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Letter to Rio: London 2012 Lessons for Transport Gold

Lessons from London, I hope, will provide valuable information to the organisers of the next Olympiad, Rio 2016, and other cities hosting major events.

In the run up to London 2012, you'll remember that there were serious concerns raised about London's transport such as: "London's roads will grind to a halt"; "trains will be bursting at the seams"; and "over 30 minute waits to board the Tube"?

Meltdown was predicted over summer 2012 when the 'greatest show on earth' came to London, but in the end - bar a few glitches - passengers experienced a high-performing transport network. Many lessons were learnt on the journey towards delivering transport to millions of extra passengers. But how much did Transport for London (TfL) and operators learn from the challenge of hosting the Games? And what's been done to secure this legacy for London?

First, let's look at the challenge. Anyone who's experienced the Tube during rush hour will know it could easily have been London's Achilles' heel. Carrying more than 3.5 million people, on average, on a normal working day, during the Olympics, the Tube saw journeys increase to a record-breaking 4.4 million journeys on one day alone.

Today our Transport Committee is publishing a report setting out how that feat was achieved and what legacy it will bring London. Lessons from London, I hope, will provide valuable information to the organisers of the next Olympiad, Rio 2016, and other cities hosting major events.


Prior to the Games, more than £7.2 billion was invested in the transport network - with £7 billion spent on infrastructure and a further £200million on projects like the Olympic Route Network on the roads and the 2012 Travel Demand Management Programme. While some of the investment was temporary, much of it - for example, longer trains on the DLR and improvements to the Overground - will bear fruit for many years to come.

Robust testing

In the months leading up to the Games, TfL and operators held extensive trials and practices to really understand how the influx of visitors would impact on the transport network. Collaboration was key, with over 40 organisations coming together to form 'One Team Transport' to ensure a smooth level of service across the network.

Visitor information

Anyone in London during the summer would have seen the friendly faces - and vivid pink jackets - of more than three thousand transport employees redeployed from their usual jobs to give advice and help visitors get about. They were complemented by 215,000 specially branded signs - in matching pink - installed across the network to provide a clear, single unified transport network.

Questions asked

Scrutiny from independent bodies, including the London Assembly, played a key role in flagging up concerns and influencing plans as they developed. We published Clearing the Hurdles, a review of the major challenges facing organisers and throughout the run up to the Games, and kept the public spotlight on plans.

Changing travel plans

A lot of the credit is due to ordinary Londoners, who changed how, when or where they travelled to avoid the hotspots. Nearly two thirds of Londoners changed their travel behaviour at some point during the Games - with many opting to cycle or use river boats for the first time.

In the end, our transport system stood up to the strain: the alone Tube carried 60 million passengers (a 30 per cent increase). Cycling also shot up by 20 per cent during the Games, and many officials and VIPs chose to swap their chauffeur-driven limousines and dedicated 'Games Lanes' for public transport.

London - and indeed the whole nation - enjoyed six fantastic weeks of sport, while thousands of athletes, officials, dignitaries, journalists and sports fans got to where they needed to be without having to worry about transport.

But Londoners deserve a first-rate transport system every day of the year - not just during the Games. That's why our report outlines how TfL and operators should continue to work together, improve accessibility and continue to encourage more Londoners to consider alternative ways to get around the capital.

We wish Rio good luck as they plan for their future sporting events. We hope our learning will help shape their plans.

(Caroline Pidgeon is writing on behalf of the London Assembly's Transport Committee)

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