Games gridlock?

The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will offer some big opportunities for businesses supplying meat into London. It is estimated that the Games will generate a 750m increase in spending, the majority of which will be in the food and hospitality sector. However, with 37 venues across London and an estimated 20m spectators expected on top of normal London traffic, they could also prove to be a logistical nightmare.

To make things worse, the UK has had to make guarantees that athletes can get from their accommodation to the venue where they are competing in a reasonable time. This means that there will be extensive traffic restrictions in place during the Games, which could have a serious impact on the ability to carry out business as normal.

Speaking at a workshop on Olympic planning set up by the Food Storage and Distribution Federation (FSDF), Ruth Waring, managing director of Labyrinth Logistics Consulting and a representative for Transport for London (TfL), explained that at the heart of the government's Olympic transport plan is the creation of the Olympic Route Network. Spanning 109 miles of road, this network includes a core route, which will be 'switched on' on 25 July and 'switched off' on 14 August, and venue routes, which will be switched on and off depending on when venues are active.

There will also be a Paralympic Route Network (PRN), although this will be smaller due to the concentration of events in East London. It will be switched on from 30 August and switched off on 9 September. "Anything not needed for the Paralympics will be dismantled as soon as possible," said Waring.

In addition to the ORN and the PRN, there will be an Alternative Route Network (ARN) which will be switched on for two scenarios only: if there is a serious security incident on the ORN or PRN and if there are road closures on the ORN or PRN due to road races.

When routes are 'switched on' they will remain open to all traffic, but with some fairly substantial restrictions. Some 30 miles of the ORN and PRN will have dedicated Games lanes which will be open only to traffic and blue light services between 6am and midnight. On roads with two lanes, the outside lane will be used as the Games lane, leaving only one lane for the remaining traffic.

Seeing red

Kerbside deliveries will be limited to between midnight and 6am across the whole ORN and PRN with many side roads also closed to traffic. Right turns will not be allowed at any point of the route and parking bays and bus lanes will be suspended. "Essentially there will be a red route in place for the duration of the Games," Waring explained.

Controls in the vicinity of venues will be even more draconian. There will be a series of Vehicle Permit Checkpoints giving access only to residents and those with a genuine business need in the area. Residents and businesses in VPC areas will be given permits for access and vehicles with a livery that makes it clear why they are in the area will not be stopped. However, the majority of delivery drivers will need a delivery note or parcel bearing a delivery address in the area, as well as ID and a letter from the company delivering the goods on headed paper, stating that they are the registered driver for that delivery. Parking within these areas will be suspended, although loading will be allowed.

Areas within a one mile radius around the venues will be shut to traffic altogether, with UPS and Brakes offering "last mile delivery" services to companies that need to deliver into the Olympic venues themselves.

Additional disruptions may occur during the road events such as the marathons, triathalons and cycle road races, and along the route of the Olympic torch relay, which will tour the country from 18 May 2012 before returning to visit every London borough between 21-27 July. "There will be a significant impact on your ability to make deliveries on the torch relay route," said Waring. "You need to know where it is going so that you can avoid it."

To attempt to minimise disruption, TfL has invested 40m in signal controls to facilitate the flow of traffic and there will be electric roadsigns along the ORN displaying live road traffic information. There will be a free breakdown service on the ORN and PRN, so that any vehicles which breakdown along the route are removed quickly, with a free hotline so operators can trace their vehicles. Local authorities have also taken action, with local traffic plans to manage traffic around the venues.

However, the potential for disruption will still be huge and it is vital for operators to think ahead and plan how they are going to manage their delivery schedules during the Games.

Waring said that the first step is for businesses to understand exactly what restrictions and road network changes will affect their routes. Detailed maps for each of the London boroughs affected by the route, detailing the Games lanes, restrictions and parking areas, are available to download from the Tfl website at tfl.gov.uk/orn. There are also traffic impact heatmaps available for every day of the Games, giving an idea of likely traffic concentrations in London on the different days of the Olympics.

Four rules

Next, businesses should look at the 'four Rs': reduce, re-time, re-route and revise mode. TfL suggests that reducing journeys could involve postponing non-essential deliveries until after the Games and encouraging customers to pre-order and stockpile, although this will not always be practical for fresh meat. Businesses could also look at collaborating with other businesses, sharing deliveries and resources, or setting up collection points and consolidation centres.

Re-timing would involve night-time deliveries between the hours of 12-6am, thus avoiding the restrictions put in place on the ORN. TfL is encouraging businesses to consider this option if their operator's licence allows it, although it is telling them to read its code of practice for quieter out-of-hours deliveries, which has been trialled across 10 sites across London. This is available at tfl.gov.uk/outofhoursdeliveries. If considering night-time deliveries, operators should also make themselves familiar with the regulations surrounding night time drivers, Waring said.

Some businesses could avoid the ORN altogether by re-routing. The London Lorry Control Scheme will remain in place during the Games but operators will have the chance to apply for a permit to be in restricted areas from the LLCS website, which would make it easier to re-route.

Finally, businesses could consider revising their mode of transport and using bikes or motorbikes, although this is likely only to be a solution for small businesses.

When making an action plan, it is also important to consider resources such as vehicles, staff and fuel. If a business needs to move more vehicles to London for the Games, they should apply early to traffic commissioners for changes to O-licence conditions. If agency staff or hire vehicles will be required, these should be booked as far in advance as possible. Some fuelling stations may be inaccessible, so fuel should be planned carefully.

Once a plan is in place, businesses should make sure that staff and customers are aware of what changes will be made and why. For more information, download TfL's Operator's Guide for 2012 at: www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/london2012/22910.aspx

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