Olympic Surprise: London Traffic Moving Fine

2012 London Olympics
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By GREGORY KATZ, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Here's a pleasant surprise for Londoners who feared the worst: So far the traffic is flowing fine despite the extra pressure of the Olympic games.

Although some lanes on major thoroughfares are reserved for Olympic VIPs — and a violation could set motorists back 130 pounds ($200) — most major roads are still working well for commuters. Officials said Tuesday that the volume of traffic has dropped by nearly 30 percent, easing congestion that might have been caused by the special "Games Lanes."

Mick Savage, the U.K. director of the firm Trafficmaster, said many people are heeding government advice and staying away from central London, while the situation has been helped by the timing of the U.K. school holidays with many people having left London for their summer vacations.

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Savage said that the traffic appears to be moving fine, with most of the routes "well managed."

"There were initial problems and delays when the Games Lanes were introduced last Wednesday, but since then they've cleared up," he said.

He added that with most London motorists choosing to stay away, or working at home, it's actually less aggravating to get around with the Games in progress. "It's never going to be fluid traffic, but it's easier than normal," he said.

Official figures support this view. Britain's Olympic Cabinet committee — which is meeting daily through the Games to coordinate issues — was told Tuesday that subway journeys are up since the Olympics began, while road traffic has dropped.

The committee, which includes officials from London's organizing committee and the mayor of London's office, said road traffic in inner and central London was down by nearly 30 percent over the weekend, the Culture Ministry said.

Transport for London officials say that trend has continued Monday and Tuesday with reduced numbers during morning and evening rush hours.

A spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of agency policy, said Monday's traffic was roughly 20 percent lighter than usual.

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"There are no problems on the road network" she said. "At the moment, it's going very smoothly."

The drop-off in motorists has seen a rise in numbers using the public transit network, officials said. Passengers have been warned to stay away from transit "hot spots" during the Games to prevent overcrowding at tube stations.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the transport network is working "extremely well," despite the higher number of passengers.

The number of people riding the tube was up about 30 percent over the weekend, with 2.44 million passengers on Sunday, compared to 1.9 million on Sunday July 15, the government committee was told.

Tube lines have generally kept running despite the extra demand, but parts of the Central Line — which takes visitors to the OIympic Park at Stratford — were suspended Tuesday morning after a driver reported smelling smoke on a train.

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Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report.

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