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Staff must use technology not transport during Olympics

Kathleen Hall

The government is urging businesses in London to use technology to enable flexible working during the Olympics in order to prevent the capital’s transport system grinding to a standstill.

Speaking at the WorkTech event in London, transport minister Norman Baker said around 800,000 people are expected to visit London during the Olympics. 

“With the vast input of people coming into London next year with the Olympics, it simply isn’t possible to have everyone who works in London to travel the way we do.  There aren’t enough spaces on the trains, buses and tubes.  So it has to be something different,” he said.

Baker said Skype and video conferencing should be used to prevent employees coming into central London.  “The short term necessity of the Olympics gives us an opportunity to promote this concept and say it does work and that you can actually run your business without being in central London, that is where we are going,” he said.

Technology will play a key role in planning for the Olympics, particularly with routes to the games, Baker told Computer Weekly. “The capacity to snarl up London by increasing traffic light times by ten seconds is enormous. People don’t appreciate this but everything is hugely connected to everything else. So there is a need to predict traffic movements and traffic coordination for Olympics athletes so it is green by default when they move through.  There is quite a challenge in terms of traffic management for TfL [Transport of London] and we are using a lot of technology to achieve a free flow of traffic.”

The minister’s call for a greater use of technology-enabled remote working follows the creation of the Anywhere Working Consortium, formed to promote flexible working to businesses across the country. The founding members are Business in the Community (BICT), Microsoft, Nuffield, Regus and Vodafone.  The initiative is backed by the Department for Transport, Transport for London and the Trade Union Congress.

Asked what challenges the country’s patchy broadband coverage posed to achieving more remote working, Baker highlighted the government’s £530m broadband investment fund. “This is a huge slug of money, we are putting quite a lot of effort into broadband and we are working with local councils,” he said.

However, Tory minister Rory Stewart recently told Computer Weekly that the broadband investment pot should be quadrupled in order to effectively connect rural areas and stimulate the country’s economy.


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