The transport system is no better than it ever has been. Not a day goes by, or at least it seems like that, when the tube train I am on, either breaks down, or it seems like it because there is some other problem. The train system is not good enough either. This morning I went to the station in good time, only to discover the train had been cancelled. The day before yesterday, because apparently there was a problem with the points at Baker Street; points at Baker Street – where can they be? – the Metropolitan Lines, Hammersmith & city & Circle were all not running, or at least running so slowly, staying in the stations for an eternity etc, that it would have been quicker to walk. Indeed I did walk from Barbican to Farringdon. We are continually assailed by advise to find alternative means of transport to reach our destination.
There is so much anxiety around the Olympic Games. The World is coming to London & 2 million extra people will be inhabiting our already overcrowded city for the duration. What will happen if the transport system completely freezes up? Or if there is a major breakdown on the trains & tubes? Will there be riots similar to those which London experienced last Summer when the weather was hot? Certainly crime, especially knife crime is a major problem in London at the best of times. It is a nightmare vision. Many visitors will no doubt be mugged on the streets & on public transport.
No doubt the games will go ahead. Mostly, people around the World, will not realise how much the Games are resented by Londoners, people who live & work in London. The problems outside the stadium will be ignored because this person or that person has broken a World record for running round the track or for throwing something or for the hop skip & jump.
The main feeling is one of anxiety. London could become the centre of terrorism. The transport system could break down. It could be a long hot Summer for the party our rulers have imposed upon us.
I came to London in the mid sixties & have lived here since then with occasional forays to other places. In those days, the transport was, if anything, even worse. I don’t particularly remember trains breaking down, signal failures, points failures etc but tube trains were less frequent, at times almost non-existent. Buses were worse in the sixties. There were times when people just had to give up waiting & cancel their arrangements because of that. And there less of them.
In time, the transport system did improve & considerably. During my time in London both the Victoria Line & the Jubilee Line have been built but at most weekends these days, much of the tube network is closed which is when most people want to use it. The apparent reason is that essential engineering works are taking place. It looks unlikely that it will be completed by the time the Olympic Games take place. In fact the system did improve under Ken Livingstone & the buses are a lot better than they used to be. The congestion charge was an excellent idea but opposed by the Tories. Although Boris Johnson didn’t extend it, as Ken Livingstone had proposed, he hasn’t in fact abolished it.
I live in Cricklewood. Cricklewood is on the edge of London. It is the main road from somewhere to the North of London to the centre of London. Cars pass through without stopping. Many of the drivers probably don’t even know that they are passing through Cricklewood, nor the next village which is Kilburn. For London is indeed a series of villages. Maybe not picturesque as in the countryside & with none of the friendliness of rural villages, which we are always been told exists. But with more facilities (more cinemas, pubs, concert halls, theatres etc) & more life. Traffic congestion is a real problem in London. The roads are often clogged up in the way the congestion charge was supposed & to some extent has remedied.
During the Olympics, spectators are going to live all over London & in the outskirts I suppose. I also suppose that mostly they will want to use the Public Transport system. But the Public Transport system in London is a shambles even without the extra 2 million visitors to London during its duration. What foreign visitors to the country will think of London in general, I dread to think.
I don’t know whose idea holding the Olympics was. It may have been Ken Livingstone. It was a bad idea.
Please politicians – if you ever have such an idea again (as holding the Olympics) please consult us, the voters, before going ahead with them.