Thursday, January 26, 2012

Necessity being

In my brief tenure as an advisor on transport to a shadow cabinet minister, I argued strongly that we should not only be looking at transport provision, but at demand reduction.

Specifically, I argued, many people could work from home, if not all the time, than for a few days a week or month. If we could get on average the office population of central London working one day a week without travelling to work, we would get a 20 percent reduction in transport demand for that cohort – a prize worth having.

Needless to say, no one listens - until now, when necessity becomes the mother of invention. During the Ghastly Games and the Paralympics, staff across Whitehall and the public sector will be ordered not to commute to work for up to seven weeks to prevent London's public transport network from becoming over-congested.

A series of unprecedented "planning exercises" have been scheduled to "check [whether] officials can work from home". From 6-9 February, thousands of civil servants have been told to work from home under "Operation Stepchange". They will be asked to check that teleconferencing facilities are operational and that remote computer networks work.

And of course they can do it … just as I have been doing for the last 30 years. But it takes something like a potential gridlock to make it happen on a larger scale. The good thing is that we might get a legacy from the Games that might be worth having.