Andrew Martin: Transport problem? Stay at home

The Dome was literally hollow and the Olympics are metaphorically hollow

Share
Related Topics

Chauffeured cars whisking VIPs along express routes to the Olympics will allegedly be fitted with sensors able to turn red lights green. When I read this news it suddenly became clear to me that what is commonly known as the 2012 Olympics is actually a horror film with production well-advanced. Its title is The Millennium Dome Rises Again. ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back to East London...")

Both the Dome and the Olympics are creatures of Tony Blair of course, and his tone of jargon-ridden can-do machismo combined with political correctness is all there in the website detailing the transport arrangements of the Olympic Delivery Authority – if you can be bothered to read it, that is. Personally, I can't. A sentence like "Download the Consultation Report for the Consultation Draft of the second edition of the Transport Plan" is quite difficult to get beyond. However, the gist is that this is supposed to be "A Public Transport Games", and there's a lot about the aggrandisement of Stratford and West Ham stations in particular. (The latter actually received its big makeover in 1999 as part of the desperate attempt to complete the Jubilee Line extension in time for the millennial launch of the Dome. Before then, it had been one of the smallest stations on the Underground, the facade not much wider than a terraced house, and every week one of the station staff used to put out the dustbin for emptying.)

To be fair, the ODA transport literature is not that much more unreadable than that produced in 1999 by the New Millennium Experience Company, the body – you will recall – "responsible for delivering the UK's national focus to mark and celebrate the arrival of the third millennium". I remember receiving a press release announcing that people choosing to access the great white boil by rail would be conveyed from Charlton station by "a wheel-based service". Persistent questioning forced the admission that this was a bus, and even though that word was insufficiently pompous, the NMEC, like the IOC, was both proud of its emphasis on public transport, and neurotic about the possibility of things going wrong.

This is only natural. The Dome was literally hollow and the Olympics are metaphorically hollow, nobody – I assume – having the slightest interest in the actual sports. The event itself being nugatory, it's therefore all about the before and after – especially how people will get to it, and from it.

Our big public spectacles have long involved transport neurosis. The Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground line, was supposed to be completed in time for the Second Great Exhibition of 1862. It was a year late. But this time around there is the authentic tang of fear. London's public transport networks are already horribly overcrowded.

Twelve million journeys are made every day. During the Olympics there will be another three million. In light of this, David Cameron's suggestion – admittedly made for PR purposes only, that government ministers visiting the Olympic venues should do so by public transport – is illogical. He did also imply that he might cycle to the Olympics, in which case Boris Johnson would have to abandon his own bike in favour of something even humbler. I can see the headline now: "I'll be going to the Olympics by Spacehopper", says Mayor.

But the clue to Cameron's real intention – which is to travel in a bulletproof limousine – is contained in his admission that security will be almost as big a challenge as transport, and those high-tech road lanes (apparently a requirement imposed on London by the IOC) are presumably a response to both anxieties. Transport minister Norman Baker recently proffered his own solution, urging Londoners to "work remotely; or use video conferencing to ease demand". In other words, the best way to solve the Olympic transport problem would be for people not to use transport. Stay at home.

It's what I'll be doing, anyway.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea