Despite being told to bloody well harden up and get a smile on their faces by their buffoonish Mayor, Boris Johnson, one cannot help but notice that the folk of old London town are not all overflowing with Olympic spirit. Rather than hanging out the bunting and welcoming the world with open arms, my fellow countrymen are getting in some last minute practise at the one event which we always lead the world: whinging.
And the source of their ire is this: the 2012 Olympics are turning out to be rather popular. Now you might think that given the build up has not run the smoothest course – British weather has been typically ‘seasonal’, G4S has made a monkey’s breakfast of security and the proletariat are winkling up the cobblestones over the surface to air missiles parked in their window boxes – the locals would be delighted that the sports fans of the world are rolling up in their droves, but no. It seems that having a few extra people knocking around is causing a bit of congestion and this simply will not do.
However it would be wrong to dismiss this as simple Pommie whining, xenophobia or small mindedness. The problem is rather more to do with the way the congestion is being caused – Olympic lanes.
Mindful of the potential for a public relations disaster that would be caused if every event was delayed by 30 minutes due to the near gridlock that passes for traffic flow inside the M25, the London Olympic team has decided to set aside 50km of roadway exclusively for the use of those associated with the games. So while a handful of athletes and officials will get a comparatively free ride, the millions who call London home will have to struggle by on buses, trains and 50 km less roadway. All of which causes a bit of offence to the British sense of fair play.
Still the world isn’t fair and the good people of London would do well to remember this, because if the powers that be have any sense the lanes will remain in place long after the games have been forgotten. Everyone talks about the importance of these large events leaving a legacy on their host cities and the presence of a restricted transit option could fund London’s coffers from here to eternity.
The human being is an incredibly resourceful creature and by the time the Olympics are over Londoners will have become more than accustomed to making their way around in spite of the new lanes. So why not simply keep them and charge a select band of very rich people a small fortune to have unfettered access to the capital?
Despite the woes of the banking sector, the City of London still has a pretty high density of incredibly wealthy individuals, many of which would pay handsomely for the promise of rapid, private, luxurious transport. Money which could be pumped back into flash buses, ferries and rolling stock to make life that little bit more pleasant for the rest of the worker ants.
And it’s a plan we could easily adopt here in Auckland by introducing a charging policy on the northern bus lane. It may not take much to convince city bigwigs that a lifestyle block just north of Albany is a sensible move if the infrastructure allowed them to bypass the herd on the way to the office every morning. The big smoke has some big plans when it comes to travel and if using our resources to eek a bit of cash from those that can most afford it will lessen the burden – even a little bit – for the average taxpayer, then it must be an option worth considering?
After all, while we may spend the next few weeks going for gold, with the prospect of a total bill approaching $70 billion, going for gold coin should also be a priority.