London 2012: are the city's railways ready?

By William Turvill, MSN UK News AP Photo, Charlie Riedel
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How London's main railway stations are preparing for the Games

Millions of extra people are predicted to visit London over the next few weeks. Along with the many athletes taking part in the 2012 Games, tourists from around the world will be arriving to watch the events and explore the capital. We've been out and about to see how London's big railway stations are getting ready for the Games. We've checked out their preparations and tested their staff. Click through to discover what we found out.

 
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Clapham Junction

Lines connected to: London Overground and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: Clapham Junction offers direct links to Gatwick, Victoria, Waterloo and Stratford and is claimed to be Britain's busiest interchange station.

What is it doing to prepare? Very little. Although it is not on the Underground, it is a very busy station and you would expect more than one small "Get Ahead of the Games" sticker.

Which way to the Lord's Cricket Ground? The station assistant had no idea, but I was successfully directed to Earls Court, just up the Overground Line to West Brompton.

Will it cope? It's an easy station to navigate if you know what you're doing, but it may overwhelm tourists arriving from Gatwick.

 
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Charing Cross

Lines connected to: Bakerloo line, Northern line and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: In addition to the attraction of Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross will also experience an influx of spectators for beach volleyball events at Horse Guards Parade.

What is it doing to prepare? Putting up a lot of signs directing people to Horse Guards Parade.

Which way to the Lord's Cricket Ground? The information desk has a good idea where Horse Guards Parade is, but couldn't tell me the way to Lord's, the Olympic venue for archery.

Will it cope? A small station in a tourist area of London, it may well struggle when 15,000 spectators descend on Horse Guards Parade.

 
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Earl's Court

Lines connected to: District line and Piccadilly line.

London 2012 significance: Home to Earls Court Exhibition Centre, hosting the indoor volleyball events, Earl's Court also links Heathrow and Wimbledon to Central London.

What is it doing to prepare? A lot. The exhibition centre is clearly pointed towards, as are other Olympic venues on the Tube maps, and there are also a number of helpful staff members.

Which way to the Wembley? A member of platform staff had no trouble at all linking me to the main football venue, giving me a free map as well.

Will it cope? The District Line may occasionally have its problems, but Earl's Court is well-equipped to deal with that alongside Heathrow travellers and 18,000 indoor volleyball spectators.

 
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Euston

Lines connected to: Northern line, Victoria, London Overground and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: Euston will likely be a hub for interchanging tourists staying in North London and is also the gateway into London from the north-west of the UK.

What is it doing to prepare? Aside from the Underground pink Olympics posters, the station also has some loud Olympics sponsorship and London 2012 flags near to the tourist information desk.

Which way to the Weymouth? Although there was a queue, the information desk was efficient in telling me I'd need to go on the Northern line down to Waterloo to watch the sailing at Weymouth.

Will it cope? There are not a large number of ticket machines or sales desks at Euston, so queuing could be a problem.

 
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King's Cross and St Pancras

Lines connected to: Circle line, Hammersmith & City line, Metropolitan line, Northern line, Piccadilly line, Victoria, national rail services and international rail services.

London 2012 significance: King's Cross is the main gateway to London from the north-east of the country, while St Pancras is a direct train from both Europe and Stratford International.

What is it doing to prepare? The Underground is, of course, covered in directions to different venues, but there is little to assist in either of the rail stations, other than signs to the Underground.

Which way to the Lee Valley? King's Cross information desk could not tell me and suggested I went across to St Pancras. Here, I was told I'd have to go across to Liverpool Street and get a train.

Will it cope? Two efficiently-run stations with countless entrances to the Underground, it may be a little confusing, but King's Cross St Pancras certainly has the capacity to deal with a lot of passengers.

 
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Liverpool Street

Lines connected to: Central line, Circle line, Hammersmith and City line, Metropolitan line and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: A train stop from the Stratford, and also on the Central Line, Liverpool Street will be a link between the Olympic Park and Central London.

What is it doing to prepare? In addition to an information desk, tourist information desk and plenty of pink 2012 Games signs, Liverpool Street also had people handing out Get Ahead of the Games freebies.

