Friday, April 22, 2011

London is not ready...

Not by a long shot.
A bit more than a year out from the biggest logistical challenge London has faced since the Battle of Britain, what is painfully clear to even the casual observer is just how "not ready" this city is to host the Olympics.

Tourists tend to praise London's public transit system. Before I lived here I would regularly lament the failings of the Chicago Transit Authority and the San Francisco BART and MUNI systems, wishing they could "be more like the trains in London."

I take it all back.

To the ELevated trains of Chicago's Red Line I humbly beg your forgiveness. To my beloved BART and MUNI trains from SF Civic Center station, I take every sarcastic remark I ever made, chew and swallow them. You are marvels of urban engineering and models of efficiency compared to "the Tube".

I now know why as a visitor, I always thought. London Transport worked so well. For the most part, visitors only really use the tube in Central London (zones 1 or 2).  Also tourists usually are not on trains at Rush Hour. Around 6pm they're at their hotels getting ready to go out to dinner or theaters/clubs in the West End.

London Trains seem to do pretty well if all you need is to get from Earls Court to Leicester Square during off-peak travel times. Beyond that? It's one big game of "signal failure roulette".

Let's pause here for just a moment to address that great all-purpose excuse for any major problem with trains in and around  greater London...

"Signal Failure".

Back in the 1970's on the now legendary British scifi TV show "Doctor Who", whenever actor Jon Pertwee couldn't pronounce a particularly technical phrase in the script; he'd substitute the phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow", in place of whatever it was he didn't want to try to say.

I'm convinced "signal failure" is London Transport's version of this. I moved to London on April 8th, and EVERY DAY I have been here, there has been an announcement of "signal failure" at one or more points on the Train System.

So as stand writing this on my blackberry in the stifling heat of yet another idled Jubilee line train; I can't help but pose the question:

If London can't manage to keep its train running through an average rush hour commute, how on earth will this city cope with the world's biggest sporting event?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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