London is less than six months away from hosting the biggest sporting event in the world. The Olympic and Paralympic Games, which run from July 27 - August 12 and August 29 - September 9 respectively, will attract nearly 15,000 athletes, 11 million spectators, 4,000 technical officials, and more than 20,000 media.

Ben Plowden, Director of Surface Planning at Transport for London (TfL) advises SMEs on how to prepare for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

London is less than six months away from hosting the biggest sporting event in the world. The Olympic and Paralympic Games, which run from July 27 - August 12 and August 29 - September 9 respectively, will attract nearly 15,000 athletes, 11 million spectators, 4,000 technical officials, and more than 20,000 media.

TfL is already working with hundreds of small businesses to help them prepare for the logistical challenges presented by the Games and, as a result, employers across the country are well advanced with their travel action plans. However there are still SMEs in Games transport ‘hotspot’ areas which are yet to develop an action plan. There’s still time, but SMEs need to act fast if they are to keep their organisations running smoothly this summer.

Hosting two events on the size and scale of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will undoubtedly bring with it certain challenges. It’s anticipated that an additional three million journeys will be made on London’s public transport network on the busiest days of the Games, against a backdrop of 12million journeys made on an average working day. While centred on the capital, the Games will be a celebration for the nation as a whole, with events happening in venues across the country including Cardiff, Coventry, Eton Dorney, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, and Weymouth & Portland. Although transport will be significantly busier than usual, advance planning in all these areas will allow businesses to prepare and profit from the Games.





Preparation is key for a good performance

One way for SMEs to get ahead of the games is to develop a Travel Demand Management (TDM) action plan and test it before the Games begin. To kick off your TDM plan you simply need to identify where the hotspots are, talk to your staff and look at delivery schedules which could be impacted. By planning ahead, firms will be able to pin-point which areas of their business may be affected - for example, how employees travel to and from work during the Games period, or how often their organisation receives deliveries - and put processes in place to mitigate potential issues.

TfL is already working with more than 600 SMEs on developing an action plan for their business. If you are interested in finding out what support might be available for your organisation, use the free tools or email with details of where your business is located and how many staff you employ. Free workshops are available for businesses based in areas set to be most impacted by the London 2012 Games, and TfL is also running hundreds of free workshops both inside and outside the capital specifically for freight operators and their customers.

If you can’t attend a workshop, one of the first steps an SME can take to plan ahead is to check if their business is in an affected area. Bespoke maps on can be used to identify the impact on the road and public transport networks in specific locations, day-by-day. For example, if you own a retail business in south west London, you may want to focus on the first weekend of the Games. The men’s cycling road race takes place in this area on July 28, with the women’s race the following day, and means that certain roads in the area will be subject to closures and public transport will be busier than usual. Even if your firm is based outside of the capital, it is still worth consulting the website as maps and information are available for all competition venues across the UK.







Employees - an important asset

To keep your small business running during the Games, it is essential to consider whether your staff could reduce the number of journeys they make, re-route their journey to avoid Games transport ‘hotspots’, re-time it so they’re avoiding the road and public transport networks at peak times or re-mode their journey by, for example, walking or cycling part or all of the way. 

To reduce staff travel, consider encouraging individuals to work from home where possible. If a policy isn’t in place, draw up guidance and, if possible, provide facilities for home working. This could range from supplying VPN software or laptops, to setting up extra conference call lines. If possible, liaise with your IT department or supplier to review these facilities and ensure remote working solutions are tested to iron out any issues before the Games begin. 

You could also consider advising employees to arrange non-essential meetings before or after the Games, or in between the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Alternatively ask them to consider substituting face to face meetings with other methods such as conference calls, video or web conferencing, thereby reducing the need for travel.

Encourage employees to re-route. For example, any employees that use the Central or Jubilee lines - key routes to a lot of competition venues - should consider altering their route so they avoid congestion at the busier Tube stations during peak times. Alternatively, encourage employees to re-time their journeys so they can avoid peak travel times. Consider whether your business could benefit from allowing core staff to work flexibly during Games time. Perhaps change shift patterns or stagger start times so employees can avoid congestion at the busiest times and places on the transport network.

Another way for employees to reduce their travel on the transport network is to re-mode their journey. This could involve getting off the tube a few stops early and walking the remainder of the journey. Other ways to re-mode include cycling, jogging or using the Thames Clippers. These are high speed catamarans which take passengers from London Bridge to Canary Wharf in less than ten minutes.

Work with employees on making changes to the way they travel during Games time. Encourage them to visit or follow the @GAOTG Twitter feed where they can receive the latest tips, travel information and advice on how to plan ahead and avoid the travel hotspots. TfL has also devised a journey planner for the road network during Games time which advises motorists of the additional time they will need to allow for any journeys that have to be made by car.







Deliveries, servicing and contractors

A separate, but equally important section of a TDM action plan is to consider your firm’s requirements for deliveries, servicing and contractors. As with employee travel, TfL is advising firms in Games transport ‘hotspot’ areas to consider how these deliveries and servicing activities can be reduced, re-routed, re-timed or re-moded.

TfL is running a specific Freight Advice Programme for freight operators and their customers, with hundreds of free workshops being run nationwide until the end of April. As well as a full schedule of workshops available in London, there will be multiple sessions held in areas such as Cardiff, Slough, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Southampton, which have a significant concentration of businesses supplying London or are in Games travel hotspots.

If a business or their delivery partner cannot attend a workshop, there is plenty of information online to help them plan for the Games period so they can keep running smoothly. For example, alongside providing road ‘hotspot’ maps for each day of the Games, TfL has made data available which allows businesses to check whether their postcode, or any they deliver to, will be affected.

If your business is on or near the Olympic Route Network (ORN) or a venue then you and your staff will need to allow extra time to travel and there may also be changes to loading and parking bays which will impact on deliveries. Work with your suppliers now to make them aware of your needs during the Games, understand any changes to normal operations that they may be planning, and ensure that you both make the most of the opportunities that the Games will present. 

One way to reduce non-essential deliveries is to consider stockpiling non-perishable goods for example printer cartridges, toner, paper and toilet roll before the Olympic and Paralympic Games begin. For goods that cannot be delivered in advance of the Games, plan to supply or receive them outside of spectator peak times so, earlier in the morning, later in the evening or even overnight, if possible. And if storage space is tight, consider using someone else’s space (for example in a basement parking area) which can be shared as a storeroom to stock up on non-perishable items.