Posted on Jul 28, 2008 in Gautrain In The News
London’s already extensive network is being made ready for the Olympic Games, to be hosted at 33 venues (17 for the following Paralympics) by the UK’s capital in 2012. In a turnaround from London’s transport being a stumbling block to getting the Games awarded (as with the failed bid for 2000), when the 2012 success was announced in July 2005, the projected travel arrangements had become perceived as a strong point.
Public body Transport for London (TfL) played a key role in securing the Games for London. Under the TfL rail umbrella, Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the heavy rail routes incorporated as Overground in 2007 are in line for major improvements, including new lines, enhancements to current infrastructure and new rolling stock.
The Games’ focal point is the main Olympic Park being built, partly on former railway land, at Stratford in east London. There are three other Olympic venues in east and south-east London, a few in the very centre of the city, with rowing near Windsor. The football tournament is to be spread around the UK, and sailing will be on the south coast at Weymouth.
As a summer event, the Olympics occur when UK rail demand normally dips. This will mean that the net effect of the Games in terms of traveller numbers will not be as great as elsewhere in the year.
There has been a focus on arrangements for visitors moving around London, although for UK residents, Network Rail’s infrastructure and many train operating companies will supply a principal means of getting there from across the country. To encourage public transport use, no parking arrangements except for officials and those with disabilities are projected.
All event tickets will include a Travelcard capability for access to the TfL system for that day. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is responsible for Games infrastructure and the Olympic Transport Plan. Published in draft form in 2006, it is subject to revisions. Detailed transport plans for each venue are being prepared.
Even with the array of present and planned rail connections to the main Olympic Park, further upgrades are needed ahead of 2012. Many improvements were planned prior to the announcement that London had won the bid.
Each weekday the Underground carries 3.4 million, and overall TfL daily carries vastly more people into London than the combined National Rail train operators. London Underground is undergoing a massive programme of refurbishment, including track relaying to improve reliability and ride and also the refurbishment of all the stations before 2012.
Expecting a rise to 80 million carried annually by 2009, DLR has already extended to London City Airport (in the former east London dockland area), which is expected to play an important part in the Olympics. Two key extensions are planned to take the system south of the Thames to Woolwich (near the shooting venue) by 2009, and link the ExCel Arena venue to Stratford International (for the Olympic Park) by 2010.
By 2012 there will be a total of ten public transport lines feeding into Stratford, representing the capability of a train arriving in the area every 15 seconds.
The centrepiece service will be the ‘Olympic Javelin’, taking seven minutes on the St Pancras-Stratford International section of High Speed 1 (formerly Channel Tunnel Rail Link). Capacity will be up to 25,000 people per hour each way between St Pancras and Olympic Park. It will also extend to Ebbsfleet International on the south-eastern edge of London for motorway park-and-ride access, also offering connections with Eurostar services from France and Belgium without having to go into central London.
The majority of the infrastructure work involved is taking place in the Stratford area. In the heart of the future Olympic Park is the sub-surface Stratford International station on High Speed 1, completed by 2007 but not opened along with the line itself. Ramps to the surface at the 1km-long station give access to the newly built Eurostar depot nearby at Temple Mills. On the Olympic Park site, Thornton’s Fields carriage sidings will be replaced with new capacity elsewhere.
Already one of London’s most important rail interchanges, the existing Stratford station (to be renamed Stratford Regional) has seen heavy investment in recent years, with more to come. A new high-level DLR station was completed in 2007.
This is to be followed by low-level platforms on the former North London Line being converted as a new DLR line between Stratford International and Canning Town, to give a direct connection to another Olympics venue, the ExCel Arena at Custom House station.
Between 2006 and 2011, £1bn annually will be invested in the Underground, on projects including station refurbishment and track upgrading. Crucial to moving around in London generally at any time, the Underground will be the speediest way between central London venues and the concentrations to the east, notably via the Jubilee and Central lines. The key project is a 45% increase in capacity on the Jubilee line which will serve Olympic Park as well as the O2 Arena (former Millennium Dome) and central venues.
By 2012, with £1.4bn of investment in place, TfL’s Overground network should be an established part of London’s transport operation. It will provide more integration with other services and line extensions, notably the reopened East London Line. Network Rail’s largest project for the area, Thameslink expansion, will also be in situ, giving much improved access and interchange facilities with TfL, mainly on a north-south axis.
The highest-profile rolling stock order is for the flagship Class 395 trains. A total of 29 Hitachi six-car electric multiple units capable of 140mph (225km/h) were ordered for the high-speed domestic commuter services on High Speed 1 and feeder lines in Kent. .
Delivered for testing from 2007, Class 395 incorporates Japanese ‘Bullet Train’ technology and is due for fleet operation by 2009.
Bombardier won the main contract for 1,738 new Underground cars for delivery between 2008 and 2015. The Jubilee line has secured extra cars to strengthen current train formations for coping with higher passenger volumes.
Bombardier also won the contract to build a fleet of 44 Class 378 Electrostar units for Overground, subsequently expanded by orders for extra coaches for longer formations. Of value as a connecting service around north-east London, the Gospel Oak-Barking service will also have gained new stock by 2012 with new Class 172 diesel units, also from Bombardier.
Positioned as the pivotal rail system for the Olympics in terms of final access to so many venues, the DLR is also expanding its fleet with orders for 55 trains, in part funded by the ODA, also from Bombardier and now due to enter service from 2008.
Signalling and communications
A £600m contract was awarded for the complete resignalling of the Jubilee and Northern Lines to increase capacity and reliability. The Victoria Line is also undergoing a substantial upgrade and stock renewal. The new system on the Jubilee Line will also allow full use to be made of newly-lengthened trains on the cross-city route. With such a diverse international influx of visitors, crowd marshalling and communications will assume greater importance during the games.
TfL’s operations will much modified for the duration of the Games. Network Rail will be increasing frequencies and extending hours of operation on the ‘Great Eastern’ and London-Tilbury lines that cross the main Olympic zones.