Whitehall civil sevants working from home? What do they know that we don’t?
By conjuring up images of London becoming overwhelmed with visitors and by constantly warning about potential traffic problems, Boris Johnson and his City Hall colleagues successfully convinced people to keep out of the capital during the Olympics.
This was achieved by a combination of countless temporary road signs which advised motorists to avoid the city during the Games and the provision of controversial Zil lanes reserved for Olympic dignitaries.
Then of course there were Mayor Boris’s own jaunty public Tannoy announcements that told travellers about ‘huge pressure’ on the transport network and booming: ‘Don’t get caught out. Get online and plan your journey.’
It took just 72 hours after the Olympics began for it to become clear that a calamitous error had been made and that London had turned into a ghost city.
The truth is that the much-trumpeted economic boost from the Olympics seems to be a mirage. How different the reality is from Tony Blair’s bombastic declaration in 2005 that this would be ‘a once-in-an-era opportunity for British tourism’.
In panic, Mr Johnson ordered the traffic warnings to be turned off and most of the Zil lanes to be opened to all traffic. But the damage had already been done.
Boris and his Transport for London colleagues, though, are not solely responsible for this sabotage of Britain’s economic engine room.
Despite the worst economic crisis for generations, cosseted Whitehall civil servants have been allowed to work from home for six weeks so the poor lambs don’t suffer any travel disruption during the Olympics.
Eery: Shopping centres, such as Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, have seen a distinct lack of shoppers
The truth is that such Armageddon warnings about an extra one million people being in central London simply scared people away. Added to this is the fact that many thousands of disappointed London families who failed to secure tickets for Olympic events via the complicated ballot system decided to book holidays and fled the city.
So what happened to the predictions for a commercial bonanza that would lift Britain out of its rain-sodden, double-dip recession and boost spending?