Is the Wharf ready for the Olympics?

By Rob Virtue on July 26, 2012 9:36 AM |

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Games lanes have been painted on roads and Tube users are getting all too familiar with Boris's doom-laden message to "plan ahead".

But how much are we really prepared for the next two weeks and the likely impact of the world milling at our doorstep?

In Canary Wharf, tests have been run and calculations made and - barring Tube line breakdowns - the preparations are in place.

Companies are arranging to work from home (including some staff at The Wharf) and warnings from TfL about hotspots are suddenly, perhaps belatedly, being heeded.

A spokesman for Canary Wharf Group said the company believed there would be a 25-30 per cent drop off in people using regular public transport to the estate at peak times.

"That's people coming in early or later, being on holiday, working from home, running, biking or getting the boat," he added. "It will be open for business but we're encouraging people to avoid the disruption where possible."

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In a bid to mitigate the over-crowding, Jubilee line services are currently running at 30 trains per hour during peak times and during the Olympics four of those trains will be arriving at Canary Wharf empty, straight from the depot.

CWG is also ensuring there are extra Thames Clippers boats running.

As for the big firms, HSBC, which has 8,500 staff usually working at Canary Wharf, is expecting 40 per cent of workers to operate remotely. Some others will be taking holiday and altering work hours to avoid disruption.

The bank said: "The vast majority of our staff have had the technology to work remotely - including from home - for a number of years.

"We would expect a large percentage of our Canary Wharf staff to either use this remote working facility, or simply change their working hours during the Olympic period."

KPMG expects up to 50 per cent of its staff to work flexibly, either from home, at satellite offices such as those in Watford, Gatwick, Ipswich and Cambridge, or working at client's offices.

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A spokesman said: "Flexible working is well-established at KPMG over the years and we've got the infrastructure in place to work away from the office, with IT systems or diverting office phones to mobiles."

Smaller firms may find it more difficult. Janette Withey, managing director of recruitment firm Quay People at South Quay, and also chairman of the Docklands Business Club, said some of her clients were taking a wait-and-see approach.

"For our staff, over the past months and years we've upgraded our IT systems so we can work from home," she said. "We also have people who can walk to work during the Games.

"As for our clients, some companies have no working-from-home plans and are just encouraging people to go on holiday.

"A lot of others are playing the whole disruption down, not ignoring it but just seeing how it goes because really we just don't know. Although looking at the A13 this week hasn't been pretty."

Research gathered by Deloitte in a stress test back in May showed just under 80 per cent of firms across London were confident business would cope. More than 100 companies took part in the event, testing IT, telecommunications and transport infrastructure.

Issues were uncovered during the tests. Over 25 per cent of companies that asked workers to change modes of transport said it was not effective, while 23 per cent were also dissatisfied with different work locations.

Drew Gibson, business continuity manager at Canary Wharf Group, added: "In a sense, it is good to see that some companies struggled with these measures. This means they learned something from the exercise and can put it right before Games time or use alternative measures."

On Monday, the result of the preparations will be on full view.

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