Road transport ready to face Olympic task
The road transport industry stands ready to tackle the challenge of the Olympics but London’s councils are lagging behind, according to witnesses at last week’ Transport Committee session.
Speaking at an oral evidence session looking into transport and the Olympics, the Freight Transport Association’s head of policy for London Natalie Chapman said hauliers were ready.
“Our members are well prepared. The biggest challenge remains customers, some of whom are still even unwilling to accept that it [the Olympics] will even affect them,” said Chapman.
Chapman told the panel of MPs that the opportunity to make greater use of night time deliveries during and after the Games, the relationship built with Transport for London (TfL) and freight’s raised political profile, would be road transport’s Olympic legacy.
James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said his members would be delivering to many of the hospitality businesses expected to see a boost during the Olympic period.
He added that cost was a significant factor with reduced productivity expected due to congestion, the need to double man vehicles and the requirement for customers have staff on hand to accept out of hours deliveries.
“It is going to work,” he told the committee. “We have no option other than to make it work.”
However, Catherine West, chair of the borough’s representative London Councils’ transport committee, warned there was work to be done. “The Local Area Traffic Management and Parking plans came to us late in the day.
“It leaves us little time to consult over what tends to be controversial [for residents]. TfL has done well since it picked up the brief but there was a lag between Locog [London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games] and TfL [taking over the management of the for the road network in London during the Olympics],” said West, who is also leader of Islington Council.
West added that “we’d all be in a better situation” if the plans, which govern restrictions around venues when events are taking place, had been delivered earlier. Especially as many Olympic venues have not be in operation before (unlike established host sites such as Wembley Stadium where event day planning is well tested).
Speaking later at the session, Richard George, director of Transport at Locog, conceded he would have preferred the plans to have been signed off earlier.
However, he said Locog had been in discussions with London’s councils since last year, outlining the issues involved. George added that inevitably finalised plans only come “late in the process” due to the complexity around Olympics planning.
The Highways Agency has warned drivers to plan for the impact of Olympic Torch road disruption in the Midlands in the week ahead.