May 21 2013 Latest news:
By Marijke Cox, Reporter
Sunday, July 1, 2012
More than 250,000 extra people expected to use the county’s rail and road networks
KENT’S commuting workforce is being warned to prepare for travel hell during the Olympics with more than a quarter of a million extra people expected to use the county’s rail and road networks every day.
While excitement builds around the upcoming Games, transport authorities are urging people using Southeastern trains to plan well ahead, with 110,000 extra passengers expected each day over the Olympic period.
And workers travelling to and from the city by road are being told categorically by Transport for London to avoid the Olympic Road Network (ORN), which includes the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel, one of the main routes into London from Kent.
Huge pressure on roads in and out of London is expected to force motorists to use the notorious Dartford Crossing, with fears it could become a gridlock nightmare, handling as many as 300,000 vehicles a day during the Games – double the usual amount.
And problems will continue during the Paralympics, with the closure of main roads by Brands Hatch race circuit near Swanley – including the A20 into London – where road cycling races and trials are taking place from September 5-8. The roads will be closed for six days from September 3.
Traders in West Kingsdown, an area expected to be most badly affected, said it will cause a huge loss in business, and residents have voiced fears over potential increased travel times, where a normal three-mile journey from the village to nearby Farningham, for example, will be a 31 mile trek due to diversions onto the M20.
Transport chiefs said they were doing all they could to avoid disruption, but that congestion was inevitable.
A Highways Agency spokesman said all planned road works had been suspended, including on all those expected to be used as an alternative to the ORN.
He said resources would also be stationed near key points should any incidents occur.
“As a key delivery partner for the Games, the Highways Agency has been working with Transport for London, the Olympic Delivery Authority and other partners for some time to help ensure that the roads we manage serve both the Games family and non-Games traffic,” he said.
Traffic plans show that an approach lane both northbound and southbound to the Blackwall Tunnel will be reserved for VIPs, athletes and media representatives called Games lanes.
At the final approach to the tunnel, both north and south, the Games lane traffic will have to merge in with public motorists, a system expected to create a bottleneck.
For people wanting to turn onto the A13, drivers will have to merge with Games traffic.
Motorists are expected to avoid the Blackwall Tunnel and instead use the Dartford Crossing during the Olympics, which run from July 27 to August 12.
But the Government has so far refused to agree to open the toll booths to allow free flowing traffic, despite calls from council chiefs in Dartford and Thurrock, in Essex, who warned of traffic chaos.
Road minister Mike Penning said the Government was not expecting significant increases in traffic volumes at the crossing.
“We are carefully considering how Dartford Crossing will operate during the Games,” he said.
“We have carried out detailed planning work with our delivery partners to ensure the road network is ready for the Olympics, and will continue to consider measures that will help to keep traffic moving at the crossing.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman told KoS there would be an announcement made next week with regards to the situation at Dartford.
For commuters using Southeastern’s rail service, the situation is expected to be no better.
The Government has stressed the need to prioritise spectators and people going to the Games.
Queuing systems will be put in place at key stations, including Ashford, Sevenoaks and London terminals, to limit the number of people on platforms.
The high-speed service will become a Javelin shuttle service and will operate between St Pancras, Stratford and Ebbsfleet, with the occasional train to Faversham.
There will be a minimal high speed service to Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Canterbury West, Margate, Minster and Sturry between July 27 and August 12 and no service at all to Folkestone stations, Dover, Deal or Sandwich.
Spokeswoman for Southeastern Sarah Boundy said services will be exceptionally busy.
“We’re expecting 25 per cent more people travelling on our train services each day – more at weekends when there are free events in London,” she said.
“For example we carry around 450,000 people every weekday now and during the Olympics we expect another 110,000 each day.
“So people must allow extra time for their journey.”
To see the Olympic train timetable go to www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/olympics and for road information see www.getaheadofthegames.com.
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