Traffic restrictions on London's streets spur demand for hire of motorbikes and scooters

Wed, Jul 18, 2012, 01:00

REUBEN ANDERSON’S scooter hire firm, based near London Bridge – one of the expected congestion hot spots in coming weeks, yesterday struggled to cope with telephone calls and emails from customers wanting to hire his stock.

“We are totally swamped at the moment. We thought we had geared up as much as possible for the Olympics,” he tells The Irish Times, “but the demand just keeps coming and coming.”

By yesterday, Anderson was down to offering 50cc models:

“We are filling the gap with them. There are no more 125ccs or 250ccs, while we are completely out of motorbikes.”

Because of demand and the difficulties of getting in new stock, prices have had to rise: “It’s £99 a week for the 50ccs and that goes up to £150 a week for the 125cc scooters,” he says.

However, London’s traffic problems are affecting him, too. “We had ordered 20 new bikes that were supposed to come yesterday, but only 10 turned up, so we don’t know if the rest are going to get here.”

Companies are dominating the last-minute calls as they try to ensure that their staff can get to work over coming weeks, amid predictions that London’s buses, Underground and trains will struggle to cope.

“I don’t know why they have left it so late. Everyone had plenty of time to try to prepare for the Games,” says Anderson, who is hiring his stock for between six and eight weeks.

However, his company’s profit will not be known until after September, when they sell the unwanted scooters. “It shouldn’t be a problem, though. There is always demand for scooters.”

Some companies, meanwhile, have heeded the warning of London 2012’s “Get Ahead of the Games” campaign.

Sainsbury’s will use scooters to transport its maintenance staff between stores, dubbing them “first response mopeds”.

The supermarket is regarded as London 2012’s poster-child, having begun its preparations in late 2010, drawing on experience gained coping with the G20 summit the year before.

Negotiations were held with local authorities about delivery curfews, which prevent late-night work because of noise-levels, while plans are also in place to ensure that Sainsbury’s ATMs are kept filled with cash.

The Games organisers had urged businesses to prepare for nearly two years, visiting many to outline the challenge – although often they came without details of the local traffic restrictions.

“If you make deliveries, plan now to avoid disruption and ensure your operation is well-placed to take advantage of the commercial opportunities available,” London 2012’s “Get Ahead of the Games” website continued to urge.

Companies have been advised to have non-perishable stock delivered early and to create temporary stockrooms, co-operating with nearby firms if they use the same suppliers.

The difficulties facing the organisers were illustrated by a few buses taking athletes from Heathrow yesterday – they managed to get lost.