Which way to London ExCel? After a 10-minute queue at the tourist information desk, I was given a Tube map (see picture) with exact directions for how to get to Custom House for ExCel.

Will it cope? Already one of London's busiest stations, with 211,598 average weekday passengers, the Games will stretch Liverpool Street, but it appears to have all the provisions to manage.

 
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London Bridge

Lines connected to: Jubilee line, Northern line and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: London Bridge is one of the main rail links from the south and now also home to Europe's tallest building, the Shard.

What is it doing to prepare? The Shard maybe complete, but building work is ongoing around London Bridge station, giving it an unfinished feel. Finding your way from the rail station to the Underground can prove a challenge, even with the bright pink signs.

Which way to the Royal Artillery Barracks? A tough question, but dealt with simply enough by the information desk.

Will it cope? Its rail services should be fine, but the question is whether its narrow Underground platforms can hold up. It's already a squeeze at rush hour.

 
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Oxford Circus

Lines connected to: Bakerloo line, Central line and Victoria line.

London 2012 significance: There are no Games venues on Oxford Street, but it is still one of the capital's most popular stations, and the Olympics should make it a lot busier.

What is it doing to prepare? The pink Underground signs make it clear that there are no Olympic venues here, and there are a number of others directing people to the correct places.

Which way to the North Greenwich Arena? Oxford Circus is tourist central and the station guards have no trouble instructing me that the Jubilee Line will take me straight there.

Will it cope? There will be a huge influx of people descending on to Oxford Street, but the station has a number of entrances and exits and has had a lot of practice dealing with the January sales.

 
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Paddington

Lines connected to: Bakerloo line, Circle line, District line, Hammersmith & City line and national rail services.

Olympic significance: Paddington is London's main gateway from the south-west, directly connected with Heathrow and close to a number of important Olympic sites.

What is it doing to prepare? The station also has an official welcoming area for media and technical officials at the Games and an Olympic mascot statue.

Which way to the Guildford? A station assistant was efficient in telling me either to change at Reading or go to Waterloo and get a train.

Will it cope? The quickest route into London from the UK's busiest airport, Paddington will have to be on top of things, but there's no indication it won't be.

 
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Stratford

Lines connected to: Central line, Docklands Light Railway, Jubilee line, London Overground, and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: Stratford is home to the Olympic Park and so will see a very large influx of people during the event.

What is it doing to prepare? As you'd expect, Stratford is littered with pink Olympic signs, letting you know what's in Stratford and how to get to other events. If they fail, there are also a large number of staff members.

Which way to Horse Guards Parade? It took four different station assistants to tell me that I should head towards Westminster on the Jubilee Line.

Will it cope? Things are running very smoothly at Stratford now, but it is the hub of the Games and it will be a huge challenge to maintain cohesion.

 
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Victoria

Lines connected to: Circle line, District line, Victoria line and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: London's second busiest station, Victoria is a key link from south of the capital and is nearby to tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace and Westminster.

What is it doing to prepare? The station is proudly draped in Union Jack flags and the Underground clearly directs you to the correct line and Olympic venues.

Which way to the Eton Dorney? Two members of staff working on information desks had not heard of it and directed me to the ticket office. Large queues put me off waiting around for this.

Will it cope? Although the station is attractive and easy to navigate, there are already severe queuing problems, both for national rail tickets and for Underground tickets. It's hard to see these problems being combated.

 
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Waterloo

Lines connected to: Bakerloo Line, Jubilee Line, Northern Line, Waterloo and City Line and national rail services.

London 2012 significance: Well-connected on the Tube and national rail to the South and South West, Waterloo is London's busiest Underground station with an average 273,542 weekday passengers.

What is it doing to prepare? There's no questioning Waterloo's enthusiasm for the Olympics. Not only is the Underground covered in pink signs, the station itself is draped in EDF Olympic sponsorship.

Which way to the Eton Dorney? It took two members of staff to tell me, but my query was dealt quickly: Bakerloo to Paddington, Paddington to Slough and bus from there.

Will it cope? It may already be the busiest in London, but it's also very well equipped with more escalators - 23 - than any other and a couple of passenger conveyors.