[Skip to content]

Search our Site

Maintaining momentum: learning lessons from the London Olympics

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com
2013 September October
[ Zoom ]
Olympic stadium
On peak days an estimated 800,000 additional people travelled into and through the capital
Japan will not only host this year’s ITS World Congress but has been selected for the 2020 Olympics. So what can Japan, and indeed Brazil, learn from the traffic management for London 2012 - Geoff Hadwick finds out.

It was a key moment when Olympic boss Jacques Rogge signed off London 2012, calling the Games “happy and glorious.” Scarred by the logistical disaster of Atlanta 1996 and the last-minute building panic for Athens 2008, Rogge clearly thought London 2012 was an object lesson in how to plan and execute a massive global event.

But, to get to that point, four years of planning and traffic pattern analysis had gone on behind the scenes. Hosting something like the Olympics is probably the largest peacetime logistical exercise a city can undertake. London 2012 hosted 15,000 athletes, competing at 30 different venues across London and the UK. So while to the outside world everything looked calm, beneath the surface all sorts of people, in all sorts of places, were paddling like fury.

For example, a whole series of special transport arrangements had been introduced including the creation of an Olympic Route Network (ORN) on London’s roads. This created ‘Games Lanes’ on many of city’s busiest roads to be used exclusively by the athletes and other members of the Olympic family. As the Games approached, London’s taxi drivers predicted gridlock and chaos and protested outside parliament. They were wrong.

Olympic events attracted more than 12 million spectators and on peak days an estimated 800,000 additional people travelled into and through the capital. The city was expected to provide a first class service for the Games family, spectators and other visitors, whilst still maintaining the usual high standards required by people living and working in Europe’s biggest capital.

Responsibility lay with the ITS and logistics sector to ensure that all deliveries were made on time against the backdrop of increased security measures and the largest active traffic management programme in the world. All of London’s key ITS players had to engage with their customers, the city’s regulatory bodies and their workforce to undertake detailed planning and innovative operating solutions. Everything focused on Transport for London’s (TfL) Olympic “Four Rs” principle: reduce, re-time, re-route and re-mode.  This mantra not only enabled the ITS and logistics sectors to maintain service quality but, in a number of cases, improve service for regular businesses and commuters.

And it is this 4-point plan that has the potential to provide a lasting legacy for the ITS and logistics sector worldwide. Put simply, it worked. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), worldwide carrier DHL and the University of Westminster have produced a report to capture the London Olympic legacy experience and pass on a raft of recommendations. Their “Maintaining Momentum: Summer 2012 Logistics Legacy Report” makes suggestions including more night-time deliveries; consolidating loads onto fewer vehicles; and better communication between local authorities, operators, customers and employees. The Report highlights TfL data showing the number of trucks over 3.5t in the morning traffic peak fell by almost 15% during the Games compared with summer 2011. 
[ Zoom ]
Olympic lanes in London
Olympic lanes were part of the solution preventing gridlock
Coordinated and innovative approaches meant fewer kerbside deliveries by day, which also improved the safety of cyclists and led to a reduction in fuel consumption of between 3% and 6% and a drop of up to 20% in lorry/van driver hours.  Fewer goods vehicles on the road by day also indirectly benefited bus services … for once they were able to move more freely.

The report concluded that the success of out-of-hours deliveries during the Games, coupled with a Quiet Delivery Code of Practice, demonstrated that night-time deliveries can be made safely and efficiently without inconvenience to residents or businesses whilst also reducing fuel consumption and emissions.  

It all came down to planning, planning and more planning. Detailed preparations started more than a year before the Games began and involved unprecedented collaboration with businesses, unions, local authorities and regulators. Minds were focused sharply on:

•    Doing more out-of-hours deliveries during the Games, especially at night;

•    Investing in training and technology to enable quiet deliveries;

•    Widening the time available to make deliveries so as to avoid making deliveries during peak traffic conditions;

•    Speeding up journey times, lowering emissions and cutting costs;

•    Using more operator data from night-time deliveries to achieve a reduction in fuel consumption of between 3% and 6% … and a 20% cut in driver hours.

According to the report, “the delivery methods used during the Games proved that changing the way we work can increase capacity in both the supply chain and wider transport networks, as well as reducing operating costs and enabling business to function efficiently. In addition, CO2 emissions were reduced and road safety improved. Out-of-hours deliveries, consolidation and logistics centres, improvements to route planning, and alternative delivery modes combined to deliver these benefits during the Games, while enabling supply chains to overcome the challenges posed by the Olympic operating environment.”

And, the report adds, “forums for open and regular communication promoted greater understanding of all the interested parties’ requirements and facilitated collaboration between businesses and the authorities.”

The authors now want to retain some of these Olympic practices and are calling for regulatory changes to allow “investment in intermodal and consolidation centre infrastructure to provide a range of delivery options for the final leg of the supply chain. Investment should be supported through public sector planning and procurement policies – for example, by championing the use of consolidation centres in procurement and development plans and by including their use as part of the assessment criteria in procurement decisions during public sector construction. This will, in turn, help provide the mechanism for achieving economies of scale that bring costs to a level that attracts private sector uptake, with consequent improvements in environmental performance and safety.”

All in all, the London Olympics has provided one of the world’s biggest major urban ITS experiments supported by independently and professionally monitored results. A 12% to 16% increase in freight and passenger movements was achieved with no one noticing a thing. Trucks were double shifted, and fewer movements took place and congestion was cut by nearly a third. It was a success story to be studied and repeated, especially by the authorities in Japan, and indeed more urgently, Brazil.
[ Zoom ]
Freddie Talberg
Freddie Talberg

Mapping and planning

A key player in making all of this work was PIE Mapping, headed by chief executive officer Freddie Talberg who recently gave a presentation to the authorities in Rio as the Brazilians prepare for the 2016 games. His message was clear: The key to success “from both the public and private sector point of view, is a very clear delineation of responsibilities and a trust between all the partners involved.”

