Xinhua News Agency, Globe's Interview with Wilben Short on 'General Picture of London 2012 Olympic Games Transport and Collaboration Between London and Beijing'. Wilben Short is the Congress Advisor, Head of Transport for London 2012 Olympic Games
(General Picture of London 2012 Olympic Games Transport and Collaboration Between London and Beijing,Globe,431,60-62.)
Interviewed by ZHAO Jinhua, CPN Executive Commissioner
Edited by CHEN Yushan, Congress Organizing Committee
Globe: What has been the biggest challenge in the preparation for London 2012 Olympics Transport?
Wilben: The Games itself is one big challenge! Five years out we are making excellent progress and there is no one thing that keeps me awake at night. One of the most complex challenges is the design and execution of the Olympic Route Network, but I am very comfortable with the progress we (LOCOG, ODA and TfL) have made so far. Our external project reviews have confirmed the quality of the work thus far.
Globe: What is the best achievement so far?
Wilben: Without a doubt, it was the part we in Transport played in winning the bid. You may recall that at the short-listing stage, our transport submission was heavily criticised. By the time of the decision in Singapore, we had convinced the IOC that it was actually a strength!
Globe: What is the biggest uncertainty before 2012?
Wilben: The security environment we will find ourselves in during 2012. Transport and Security are totally inter-linked.
Globe: Any mistakes made and criticisms received?
Wilben: We published the Olympic Transport Plan for consultation last year. We received over 2500 comments from 200 organisations. These responses confirmed that our strategy is sound. We have received some criticism about not being more explicit about our plans for using the river. This was really more of a timing issue. We have been prioritising rail and road transport planning as those were the most critical. Our planning for river, walk and cycle are now well underway.
Globe: One of the key transport strategies for London 2012 Olympic Games is 0% car mode share for spectators except a few spaces reserved for the disabled. How critical is this policy to the success of the whole transport strategy? How do people respond to the policy?
Wilben: Extremely critical. We are really serious about sustainability across all elements of the Games. Under our ¡°One Planet Olympics¡± banner, we are taking a number of steps to ensure that these are the ¡°greenest¡± Games to date. We have set ourselves and our suppliers challenging targets for carbon emissions from vehicles during Games time. We will also be operating a Low Emission Zone at our venues during the Games. Awareness of green issues among the general population continues to increase and the response has been very positive all round.
Globe: Balance between Game-related travel vs. non-Game related travel: to what extent, can we give priority to the game-related travel?
Wilben: The Games are a once in a generation opportunity for London. Making Games transport work is absolutely critical to the success of the Games and London and the U.K. will be the beneficiaries of a successful Games.We will be working with businesses and transport authorities to ensure that London keeps running well during the Games.
Globe: Both Beijing and London will be expanding the transport infrastructure substantially. And many of them will be complete shortly before the Game. Are there concerns that the new service has to perform at its best to meet the heavy demand without much time for it to learn and build up experience?
Wilben: I would say that Beijing is building more transport infrastructure than we are. Much of the infrastructure critical for the London Games (e.g. Jubilee Line Upgrade) was already in progress when we won the bid. Fortunately for us, our infrastructure projects are all on time and will finish more than a year before the Games. I am confident that we will have time to adequately test our transport systems before the Games. In the case of Beijing, BOCOG should find all the possible opportunities to test the new infrastructures and services and even consider creating opportunities to test. Even a test shortly before the Games will be very helpful to build up experiences.
Globe: What are the key differences between Beijing and London in terms of the transport for the Olympic Games?
Wilben: In terms of the outputs, very similar. We both operate under clear requirements from the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee. The main differences arise out of the difference in the two cities¡¯ transport infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. As I said earlier, Beijing is building more infrastructure, including a new airport and new metro lines. In London the work is more around extensions of existing lines (e.g. Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich Arsenal, East London Line) or increases in service frequencies. Beijing has two Media Villages, whereas London is making use of a network of Hotels for media accommodation. Another difference is that the London Organising Committee is privately funded whereas the Beijing Organising Committee is a Government Agency. Some of the transport operators in London are also private sector companies. This means that we in London have to deal with a more complex commercial environment.
Globe: What are specific collaboration between London and China? How effective are these collaborations? What can we learn from each other?
Wilben: I have already made two visits to BOCOG and I was able to benefit from the fact that they are further advanced in their planning¨Cthey have to be! I will be attending the Beijing Test Events later in August to observe and learn from them. We have been able to share our approach to the design of the Olympic Route Network with them.
Globe:Any personal concern and challenges as Head of Transport?
Wilben: I feel very privileged to do the job that I do. I am fortunate to work with extremely competent colleagues in the Olympic Delivery Authority, who is our main delivery partner. I used to work for TfL and I have good relationships there too. Without a doubt, this is the most interesting job I have ever done!
Globe: Would you please give us a favourite picture of Olympics Transport that we can attach with the interview.
Wilben: The Javelin. It is a perfect example of our value-for-money approach.
Globe: What will be the one thing that you want to the world to remember about the London 2012 transport?
Wilben: Please allow me two things. Firstly that transport is not mentioned at all during the Games, only as an afterthought because everything worked so well. I would also like us to be remembered for the contribution we made to transport for people with disabilities through our role as catalysts for the enhancement of accessible infrastructure and for the improved awareness amongst transport providers across all modes of the requirements of people with disabilities.