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Ben Plowden

Transport for London

Director of Surface Planning

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London 2012: Planning for travel disruption


London is less than six months away from hosting the biggest sporting event in the world.

During the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the country expects to play host to 90,000 athletes, media representatives and officials, along with hundreds of thousands of spectators who will attend venues across the capital from 27 July to 14 August and from 24 August to 9 September respectively.
We are already working with hundreds of firms to prepare for the logistical challenge presented by the Games in order to keep London and the UK moving. Many HR directors at organisations across the country are also well advanced in terms of developing their action plans.
But there are still those located in transport hotspots – areas near competition venues that are predicted to be much busier during the events – that have not yet started planning. There is still time, but they will need to act fast if they are to keep operations running smoothly.
The Games are a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes and sectors, but they are likely to have an impact on their operations, staff and customers.
It is anticipated, for example, that an additional three million journeys will be made on London’s public transport network during the busiest days. But this increase comes on top of the 12 million journeys that are already made on an average working day. Venues such as Weymouth, Cardiff, Eton Dorney and Manchester will also see a rise in traffic, which means that advance planning is key.
One way that HR departments can help themselves prepare is to develop a ‘Travel Demand Management’ action plan and test it before the Games begin in order to ensure that employees are able to keep working smoothly.
Taking action
The London 2012 organising committee and TfL are already working with over 430 larger employers to help them devise action plans tailored for their individual businesses. If you are interested in finding out what support might be available for your organisation, please email [email protected] with details of where you are located and how many staff you employ.
Even if you are unable to attend a dedicated workshop, however, a useful first step is to check if your business is based in an affected area. Maps on the London 2012 Travel Advice for business website can be used to this end and do not just cover the capital, but also other sites across the UK where events are taking place. The web site also provides a range of free travel advice.
In order to put an actual TDM action plan together, however, think about what challenges the organisation is likely to face. For example, consider how employees travel to and from work, what core hours they work and what your current working practices are.
In order to analyse staff members’ travel habits and come up with solutions based on the organisation’s requirements and employee behaviour, it might be useful to conduct a staff survey, possibly using a free tool that is available on the London 2012 website.
But to keep the company operational during the Games, it will be essential to consider reducing, re-routing, re-timing or re-moding staff journeys, particularly if it is based in a transport hotspot.
Commuters will need to plan their journeys to take into account potential disruption at certain times and in certain locations. This consideration is particularly important if they travel to and from hotspots during peak spectator hours as most of the action is taking place in these areas.
Re-routing is one option for dealing with the situation. For instance, any employees that use the Central or Jubilee lines – key routes to get to a lot of competition venues – could experience delays of over an hour at certain times and locations on the network.
Similarly, staff – or visitors – travelling for business purposes during Games-time could experience delays to their journeys.
A bit of planning
As a result, it may make sense to advise employees to rearrange non-essential meetings so that they take before or after the Games or in between the Olympics and Paralympics. Another option is to replace face-to-face meetings with alternatives such as conference calls, video- or web-conferencing facilities in order to reduce the need for travel.
To cut such non-essential travel still further, it is advisable to work out how many critical staff such as security or IT personnel simply have to be on site or not as the case may be. The rest can then be encouraged to work from home.
If a home-working policy does not currently exist, draw up guidance for managers, speak to heads of departments and, if possible, provide the necessary facilities, which include laptops, VPN software and maybe extra conference call lines. Be certain to liaise with the IT department, however, in order to ensure that equipment is tested and any issues are ironed out before the Games begin.
While the option to work from home may not suit all businesses, it makes sense where possible. But if the organisation has alternative offices located outside of hotspots, it may be feasible for employees to hot-desk instead.
Another option is to encourage them to re-time their journeys in order to avoid peak travel times. Consider altering current policy so that core staff can work more flexibly during Games-time, perhaps by changing shift patterns or staggering start times.
The importance of carefully planning for the Games in advance was underlined by Vancouver’s experiences in 2010 and so should be taken seriously. Research commissioned by BT Global Services into the city’s hosting of the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, showed that, thanks to advanced planning, organisations became 20% more efficient as a result of introducing flexible working arrangements to help staff avoid congestion problems.
Even better, some 27% are still benefiting from the flexible working arrangements introduced – and you can too. All it takes is a bit of planning.

Ben Plowden is director of surface planning at Transport for London.

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Ben Plowden

Director of Surface Planning

Read more from Ben Plowden

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