Troop influx patches up security… now for the travel crisis

Trains unable to stop at main Games station as wrong kind of weather leaves cables overheated

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The Independent Online

Almost double the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan are now providing security for the Olympic Games, after a further 1,200 soldiers were deployed yesterday.

A total of 18,200 armed forces personnel are now patting down Olympic attendees and manning airport-style security scanners, compared to the 9,500 still serving in Afghanistan.

Though the capital's transport plans appeared to be in need of some military precision yesterday, with hot weather blamed for some trains being unable to stop at the main station serving the Olympic park, Games chiefs said the number of troops was proof the security issue at least was under control.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the extra troops had been deployed because "we don't want to leave anything to chance", while Locog chief executive Paul Deighton said the decision was to "de-risk" security matters. "Given the importance of the event, why would we want to risk anything at all," he said.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison said the deployment of further troops also offered extra flexibility.

The extra troops add to the 3,500 that were deployed two weeks ago when it became clear that private security company G4S was going to be unable to provide the 10,000 security guards they are contractually obliged to supply.

G4S has 5,800 guards on site, less than the 7,000 CEO Nick Buckles assured politicians last week he could provide. The company stresses "significant" numbers are still completing training and receiving accreditation.

Yesterday, Dame Kelly Holmes was full of praise for the soldiers who had stepped in. "The military are fantastic, aren't they?" she said. "When you call them, they're there. I'm glad that any spare tickets are now going to them – they're volunteers, aren't they, just like the others. This isn't what they should be doing."

The last-minute decision to use the troops came in a wave of final preparations, with worrying signs for those planning to attend events using public transport.

Due to heat affecting the overhead power lines, Greater Anglia had to impose speed restrictions meaning nine services had to pass through the station at Stratford, the east London Olympic hub, without stopping.

Signal failures also disrupted Docklands Light Railway services to and from Stratford, as well as London Underground services for Heathrow on the busiest day for arriving athletes. Further travel problems may be experienced on the roads today as Olympic traffic-only lanes are opened across the capital.

Tomorrow the Government will also launch a last-minute legal attempt to prevent border staff striking.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is planning a 24-hour walkout in protest over jobs cuts on the eve of the Games.

But the Home Office last night announced it was challenging the legality of the industrial action because of a "procedural error" in the PCS ballot.

The planned strike has been condemned by politicians, with Ms May, the Home Secretary, denouncing it as "opportunist and wholly unjustified".

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We are seeking an injunction at the High Court to prevent PCS taking strike action on Thursday.

"We want the PCS leadership to call off this irresponsible strike and we continue to ask members not to walk out at a time when the eyes of the world are on the UK."


The number of British service personnel deployed at the Olympic Park


The number of British troops on the ground in Afghanistan