LONDON – London’s transport authority was quick to avert traffic chaos on its ageing metro network following a technical failure on Friday as 200,000 visitors flocked to Olympic Park on the first day of the popular athletics competition.
With an extra three million journeys per day expected during the Games, the sports event is a huge test for London’s 149-year-old train network, Europe’s oldest.
Passengers at London’s busy King’s Cross station, where six underground lines, national railway, Eurostar trains and high-speed transport serving the Olympic site meet, faced hour-long queues after a major metro line was partly suspended.
Despite the delays, spectators flocking to the 80,000 capacity Olympic stadium arrived on time for the start of the track and field events.
Draped in their national countries’ flags, many passengers praised London’s transport system and reported smooth travelling shortly after the signalling failure was resolved.
“We were expecting the public transport to be chock full of people but it’s not been too bad. So far the organisers deserve a gold medal,” said Tara Pile, who had travelled from Netherlands to see the Olympic hockey and show jumping events.
Earlier, queues of up to 100 metres formed for the high-speed Javelin train connecting central London and Olympic Park in Stratford and London’s transport authority urged passengers to use alternative underground lines during the suspension.
“People were in their seats before the first competition started in the stadium, which can only be a good thing,” a spokeswoman for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) said.
“You just have to look at the stadiums, they are absolutely packed.”
To alleviate strain on the Stratford area, only Games ticket holders are allowed to enter the huge Westfield shopping centre adjacent to the Olympic site during peak time on Friday and Saturday.
The shopping centre has seen an increase in sales of food, sportswear and Games merchandise in line with higher visitor numbers since the start of the Games, a spokeswoman for Westfield said.