All good things must come to an end, even the London 2012 Games. But after the Closing Ceremony on 12 August, a huge crowd of international visitors will be leaving the United Kingdom, straining the city’s transport system.
Heathrow Airport is poised for its own Olympic record as it expects 13
August to be possibly the busiest day the airport has ever handled. Passenger
volume may break its single-day record of 236,955
passengers on 24 July 2012 -- double the airport’s average for this summer.
To cope, Heathrow has built a temporary Games Terminal, separate from
its permanentterminals, to handle the 10,100 athletes and Games officials, and
their 37,900 bags.
This temporary structure is outfitted with 31 check-in desks and seven
security lanes. Once athletes and officials pass through check-in and security,
they’ll be taken by bus to the permanent departure terminals. The Games Terminal,
set up in a car park, will be open for three days starting 13 August.
Ordinary travellers will use the permanent terminals, as usual, but the airport has trained 1,000 volunteers from local communities to help
spectators get where they need to go. Travellers taking international flights are encouraged
to arrive at the airport three hours ahead of departure.
Travellers should also
consider printing out boarding passes ahead of time to speed up the check-in process,
and should remember the rules about packing liquids and electronics in carry-on and hand luggage.
Of course, navigating the
airport crowds is only part of the journey, and not everyone will depart by
plane. Since the true London 2012
exodus begins the moment each traveller steps outside their hotel, here are a
few key pieces of advice to help make the easiest exit
The subway network, known as the Tube, will be congested and
may break the all-time usage record of
4.31 million passengers set on 2 August 2012. That said, service has been relatively good throughout the Games, so that bodes well for departure day. In general, add an extra 20% on
to the amount of time you would ordinarily give to get from point to point.
Mobile users can
sign up for free transport and traffic alerts by visiting the Transport for London website,
and laptop users can plan their journey with the Get Ahead of the Games website. Crowding can also mean
warmer-than-usual conditions -- carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
If you are travelling to the airport, take rail options instead of a
taxi or the Tube, if possible. Both Gatwick and Heathrow have express rail
lines from downtown, namely the Gatwick Express departing from Victoria Station
and the Heathrow Express departing
from Paddington Station, both of which will be less prone to gridlock than the
motorways and the Tube. For other UK airports,
National Rail offers train service that is speedier than road
travel. All of these services sell tickets online, so plan and book your travel in
Travelling by Eurostar
to destinations on the
Continent? Remember that the Eurostar station at St Pancras International does
passport checks prior
to departure, which can surprise travellers expecting the customs process to
take place at arrival. Arrive 10 minutes earlier than you ordinarily would for
a Eurostar train to allow time for long queues.
After the Games, cross-channel
ferry operators will be providing full service to multiple destinations in France, such as Calais and Le Havre. Remember
that ferry terminals, such
as at Dover and Portsmouth, will be busy and advance booking online is recommended. Several
companies provide services, and you can get a sampling of them at booking site FerrySavers.com.
Bus service connects London’s
Victoria Coach Station to points in downtown Paris and other European cities, and
can be booked online through Megabus, Eurolines and iDBUS.