LONDON (Reuters) - Spectators travelling to the Olympics scrambled for alternative routes on Tuesday after a smoking train forced the closure of London’s busy Central Line subway, but many travelers praised a quick response by authorities to help them on their way.
Feared disruptions to Europe’s busiest and oldest transport system were a constant issue in the run-up to the Olympic Games with millions of spectators from around the world expected to descend on the British capital.
After trains ground to a halt on the Central Line which runs to the Olympic Park during the morning rush hour, an army of Olympic volunteers stepped in quickly to guide crowds of commuters and fans, and the atmosphere was calm and orderly, Reuters reporters said.
London’s commuters, accustomed to almost daily delays on the Tube, the world’s oldest urban underground, appeared to be understanding.
“(It‘s) not too bad actually. They gave us tickets for the bus or train,” said Sammy Proctor, 17.
Foreign visitors were also patient, if a bit bemused.
“Getting around has been incredibly easy,” said Alexei Kazakov from Russia’s Siberia region, who was wearing the full Russian Olympic outfit at the London Bridge railway station.
“There are people everywhere telling you where to go. It’s almost as good as the Moscow metro.”
The Central Line, which runs east-west across London, was halted after a driver reported smelling smoke just east of Stratford station, the main hub for visitors to Olympic Park, said operator Transport for London.
Part of the line was shut for about three hours.
The high-speed Javelin train service, designed to whisk fans from central London to the Olympic Park in a few minutes, was also suspended briefly following a report that a man threatened to jump onto the track.
“(The) man has been detained and the line is now clear...” a British Transport Police spokeswoman said. He said a police negotiator had to intervene to end the standoff.
Messages on social media websites said the incident was caused by a “suicidal person”.
Network Rail, which operates Britain’s over ground rail infrastructure, has hired a troupe of actors dressed as American tourists from the 1950s in chequered suits and white tasseled cowboy boots to entertain commuters.
“We are here to lighten the mood and raise a smile,” said Raylene, sporting a blonde beehive wig, as others moved through the station giving high-fives and posing for photos.
London’s transport bosses expect an extra 3 million journeys per day during the Games on top of the usual 12 million who use a transport network including the underground, which opened in 1863 during the reign of Queen Victoria.
The much-criticized system passed its first major test on Monday after carrying a million spectators, and usually skeptical commuters seemed impressed.
“It’s been brilliant, might have been a trial run,” said John Rees, 55, from the university town of Cambridge, of Tuesday’s outage. “Very good organization.”
Additional reporting by Tim Castle; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall