London 2012: Olympics road restrictions begin amid confusion

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Media captionAbout 30 miles of "Games Lanes" on roads into London's main Olympic venues are closed to the public

Drivers in London say they are confused by new road restrictions designed to help the movement of Olympic athletes.

Starting from 06:00 BST, a £130 fine has become enforceable for drivers and cyclists driving in the Games Lanes.

Transport for London (TfL) advised drivers to follow the electronic road signs while Locog said the lanes had allowed athletes to reach the venues.

However, puzzled drivers said some lanes were open to all traffic while some signs seemed to be conflicting.

About 25% of the 30 miles of Games Lanes in London, which are intended to let athletes, Olympic officials and the media move quickly around the city, are now active.

The lanes are part of the 109-mile Olympic Route Network (ORN) where restrictions apply from 06:00 BST until midnight.

A TfL spokeswoman said the lanes were intended to be "flexible" according to traffic needs and up-to-date advice was available on the electronic message signs.

TfL is monitoring the lanes using CCTV cameras and added that traffic was down by 13.5% across all roads in central and inner London so far.

A spokesperson said: "Drivers did face queues during this morning's rush hour on the main roads coming into London including the A4, A12, A13 and A40 although these were generally shorter than earlier in the week, indicating that many drivers have heeded advice to avoid driving into central London.

"Compliance levels among drivers have been high."

Earlier there were delays on several roads including the M4, the A4 and the A40 in west London; the A12 at the Lea Interchange and A13 Canning Town Flyover in east London; and in central London at Hyde Park Corner and Euston Road.

But the traffic returned to normal on most roads before midday, with the exception of those leading up to the Hammersmith flyover where vehicles are restricted to one lane, BBC London's travel desk reports.

Many commuters and motorists complained they were confused by the changes.

On Twitter, Jon Mack asked: "Could this be less clear?"

The BBC's Chris Lansdown said that on the A40 eastbound near the Hanger Lane underpass in west London, a blue sign by the roadside told drivers that the Games Lanes were being enforced, but a matrix sign advised motorists they could use the reserved lane.

He said: "It was already causing a tailback at 06:45."

Stephen Sitaram, a lorry driver from Hillingdon, said navigating the Hanger Lane roundabout was challenging as one lane was "coned off" and the Games Lane started some distance down the road, leading to a traffic build-up.

He said people joining the A40 were guided by notices saying Games Lanes were in operation, but there were no digital signs clarifying whether or not they were activated until drivers reached Marylebone Road.

Mr Sitaram said: "They are making it confusing. They should have illuminated signs rather than sticker signs. If you join in halfway, you don't know... that's why a lot of traffic is building up."

Paul Camp said he was stuck in an "unnecessary traffic jam" for 40 minutes on Euston Road as people were wary of using the Games Lane.

He said: "You know there is chaos because the lane is empty while we sit in the traffic, but the digital sign was saying all traffic can use it.

"People are thinking the sign may be wrong and hasn't been changed."

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Media captionWendy Hurrell in the BBC London travel centre explains who can drive where

BBC London 94.9 reporter Jason Rosam said motorists on Marylebone Road were sticking to just one lane as they "don't realise the former bus lane is now open to all traffic", despite signs on the road saying so.

Contrary to the misery expressed by motorists, some cyclists seemed happy about the change.

Scott McMillan tweeted: "If London can give up some road lanes for the Olympics, it can give them up for good. After the Games, turn them into cycle lanes."

Leon Daniels, TfL's managing director of surface transport, said people accidentally straying into the lanes would not automatically incur a fine.

He said: "We don't want enforcement, we want compliance. Nobody will be harshly dealt with if the Games Lane becomes activated after they pass it."

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "Motorists will clearly take some time to adjust to new road layouts and the Games Lanes.

"With the Olympic opening ceremony now just a couple of days away, London's transformation into a massive sporting and cultural venue is virtually complete.

"As a result, at times our roads will be exceptionally busy."

Debbie Jevans, Locog's director of sport, said: "The traffic has moved, the Olympic lanes have worked well this morning and athletes have gone to the venues and are training as they have been for a week now."

The Games organiser's director of communications, Jackie Brock-Doyle, said: "London is moving well this morning."

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: "There will be a lot of disruption and London is a congested city anyway."

Cat Kobylinski, from traffic information firm Inrix, said journeys into London from Heathrow took "more than twice the normal length of time" and "congestion doubled" between Waterloo and London Bridge.

TfL has urged people to avoid driving into central London and near the venues and warned that roads within the North Circular and the South Circular were likely to be badly affected.

More information can be found on the Olympic "Get Ahead of the Games" website.

Live travel updates can also be found online from the Highways Agency and on BBC London 94.9.

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