Many thanks for that introduction Jo (Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Exec London First), I’m delighted to be here today (30 November 2011).
With the clock ticking, and the 2012 opening ceremony edging ever closer, this is an important event.
So a big thank-you to London First, to TfL and to everyone who’s helped organise it.
Getting the transport right
Beyond doubt the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will give sport in this country a once in a generation boost.
They will be our nation’s global shop window, our golden opportunity to showcase the best of Britain.
And that’s why we simply have to make them a success - make them the very best they can be.
But delivering success in 2012 isn’t just about fantastic venues or British athletes winning medals.
It’s also about getting the transport right.
And I say that, not just because I am the Transport Secretary, but because I am also a London MP and, like so many of us here today, I depend on the tubes, trains and roads that serve and support our capital.
Just like my constituents - and just like millions of others - the commuters; the mums and dads taking their kids to school; the people going shopping or just visiting friends and family, London’s transport networks are part and parcel of my working and personal life.
I understand that the journey to work and the journey home again can shape your entire day, for better or for worse.
And I know that, at times, the daily commute can be pretty long and stressful as it is, before the additional pressures the Olympics will bring.
So my message to you is this - I get it. I know just how much transport will matter in 2012 - for everyone.
A city open for business
It’s precisely because of this that we’ve invested some £6.5 billion in upgrading and extending transport links, to increase capacity, enhance resilience and improve services.
This ambitious modernisation programme is already providing an impressive transport legacy:
- the upgraded North London line - with new, higher frequency, more reliable trains
- the extension of the East London line and the DLR to Woolwich and to Stratford International
- the high speed Javelin service from St Pancras to Stratford Station
- and new and improved walking and cycling routes to the Olympic Park, and to other venues, inside and outside London
All these transport projects, and more, will still be delivering benefits years into the future.
But they also mean that London will be ready and able to be a world-class host next summer - a city that’s open for business in a country that’s open for business.
I do understand the scale of that challenge.
Without any question we face a big test. Indeed the proof is there in the transport heat-maps that TfL are publishing today.
Even with the investment and the improvements, the stress and strain placed on our transport system will be unprecedented.
Daily, up to 800,000 spectators and 55,000 athletes, officials, organisers and members of the media will be travelling to and from the Olympic venues.
And, while, on an average London workday 24 million trips take place, on the busiest Games’ day an extra 3 million trips could be added to that total.
What does that mean in practical terms for companies, for employers and for the travelling public, Londoners going about their business?
Well, it means that at various times on key transport routes there are going to be a lot more people travelling… which, in turn, means there will be transport pinch points and travel hotspots.
What it doesn’t mean is that London will grind to a standstill.
Yes, I acknowledge that, come the Games, we will have to think about how we can work differently and travel differently.
But, equally, I believe that if we all plan ahead, then we will keep London and the rest of Britain moving next summer.
Actually I am already struck by just how much planning is already in place.
I was over with Peter (Hendy) last week, looking at how TfL are using new techniques to manage traffic on the network.
They will have monitoring on a scale never seen before - really sophisticated models of where queues are likely to arise and how to get traffic flowing again.
So when it comes to a transport legacy for London, I think this understanding of how to cope with so many extra visitors is a really big deal - something that will have benefits for years to come.
But we should also take advantage of the other opportunities that could arise.
Some firms may want to use the Games as an opportunity to think about how and when they get their deliveries or despatch their goods.
Other businesses might see this as an ideal chance to make much more use of communications technologies like video and tele-conferencing.
And some organisations could grab the opportunity to trial new ways of working - whether it’s their staff working from home on some days, or coming in at more flexible times on others.
For those individuals travelling for work or for leisure, the period during the Games could be their chance to try a different route, stagger their journey time or work more flexibly.
For those who live near work, or travel short distances within central London, it could even be the excuse they need to cycle or walk part of their journey, or maybe even all of it.
Giving a lead, working in partnership
No doubt, planning ahead can therefore help you meet the 2012 transport challenge.
But it can also help you to adapt and evolve and, in doing so, make the most of the very real opportunities the Games will bring to London, its people and its businesses.
And that’s what our transport strategy, and this event, are all about.
Making sure you have the information and tools, the advice and the options you need to get from A to B, to run your businesses and to do your jobs.
And, of course, government has to give a lead and set an example.
So my department recently ran a trial to reduce its travel footprint, during which people managed to positively change 69% of their commuting and business travel, while still getting their work done.
And I’m pleased to say that, next February, departments right across Whitehall will be following suit.
During the Games themselves the DfT is committed to shrinking our travel footprint by half.
We’re working right now with staff to make sure we achieve that by changing our commuting, business and visitor travel, as well as our deliveries and collections.
And, as I say, it’s right that we do these things. Because, we don’t simply have a responsibility to work and communicate with key players like those of you here today, we must also play our part to lessen demand, ease overcrowding and minimise disruption.
But partnership matters too.
It’s vital that we all work together to meet the 2012 transport challenge… central government and local government, the Mayor and TfL, LOCOG and the ODA, the business community and transport providers.
All of us doing our bit - 100% committed to keeping this city running and thriving during the Games.
I am certainly going to do what I can - getting the message across, working alongside businesses and taking the decisions that will keep London and Londoners moving.
For example, rather than having an M4 Games lane that nobody else can use for the entire Olympics, the decision I’ve taken is that we will have a flexible lane.
When it’s needed for Games family traffic, it will be used for that, and shared with buses, taxis and coaches. But when it’s not needed, we’ll switch it off and it will be open to the whole public.
Something else I’ll be doing is to encourage other MPs in the capital to make sure their constituencies are ready for the challenge that awaits.
Using their local knowledge and their local networks, MPs are uniquely placed to inform and advise their local communities and employers about what they can expect and what they can do to make things run smoothly.
And so Peter and I will be holding a comprehensive briefing for MPs after Parliament returns from the holidays, making sure the wealth of information and advice that is being prepared gets to the people who need to know it.
Look at next year’s Games through the prism of transport and it soon becomes clear that the challenge we face is real and it is significant.
But I am convinced it’s a challenge that can be met.
The test we face is tough.
But, with planning, preparation and partnership we can keep our capital and our country moving; we can stage a Games to remember; and we can do Britain proud.