to carry out additional maintenance prior to the Olympics and then institute rapid response teams to deal with potentially disruptive failures and incidents during the Games.  Disruption on the streets to road traffic in general (and buses in particular) benefitted from this.  

Movement management is an area that, I have to confess, surprised me.   In London, this was the responsibility of ODA, TfL and the GLA.  More evidence of successful collaboration.  The most clear representation of this activity was through the 70,000 ‘Games Makers’ who wafted visitors and commuters merrily on their way. 

Shared Customers and Mobility

Something that will need to be considered carefully is how some of the exceptional measures can be replicated during business as usual.  For example, preventative maintenance can not be deferred and 70,000 volunteers will not be available as Games Makers after the Games are over.  However, there are still lessons to be learned from both these examples.  Is there some out-of-the box thinking to be drawn from them that could result in happier travellers?

For me, the Games Makers have been the smiling face of a whole transport community collaborating for the first time to satisfy their shared customers.   Those customers were buying Mobility.  During the Olympics, Mobility became a readily available commodity.  If we can preserve parts of what we paid for this month, then I am convinced it came at a very reasonable price. 

Daniel Ruiz, August 2012

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