In fact, a real sense of collective purpose and working in partnership is “absolutely essential” he told ITS International.

“It’s also important that all organisations involved have fully committed and bought in to the project,” he added. “Not just financially but at an operational level. The potential for success is far greater if the wider possibilities of the resulting system are properly understood and the benefits for every stakeholder group are made clear.”

While this approach could pose a challenge, particularly when dealing with a large number of partners, Talberg says, “it ensures a unified view of the project and a valuable platform to nurture and develop stronger links between the partner organisations. And as the technological infrastructure and actual project experiences from the integration of major projects like this become more common, they will become much more easily transferable to other cities around the world.

The future is set for ITS deployments like these to occur on even wider geographical scales too. As standardisation of data and common models and platforms continue to evolve, the future should see ITS solutions that are truly borderless. That means that fully integrated pan-European ITS solutions are a real possibility ... ultimately leading to the greater harmonisation and liberation of data, making ITS even more powerful and useful.”

All of the London 2012 journey planners were built on PIE Mapping’s Data Exchange back-end platform. Its key elements are: interactive mapping based on geographical data services; the management of location data; a world-class routing capability (which formed the basis of the TfL Freight Journey Planner). There is also a search functionderived from traditional “Find on Map” software working from a postcode or street name; a satnav system that can integrate routes and PIE data from the PIE Data Exchange to provide navigation devices with up-to-date content and routes. Behind that is a database integration function to merge content and services into a mapping or routing service; a data geo-coding and management capability designed to enable the owners of useful data to focus on their data collection and use PIE to manage and store the data. And supporting these efforts were a PIE Mapping team with expertise in grooming data, storing data, aggregating and even reselling content via the Data Exchange.

“Ensuring freight operators, regardless of size, were able to get accurate, real-time information to help plan Games-time routes within the M25 was a major focus for us,” says Ian Wainwright, Head of TfL’s Olympic Freight Management Team. “As a consequence we needed PIE’s expertise to create a tool capable of meeting the Games challenge and to give users advanced routing functionality.”

What if it all goes wrong?

While London grasped its problems and dealt with them, and no doubt Japan will do the same, the signs are not as good in Brazil – especially for the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil’s soccer stadiums are scattered across a country with a landmass the size of Europe, but the government has failed to build a long-awaited rail link between Rio and Sao Paulo and only 14% of the roads are paved.

While this is not worrying Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, soccer-legend Ronaldo wants to see a greater sense of urgency, as does FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke who has asked Brazil to give itself “a kick up the backside.”
According to Talberg, “whenever a search or route is requested, [the software] provides up-to-the-minute information on congested links affected by roadworks, closures or other changes to the road network.” At the London Olympics “we optimised the system to take into account official games lanes, temporary banned turns, road closures, changes to direction of flow, road events and restricted areas.”

“Dependent on the time of the journey and even the type of vehicle used, the system will suggest the correct route for those criteria and provide an accurate journey time,” he adds.

PIE’s solution worked because it got support from all of London’s 33 councils plus TfL, London Underground, Network Rail, the Royal Parks and independent event organisers. “Pulling together data of this quantity and breadth was a real first for London’s road users,” says Talberg. And the project’s number one client, Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London, has been fulsome in his praise: “The model created by PIE for the London 2012 Games worked fantastically well, helping to keep the UK’s capital moving and open for business as well as delivering a great Games.”

London has created a recipe for success and a transport legacy for other to follow. A copy of the full report is available at www.ciltuk.org.uk/maintaining.aspx.

Highways Agency

It is not just the organisers of future events that will benefit from the London Olympics. “Lessons learned from London 2012 are already helping to improve how the country’s busiest roads are managed,” the UK Highways Agency reported. “Ways of working pioneered while planning for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have led to improvements in planning roadworks, managing traffic flows during busy times, and how incidents are responded to,” the agency concluded at a major conference.

According to TfL Director of Roads Dana Skelley, “the transport arrangements for the Games were enormously successful, not least due to unprecedented collaboration with partners and a focus on delivering both a record performance and a joined-up customer experience. Investment in state-of-the-art traffic management systems played a vital role in keeping London moving. New technology systems, upgraded traffic signals and improved modelling are all leaving a legacy of better managed roads and smoother traffic flow throughout the Capital. Working closely and collaboratively with transport organisations operators from across the UK in preparing for the Games was extremely important in helping us provide an integrated approach to incidents and communications during the Games. That’s the legacy of the London 2012 Games.”

Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton agrees: “a relentless focus on performance and innovative solutions - like the ones we developed for the Games - will be crucial in making maximum use out of our road network, in the years ahead,” he told the recent conference.

And now the challenge of turning progress made during the Games into a lasting legacy is being used by an important new professional training and development group, the Roads Academy. The lessons learned in London form the basis of its syllabus.

“The Roads Academy, which is tasked with driving change across the roads industry, is a great forum to help make sure we can draw lessons from the Games and use them in the future,” says Dalton. The initiative now has 28 member organisations from across the UK road and ITS industry. Its aim is to establish itself as a new professional development programme designed to encourage innovation and best practice across the roads industry.

Individuals take part in a two-year programme, working towards a post-graduate certificate in strategic leadership upon completion of the course, as well as a Roads Academy diploma.

Companies in this article

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport
ITS International
ITS World Congress
Network Rail
Transport for London
UK Highways Agency

Share this page

Page Comments