/ Travel & Leisure

How will millions of people get to the Olympics on time?

Overcrowded London Underground Tube

If you’re one of the lucky ones who got Olympic tickets, the next hurdle is getting there. Intrigued by the massive task of transporting millions of people by public transport in time, I took a look at Olympic travel options.

I was excited to discover that there’s going to be an official Olympics canal boat, and there will even be another water-based (but much nippier) option with the official river boats.

But rather more important than these are the train, Tube, coach and park and ride options.

London public transport: it’ll get you there… eventually

The good news is that you get a Zones 1 to 9 Games London Travelcard with your Olympic tickets. So any form of transport within Greater London is covered ticket-wise.

The not-so-good news is the talk of needing to allow an hour just to get into a central London Tube station at peak times during the Games. And the official advice is to allow the same time from your point of arrival at the Olympic Park to the venue itself. Blimey.

But then the organising committee says the Olympics are the equivalent of Wimbledon, a meeting of the G20 and two FA Cup finals all happening in London on each day of the Games. That puts the task at hand into perspective.

Train: on the right track

The official train website is a bit clunky to use, and there are some glitches – but in general it looks like a serious attempt to do something different in a good way. What I mean is that there are fewer ticket types and simpler rules – what a shame it isn’t always like this.

There are two ticket types for journeys to Olympic venues, whether in London or in the Co-Host cities around Britain: Games Day and Advance.

Games Day tickets are the most flexible – they’re valid anytime on the day and up to midday the following day, but they’re non-refundable. You can buy them for the days either side of your event, too, and break your journey.

Confusingly (well, we are talking about train tickets), Advance tickets aren’t the same as the Advance type of ticket you normally get. They’re only valid on the trains you choose, but the difference comes if you’re delayed – you can use them to travel on trains up to three hours after your booked one.

You can also make one change free of charge, unlike normal Advance tickets, and there are free changes if the event is rescheduled. They too can be bought for days either side, but no break of journey is allowed. They’re also non-refundable.

We found them to be good value – often very close in price to more restrictive normal tickets, with some even cheaper than their normal equivalents, despite the more generous rules.

Other options: will it be a sprint or a slow coach?

All coach services to the Olympic Park will cost between £20-£50, and there’s a £2.50 booking fee to watch out for.

So how do prices compare to normal? You can generally get cheaper coach fares to London, depending on where you’re coming from. You can even book these now for July 2012. But although you can get to London Stratford directly normally with some operators, those fares won’t take you to the Olympic Park itself.

There are park and ride facilities ringed around the Olympic Park, as well as for the Windsor venue, ExCeL exhibition centre, Greenwich, Hadleigh Wood, Lee Valley and Weymouth, which will cost £10 or £14.

So, have Olympic organisers done enough to ensure crowds arrive on time? Will any of these options suit you or are you planning to get there a different way?


I won’t be going but… hows about pooling lots of boats and creating lots of extra river buses?

From the east, this may be flawed depending how far you can travel up the Lea from the Thames during low tide, but from the west you could take the Limehouse cut all the way to the Olympic Park. Build a pontoon to embark/disembark and job’s a good ‘un.

Traffic free travel from various park n ride places on the Thames. Obviously only possible if fully advertised and signposted properly, also depends on where you are coming from but I’m sure lots could be achieved with relatively little investment.

Flambardjack says:
24 January 2012

I believe that the same company that is allowing use of the O2 (North Greenwich Arena Games Time) for sporting events is also to provide additional transport by way of river taxi’s/buses. However access to Olympic venues will be limited due to location and security measures.

I like the idea of small enterprises to be allowed to provide services, but doubt very much that LOCOG, who incidentally are only in this to make money, or the big companies sponsoring the Olympics will allow such ventures, this is about the big companies making big bucks!

Have just discovered a webside and Twitter feed (for those on Twitter) called Get Ahead of the Games (or @GAOTG) to help people with their travel while the games are on.

T Traveller says:
8 June 2012

I’ve just got my Olympic Train Tickets – special deal ‘cos I’m 65+ with travel card – great.
Not pleased to see that they were posted 2nd Class, when I’d paid £1.50 for 1st Class postage!!
Another Olympic Rip Off?