Bus strike unlikely during Olympics Games - chief

LONDON Fri Jul 6, 2012 10:45pm IST

Passengers on a tour bus look up at the Olympic rings attached to the walkways over Tower Bridge in central London, June 26, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Passengers on a tour bus look up at the Olympic rings attached to the walkways over Tower Bridge in central London, June 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - London's transport chief believes a bus strike is unlikely during this month's Olympics despite an unresolved dispute over bonuses for drivers, Peter Hendy said on Friday.

Hendy, commissioner at London's public transport authority Transport for London (TfL), also said it was not his intention to catch motorists out with the 109-mile Olympic Route Network (ORN) and its more restrictive 30 miles of Games Lanes.

The capital's distinctive red double and single-decker buses carry about 6.5 million passengers a day on frequently log-jammed roads.

They will play a major part in the TfL's agenda to get people out of their cars and on to public transport during the Games which start on July 27.

Bus drivers have already held a 24-hour strike over a demand for an extra 500 pounds to compensate for the stress of working during the Games, pointing to other pay deals agreed with London's rail staff.

"I think it is very unlikely," Hendy told Reuters when asked about the chances of a strike during the Olympics.

Talks began this week after the TfL stepped in with an offer on top of that made by the private sector bus employers.

"The bus staff in London are very reasonable and decent people and I think they are as excited as everybody else to have the Olympics in London," Hendy said.

TfL is also urging Londoners who do not go away on their summer holidays to work from home or change their working hours.

Combined with a drop in the number of regular tourists, they hope to produce a 30 percent drop in transport use during peak times, leaving room for the anticipated extra three million daily journeys.

Hendy said businesses were getting the message to plan ahead even if some had yet to pass the information on to staff.

"Our encouragement to them is now is the time, you can't leave it any longer," he said.

TfL is also trying to get to small businesses who are unlikely to plan in advance by knocking on doors and placing leaflets in cash and carry stores.

TRAFFIC MOVING

Hendy denied road markings and signage for the ORN and Games Lanes would confuse motorists, adding he was not interested in fining people but on getting traffic moving smoothly.

Games Lanes are designed to only ferry the 82,000 athletes, VIPs, officials, sponsors and media and come into operation two days before the Olympics start.

"It is quite clear to me already that from the markings we have put down without all the signage that people can very clearly see what's there and I don't think people will be confused," Hendy said.

TfL, conscious of the pressure on an ageing and overcrowded public transport network, has been encouraging people to don their cycling helmets and peddle to venues.

It has an ambitious target of increasing the number cycling and walking by 16 percent, even though one report suggested the figure might be nearer five percent.

Hendy denied the wet British summer weather would put people off getting on their bikes.

"Most people are quite used to walking and cycling in the rain," he said. "I do both.

"The weather is not off-putting, I mean the weather that puts people off is snow and ice in January and February, not rain in July."

Hendy said there was adequate cycling provision at every stadium even though the self-service "Boris bike" hire scheme does not reach the Olympic Park in east London.

"My understanding is that every venue has what the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) and London 2012 believe to be the right amount of cycle parking," he said.

It would be impossible to have Boris bikes in the Olympic Park because of logistical problems, he added, reassuring cyclists that the nearest self-service hire stands were about 12 minutes' walk away.

About 40 miles of cycle ways and pedestrian routes have been installed, Hendy added.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby)

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