London 2012: Stratford Station gets ready for the Games
During its peak the summer’s Olympics will involve tens of thousands of spectators making their way to a variety of venues.
Added to them will be those heading to work, shopping and going about their day to day business.
Many will go through Stratford station and ensuring that they all get to their destination, quickly and smoothly, is Simon Grove’s responsibility.
As Group Station Manager for not just Stratford but also North Greenwich, Canning Town and West Ham, Simon has been working with a host of other stakeholders including the Docklands Light Railway, Greater Anglia, British Transport Police and LOCOG, to prepare for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Simon, who has been with London Underground since 1989, has been in the post since June last year. He was previously responsible for an upgrade to the Jubilee Line that has led it to a 40 -year leap in signalling technology, the trains are now controlled by computers so they can run more trains closer together safely.
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He said: “This is vital with increasing numbers of passengers using the Tube. We are now running a train on the Jubilee line every two minutes at peak times. This system is now being introduced on three other lines.”
In his words, it has been a case of “foot down on the accelerator” since he arrived at Stratford station. Two months after he joined, the extension of the DLR from Canning Town to Stratford International was delivered resulting in more passengers – and then a month later Westfield opened, bringing even more customers to Stratford from much further afield .
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“We have taken the unprecedented crowds of customers that are going to Westfield and have used that to start to build this into an event management function.
“When Westfield opened, on the first full Saturday we had 100,000 more people than on a normal Saturday.”
He said it made them think about their routing strategy.
A new northern ticket hall taking people to the heart of Westfield will also feed spectators to the Olympic Park and direct them back to their homeward trains when it becomes one way as events end.
Other visible preparations include magenta signs for the Olympic Park which were used during the recent test of the Olympics venues during the weekend of May 5 and 6. Although the Games themselves are still some weeks away, there are already some 8-9,000 people working on the Olympics venues so the signs are staying up.
Simon said: “There is a clear routing strategy for the different times of the day because in addition to the Olympics demand there will be the demand from our normal passengers. We are trying to create a routing structure that supports all these.
“There are three general times: there is the start up to 11am - to allow people to enter through the station to get to the Olympic Park and the routing through Stratford for our normal passengers.
“From 11am to 7pm, depending on event timings, the station will change to a different routing system as we’ll be supporting Westfield customers and the Olympics crowds. Then some of our exits will become one way only.
“From 7pm onwards, the Olympic Park will be emptying and people will all be leaving to go home so our routing strategy and signage will all be supporting that.”
During the Games the station will be in direct contact with the venues which will tell them when they are full and when the events have concluded.
In the recent test, station staff received regular updates telling them exactly when there were 5,000, and then 10,000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium. Once they knew the majority of the spectators were in, they switched the magenta signs around to get the station ready for when all the spectators were leaving. When an event ends, people want to leave immediately.
They also found out that 70 per cent of the spectators only entered the venue in the last 90 minutes, confirming previous experiences at other events.
His confidence that the transport hub at and around Stratford will cope with the expected numbers is based on sustained and methodical preparations for the Olympics.
The major milestone of the recent test has no doubt bolstered Simon’s confidence.
Simon said: “The legacy of all this is collaboration: For Stratford, the regional station, it will be business as usual during the Games. That’s our baseline. We have these relationships with each other and what we are doing is taking them and building an Olympics plan on top of them. Our collaborative plan is working well, and now we are just running it faster.”
Simon is quietly confident that the collaborative relationships will help deliver, from a transport point of view, a smooth Olympics.
As an example of the preparations, he says: “On Day 7 of the Olympics, we know that at 10am there will be 80,000 in the Olympic Stadium; we know that at 9am there will be 12,000 seated in the Basketball arena, and at 9.30am there will be 6,000 seated in the Handball venue and at 8.30 there will 15,000 seated for the Hockey. That schedule will drive what this station does.”
Simon already knows that there will be 50 members of staff dotted throughout station to help direct passengers - on a normal, non Olympic day there are just eight.