Troubleshooter to solve Dome transport chaos

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The Independent Online
THE Government is set to appoint a senior businessman as transport supremo for the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, to ensure the capital's roads are not swamped by traffic generated by the event.

Lord Levene of Portsoken, who advised both the Thatcher and Major administrations, will take over the Greenwich site's transport arrangements later this year. Regarded as a troubleshooter, Lord Levene revived the fortunes of both Canary Wharf and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

The Dome's proposals are far from finalised. Only last month, the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) announced a review of its entire transport strategy and abandoned plans to turn one of the most beautiful open spaces in London into a giant car park.

Falconwood Field, Greenwich, was to have been developed as a 1400-space park- and-ride site from which visitors would have been ferried to the Dome in shuttle buses.

The NMEC has also had to scale down the number of visitors to the site - from 100,000 a day to 70,000 - as it became clear that local opposition to the Dome's park and ride schemes had grown.

The organisers still require 6,000 car parking spaces - likely to be at Barking, Thamesmead, the Royal Arsenal and Canning Town. Greenwich council plans to make its residential roads "permit-only" parking - to prevent visitors clogging up its congested streets.

The main artery serving the Dome is the troubled Jubilee Line Extension - allowing the site to be reached in just 12 minutes from central London. Costing more than pounds 2.7bn, it is already a year late and industry observers say "unforeseen technical" problems could see the line remain unopened until September next year.

A sophisticated signalling system that was supposed to allow 36 trains an hour has proved to tricky to install and instead there will be 24 trains an hour, says the NMEC. The DLR is planning to increase the number of seats per hour by 10,000 in order to carry the passengers who were to use the JLE.

Charlton station in south London will also be another hub for Dome traffic. A dedicated bus service is to link with Connex trains at the station to take passengers to the Dome. However, local groups are concerned that with 700 seats on every train local streets will become stuffed with buses.

The problem for ministers is that the 181-acre site is meant to be a "car-free experience". A report last year by London Transport showed that at least 35 per cent of visitors to "comparable" attractions travelled by car.

Tony Travers, who runs the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, points out that only 10 per cent of people use trains outside of London. "People are not used to the complexity of making two or more changes to get somewhere," he said.

The NMEC is setting up a deal with Camelot, the lottery company, to sell "transport vouchers" to the Dome. "We are working with the train and coach companies to ensure people can get to the site."