Delays as Olympic Games Lane opens

The first of the Olympic Games Lanes has come into operation - on the M4, which has only just reopened following repairs.

Delays caused by accidents on the M4 in Berkshire affected traffic heading towards the Games Lane in west London.

But a Highways Agency spokesman denied reports that there had been "32-mile queues". He went on: "The delays were a long way from west London and traffic in the area of the Games Lane was no worse than it is on any normal Monday morning."

There were fears that work on the damaged flyover near junction 2 of the motorway in west London would not be completed in time for the Olympic traffic-only lane to be used. But work was completed so that the closed stretch could be opened last Friday.

This first Games Lane is at the site of the previous M4 bus lane which operated for 3.5 miles between junctions 3 and 2 on the London-bound carriageway. The M4 lane, which will be in operation between 5am and 10pm, was introduced early to cope with the beginning of the big rush of Olympic arrivals from nearby Heathrow Airport.

The M4 is part of the Olympic Route Network (ORN) and provides an important access route for members of the "Games Family" including athletes, their officials and equipment arriving at Heathrow for their journey to the Olympic Village in Stratford, east London. Around 80% of Games Family arrivals are expected to pass through this way.

Within the ORN are 30 miles of Games Lanes which will become operational on July 25 - two days before the Olympic opening ceremony.

The Games Lanes will be clearly marked and will operate alongside existing traffic. All road users will be able to go into the lanes when they are not in use overnight. Those who stray into operational Games Lanes face a penalty charge of £130, while illegally parked vehicles will be removed to a pound and may incur a release fee of £200.

Even the slightest problem on London's roads during the Olympics could create "the perfect storm", former head of traffic at the Metropolitan Police Kevin Delaney warned.

Mr Delaney, now head of road safety at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "The problem with the Games Lanes is that London's road network runs at, or very close to, capacity almost all day, almost every day of the year. Wherever the Games Lanes are, they have reduced the amount of lanes for ordinary traffic. You are actually reducing the amount of road space for ordinary traffic. Unless everybody heeds the advice to not drive, there are problems. Imagine if there is a situation where we have a breakdown or a crash. The road network just would not cope with that."