Thursday, 6 September 2012

Debate: Transport for the Olympics?

I thought I'd throw my opinion out there on the transport system for the London 2012 Olympics in today's blog post. First and foremost, I think on paper the transport ideas sound like a great idea. The whole idea of making it easier for people to access the events of London 2012 and the Paralympic games economically should be a very sound move. Bear in mind when reading that prior to the Olympics, the games were expected to boost the economy in the short term and the long term. Now that such data has appeared that seems to suggest the Olympics haven’t really achieved that much economically - can we partly blame the transport system?

Mervyn King was reported to have told the Daily Mail that the "the happiness won't last long..." in regards to the short term economic surge caused by the Olympics. More about this story can be read by clicking here. Therefore, economically the consensus is that the games haven't achieved that much, despite the years of planning and millions of pounds of investment. Obviously I understand that nothing can be predicted accurately at this stage, so time may prove Meryvn wrong - which is what we all hope. I think the fact Meryvn has gone so publically with this negative outlook is disgusting, as if there isn't enough bad economic news around as it is. I know people will argue that we have a right to know about these things, but I'd say most people already don't expect much in the next few years economically and the fact that Mervyn has just confirmed this will not install confidence in anyone. The doom and gloom merchants need to keep some of their thoughts to themselves!

I'd like to look at both the London Underground system and the Olympic driving lanes in this debate as these are two of the Olympic transport policies that I have experienced during the games. Firstly, the London Underground. I encountered this at peak time in the middle of the games and I have nothing but praise for the planners. It was seamless, I made a trip into Waterloo and from there I had to get the Victoria Line and then the Northern line through to London Kings Cross. Bearing in mind this was at peak time, so I was expecting crowds of workers as well as Olympic go-ers, I was pleasantly surprised. Everything ran smoothly - I was on and off the Underground painlessly and I have nothing but praise for the. The return journey, also a peak time (the evening this time), was seamless as well. I experienced it twice during the games at peak times and I thought it was great, obviously there will be people who used it a lot more and saw a lot more that went on, but on the whole I think it ran smoothly. Therefore, economically I think the investment that went into the London Underground was very beneficial and justified. Not only were workers in London still able to get to work on time but the extra travellers heading to the games were also catered for and this can only have benefited the economy. My problem occurs when it comes to the Olympic lanes...

The few times I encountered the Olympic driving lanes were around 10 - 11 am. I wasn't heading to the games so therefore I was in the 'normal' lane, queuing, whilst watching the empty lane next to me remain... empty. One occasion, on route to Staines, it took me 25 minutes to travel a mile as all the traffic had to bottleneck into one lane, all whilst a perfectly fine lane lay empty next to me. During those 25 minutes the Olympic lane wasn't used once. This was beyond frustrating, this lane seemed redundant during this time, a waste of space even, yet we couldn't use it and had to queue up in traffic - delaying arrivals to our destinations. Infrastructure is always a big point in the economy, and in my opinion I think this is evidence of it failing. The lanes were unnecessary during the Olympic sessions and should have been opened to all traffic. Already, according to the Daily Mail, Londoners waste 66 hours a year stuck in traffic. 66 hours that could be spent working, benefiting the economy. Turning normal lanes into these Olympic lanes is only going to have added to this figure and that is no way to benefit the economy when we're in a rocky situation. In my opinion, the Olympic lanes weren't thought out too well and didn't function efficiently - but, what is my opinion worth anyway?

I'd like to conclude by saying that I think the Olympics will be successful economically for us. The sense of national pride and 'togetherness' that seemed to shine during the games surely has to have some effect! The London Underground, like I said, was very good during the games but the Olympic lanes let the transport system down. I'd like to hear other people's opinions on the situation, though. So, what are your thoughts on the Olympic transport policies and how do you think they've affected the economy?

Thanks for reading guys, stay tuned.
Sam. (@TutorEconomics)

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