Olympic athletes and officials are due to get their own lane on the Blackwall Tunnel approach during the summer of 2012, under plans revealed by organisers this morning.
Several roads in Greenwich, Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Charlton have been designated part of the Olympic Route network, designed to ferry competitors, staff, sponsors and media between the competition’s venues.
Lanes will be set aside on the A102 between Blackwall Lane and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout for Olympic traffic, along with short sections of Shooters Hill Road in Blackheath. While lanes are also being set aside on the A12 north of the river, the Blackwall Tunnel itself will not have a dedicated lane.
However, police will employ “traffic management” techniques to speed traffic through the Blackwall Tunnel as well as on the rest of the network, which comprises the Blackwall Tunnel approach Charlton Park Lane, Shooters Hill Road between Charlton Way and Charlton Park Lane, Prince Charles Road (north of Shooters Hill Road), Maze Hill, Park Vista and Park Row.
Officials say the route via Charlton Park Lane, to the shooting events at Woolwich Barracks, will only be in operation for the nine days that events will take place there.
The bulk of Olympic traffic will be expected to get in and out of central London via the north side of the river. But other local roads, including Trafalgar Road, most of Woolwich Road, Blackwall Lane, Crooms Hill in Greenwich and Academy Road in Woolwich have been designated as “alternative roads”, for use in case of problems with the main network. Officials say “minimal” measures will be needed on these roads.
Other SE London roads in the “alternative” network include Blackheath Hill, Blackheath Road, Deptford Church Street, Evelyn Street, Deptford Broadway and New Cross Road, as well as the A2 stretching out towards Kent.
I get the feeling there will be howls of anger further down the A2 at this news, and the Blackwall Tunnel Facebook group will explode as soon as the news reaches the suburbs. While I don’t see anyone begrudging free movement of athletes and officials, I don’t think anyone – whether they’re behind the wheel of a van or stuck on a packed 108 – is going to be too happy to about pausing so the head of the IOC or the chief executive of McDonald’s gets a smooth ride through the tunnel.
Much depends on how often the lanes will be closed to non-2012 traffic, and how long in each day the restrictions will last for. With both sides of the Blackwall Tunnel approach overloaded during rush hour, and further restrictions further north close to the Olympic Village (Bow Road and Stratford High Street won’t be much fun to travel around by road), it looks as if a sticky few weeks for traffic is going to be one of the more bitter pills this part of London will have to swallow for its share of Olympic glory.
Unfortunately, many of those affected may just have to lump it, rearrange things for a month, or take some time off. This might sound insultingly glib, but it’d probably be easier to do that – and free up a bit of space for those who’ll need the room on the road – than be a martyr to grumbling for a summer. That’s not really a message anyone involved in promoting 2012 is going to want to send out to people in their determination to prove it’ll be (sort of) business as usual.
Another Olympics story came out of last night’s council meeting, and it doesn’t bode well for the maturity of the debate surrounding the equestrian events in Greenwich Park. Conservative councillor Geoffrey Brighty, whose Blackheath Westcombe ward borders the park, submitted two questions to planning chair Ray Walker about LOCOG’s plans to reinstate the park after the games, and its plans to protect Roman remains. Cllr Walker declined to answer the questions, saying each was “a complex issue” and suggesting Cllr Brighty speak to planning officers.
When Cllr Brighty, who voted against planning permission for the equestrian events in March, pointed out that the planning officers could have supplied an answer for the public meeting, Cllr Walker accused him of “playing to the gallery”, insisting that planning conditions were being adhered to.
That little exchange doesn’t really give us much hope for real public scrutiny of LOCOG’s plans, especially as consultations are now limited to the usual suspects in the form of the local amenity societies.