Navigating London during Olympics
Two words: Avoid it. London, where traffic is slow on regular days, is hosting its biggest sporting event yet. Do not even consider venturing into central London in a (rental) car. There will be approximately three parking spots in the entire city, and towing fines are huge. From July 25 to August 14, London will operate the Olympic route network, and after that the smaller scaled Paralympic route network (till September 9) will be in operation.
The two networks help to link the sporting venues to airports and other important London sites, and enable participants to travel between sporting events.
This means that some of London’s biggest road arteries will be squeezed into single lanes, as the other lane will be reserved for Olympic and emergency vehicles only. Imagine red buses, black cabs and all other vehicles forced into one lane.
Should you, after reading this, still feel the need to drive, then visit tfl.gov.uk for the temporary road changes interactive map.
Tubes and Trains
Generally, the Tube is one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to cut your way through London during the Games. However, the Central and Jubilee lines will be most affected by the Olympic crowds. Therefore, bear in mind that in some instances you will be advised to walk. A 20-minute walk in London still falls into the category of “close by”, and it will be a lot more enjoyable than thronging inside overcrowded Tube stations.
An excellent way to plan your travels to and from the sporting venues is by using the spectator journey planner at travel.london2012.com.
Visit getaheadofthegames.com, and click on public transport or national rail. The interactive maps will indicate at which times the stations have been predicted to be busiest, so you can either find an alternative route or, if possible, walk.
For further information about some of the larger train stations and their facilities, visit networkrail.co.uk, select your station, and see what it has to offer.
Thames Water Taxis
Why travel through a dark tunnel when you can feel the wind rustling through your hair out on the river Thames? With your Oyster card you can get 10 percent off your water taxi fare. Depending on the service, you can buy them either on the pier, on-board or online. See tfl.gov.uk for an overview of the companies and their services.
Still awaiting the London mayor’s final decision, it seems like there might be a way to cross the river for free during the Games. If not, then the service will be payable with the Oyster Card.
The Emirates Airline offers a fabulous cable car ride, which transports you from North Greenwich to the Royal Docks in under 10 minutes.
The City of London claims cycling is the fastest way of getting from one Olympic venue to another. Take extra care, though. Make sure you wear a helmet, and if possible stay on the cycling lanes or choose routes through one of the many parks.
London is famous for its Boris Bikes, which are blue Barclay bikes that you can pick up and drop off at one of the many docking stations scattered through the city. Check how to hire them at tfl.gov.uk.
HOW TO PAY
For your general travelling around London, purchase an Oyster Card. They cost £5 (R64) from any of the Tube stations, and £3 when ordered online on visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk. They are plastic pay-as-you-go cards, which will save you a considerable amount of money on all your fares.
Don’t forget that Games tickets include a Games travelcard. People who have booked to see a certain event are able to use public transport for free in zones 1-9. The Games travelcards are valid only on the day of the event, and exclude airport trains. Check your ticket for more information on how to get one-third off travelling on the water taxis too. - Saturday Star