Transport minister: 'dig out walking boots' for Olympics

Anyone could have predicted chaos on London's transport system - but now workers are being asked to 'oil the creaking bike' to get to work during the Olympics...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 04 Aug 2011
Now don’t get us wrong – when the Olympics arrives next summer, it’ll bring with it zillions of tourists, all spending cash with merry abandon: so far, so GDP-enhancing. But businesses might be less happy about the latest admission from Government: apparently, with 800,000 spectators and 55,000 competitors, officials, staff and media all whizzing around London, it wants to reduce ‘non-Olympic demand’ by 30%. And it wants businesses to adopt a sort of Dig for Victory, we’ve-all-got-to-play-our-part-style mood of solidarity to ease the pressure on the transport system.

According to the Department for Transport, 12m journeys are made on London public transport every day – this time next year, there’ll be an extra 3m. So it’s asking businesses to ‘play their part’ by allowing their employees to ‘travel and work differently during the games… to try different routes, stagger their journey times to avoid the busiest periods, work remotely or use video conferencing for meetings.’

Transport minister Norman Baker offered up his own suggestions about how individuals can help: ‘It’s time to oil the creaking bike, dig out the walking boots, work out how to use the video conferencing equipment, and fire up the laptop gathering dust at the back of the cupboard,’ he trilled, in what we can only presume was his best reassuring, warm, book-at-bedtime voice.

Now, quite apart from the fact that MT doesn’t know a single person whose work and private life is so delineated as to ever allow their laptop to ‘gather dust at the back of the cupboard’, businesses aren’t impressed. Allowing some staff to work from home occasionally is one thing, but firms tend to have difficulties running smoothly if their entire workforce is operating on flexible hours (/stuck at Clapham Junction). And, as the London Chamber of Commerce put it, ‘retailers, restaurant owners, hoteliers, etc will all play a vital part in the success of the London games, [but] cannot simply allow staff to work remotely.’ Well, quite.

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