The ability of London’s public transport to meet the demands of the 2012 Olympics was called into question yesterday as World Travel Market delegates struggled to reach the venue.
Exhibitors and delegates driving to the first day of WTM saw their journey times double as traffic snarled up, while those taking the train were forced off at Canning Town due to a signal failure and asked to take replacement buses to ExCeL.
Turkey culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay was 25 minutes late for an 11am press conference due to traffic and fears congestion could be an issue for the London 2012 Olympics in nearby Stratford.
He added: “It is obvious traffic will pose a problem. I thought Istanbul was bad enough, but having come to London I see the problem isn’t any different here.”
However, tourism chiefs speaking at the Tourism Question Time debate maintained London’s transport system would be ready for 2012.
O2 Arena chief executive Phil Beard, who was on the bidding committee, said: “Getting around was a challenge in Beijing. I am confident London will be straightforward.”
VisitBritain chief executive Tom Wright said problems getting to ExCeL yesterday were mainly down to bad luck. By the time the Olympics start, there will be around 13 transport links to the site, using road, rail, high-speed rail and the underground, he said.
“Most readers will know that London transport moves a huge volume of people each day. Inevitably there are going to be hiccups. It’s unfortunate it’s happened on the first morning of WTM,” he added.
VisitLondon interim chief executive Sally Chatterjee assured delegates the disabled would be catered for. She said: “The London Development Agency is looking at transport accessibility and new measures will be in place by 2012.
- Tourism minister Barbara Follett apologised to delegates for the transport chaos during a speech on Tuesday
* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008