Caledonian Couriers is a proud supporter of the Commonwealth Games. While we can’t wait for the games to begin, we also recognise that the city faces an unprecedented logistical challenge. In this post, we’ll examine how Glasgow will cope with the estimated one million extra visitors attracted by Scotland’s biggest ever sporting and cultural event.
With the city besieged by more-than-double its native population, the challenge is not only to make it easy for eager spectators to get to the 13 different sporting venues, but to ensure that the 4500 athletes, as well as their coaches and support network, arrive before them. According Glasgow 2014 Chief Executive John Scott, organisers ‘aim to get athletes to all of the Glasgow venues within 20 minutes of the Athletes’ Village, so they spend their time competing, and not commuting’.
To make matters even more hectic, the city will host three major road events: the Marathon (Sunday 27 July), the Cycling Time Trial (Thursday 31 July) and the Cycling Road Race (Sunday 3 August). Adding to the potential chaos, various festivals will run concurrently to the games, all under the aegis of Culture 2014: the Merchant City Festival, BBC at the Quay, Glasgow Green Live Zone and a series of shows at the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand.
Quite the challenge. The importance of a smooth-running transport plan cannot be overemphasised. So, how on earth is the Glasgow 2014 team planning to avoid huge congestion?
Route-ing for Glasgow
One of the main ways the organisers will avoid gridlock is by creating a 20km-long Game Route Network, which will be used by everyone working behind the scenes and will include the Core Route Network, which is specifically for athletes. Mr Scott said: ‘Games Route Networks have proved time and again at both Olympic and Commonwealth Games that they are essential to ensuring athletes will reach their destination on time.’
The best part is that this new infrastructure will not be temporary. The majority of the network will be converted into priority bus lanes, with new bus shelters and improved traffic lights.
A Car-Free Attitude
To combat congestion for spectators, and for environmental reasons, organisers are pushing for Glasgow 2014 to be the ‘public transport games’, with perhaps half a million extra journeys expected every day. While park-and-ride will be available at many venues, parking restrictions will see drivers facing a 20-minute walk from their car to the venue. Only Blue Badge holders will be allowed to park on-site.
To encourage spectators to abandon their cars, public transport will be free for ticket-holders. Of course one million extra bums-on-seats will put a huge strain on public transport. In response, Scotrail has drafted in extra trains from the rest of Scotland and North of England, much to the umbrage of commuters in these regions, and will limit the number of carriages-per-service. The subway will be open two extra hours, closing at 1.30am instead of 11.30pm. Finally, First Bus will also be a running number of dedicated shuttle buses, with their regular services facing occasional diversions.
An Amber Light
Glasgow 2014 has come under heavy criticism recently for not making enough of an effort to publicise their offer of free public transport for ticket-holders. Only the most observant game-goers will be able to spot the relevant blurb in the small print on the back of their tickets.
Even then the wording is abstruse: ‘You may use available travel services in certain areas, on the date printed on your ticket, to travel to sessions without additional charge’.Meanwhile, the accompanying Guide to the XX Commonwealth Games takes six pages to mention the free public transport arrangement.
Policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, Neil Greig, emphasised the importance of free public transport, calling it, ‘key to the success of the event’, and complained, ‘there is very little about it on the tickets’. Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, agreed: ‘Sadly, it seems our visitors will still be at a loss about the public transport provision, and the city’s residents won’t see the investment in sustainable, affordable, reliable transport that Glasgow so badly needs’.
A Red Light
If that weren’t enough, it now looks as if First Bus engineers and Subway staff are to be balloted over potential strike action, with unions angry over the extra work entailed by the games. A statement from First Group said these developments had made them ‘extremely surprised and disappointed’.
A spokeswoman for SPT, meanwhile, said, ‘Subway staff requested to work additional hours will be paid in line with their current terms and conditions,’ and expressed puzzlement that ‘certain staff are being balloted for possible industrial action as they have not been requested to work additional hours during the Games’.
Game Off and On
There is still more than enough time for the Glasgow 2014 team to get the word out there about free public transport, but any strike action would be out of their control. With all their hard work and ingenuity in devising their transport plan, it would be a shame for Glasgow 2014 to fall at the final hurdle.