The following is a guest post from the Minister for Transport, Norman Baker MP.
This week staff in the Department for Transport are working and travelling differently. People are coming into the office earlier or leaving later to avoid the busiest periods on the transport network. They are working remotely or in offices closer to where they live. And they will be taking the bike instead of the bus or walking the last mile instead of staying on the tube for one more stop.
Across Whitehall, other Departments are doing the same. And Ministers are joining them. Some, including me, are holding tele-conferences with officials rather than holding them in person. And we have been recording speeches instead of delivering them in person. Some, like the Transport Secretary Justine Greening, have been walking to and from Cabinet instead of taking the car.
Now there are two reasons why we’re all taking part in, what we’ve dubbed, Operation StepChange. The first is all about the Olympics.
We intend to deliver a great 2012 Games while keeping London and the UK moving at the same time. It’s not that we aren’t well prepared. We are. Around £6.5bn has been invested in upgrading and extending transport links to increase capacity and improve services. All the transport infrastructure is complete, in operation and delivering an early legacy well ahead of the Games.
But the Olympic and Paralympic Games are also the largest sporting events in the world, equivalent to hosting 26 simultaneous world championships. And alongside the Games, cultural events and celebrations will be taking place across London – showcasing London and the UK to the world. Naturally, this presents us with a huge logistical challenge.
On the busiest days, we predict that there will be an additional 3 million journeys on London’s transport network. So people need to plan ahead and consider their travel options. Businesses need to think now about how they, and their suppliers, make and receive deliveries during the summer of 2012.
Transport for London is already working with organisations across the capital to provide them with the tools and information they need. It has also launched the Get Ahead of the Games campaign to help those who live and work in affected areas get around. But this isn’t just about individuals or companies. It’s about Government too. And we know we have to lead by example.
As a large organisation with around 80,000 staff in central London, we have a key role to play in changing travel during Games time. Making sure we can get day-to-day business done while, at the same time, supporting a successful Olympics and reducing the impact on our transport network. And that’s why, across Whitehall, we are making plans to positively change half of our commuting, business travel, deliveries and collections during the Games.
Which brings me neatly back to StepChange. This is our opportunity to test out our plans and make sure we’re ready for anything. But as I started out by saying, the Olympics is only reason number one for changing our ways of working. Reason number two is all about the long-term.
How can we make the most of the resources and technologies available to us? How can we become a more efficient and effective workforce? How can we reduce our carbon footprint? How can we manage demand on our transport networks for the longer-term? These are questions that have bothered ministers for some time. Yet, in preparing for the greatest show on earth, we’ve discovered an unprecedented opportunity to think the unthinkable.
To test out some new ideas. And this is where our ambitions coincide with Anywhere Working. If we can encourage more businesses, more individuals, and more organisations – including the civil service – to work more flexibly, we will reshape the UK’s working landscape for the better. And I believe that will be our lasting legacy.