The official Olympics Route Network came into operation yesterday, creating more confusion than congestion.
The ORN, a network of roads connecting the Olympic venues together, is mostly open to the public, but motorists straying into the 30-mile stretch of Games Lanes, reserved for VIPs, athletes and the media could face fines of £130.
Puzzled drivers said that some lanes seemed to be open to the public, while some signs weren’t clear as to whether the they were open or not.
About 25 per cent of the 30 miles of Games Lanes in London – which form part of ORN’s 109 mile network, including Heathrow Airport – is now open.
Bemused commuters found themselves caught in bottlenecks around the Lea Interchange yesterday, as Games Lanes lay unused beside them. Ross Keeling, a call-out engineer, whose normal 40-minute journey had become two hours, told Retuers: “They’ve closed off the Games Lane, but nobody was using it. It was a pain the neck. We just have to sit and watch the empty lane.”
Gridlock through Central London and Tower Bridge was reported, as taxi drivers, some of the main opponents of the lanes, staged a ‘go slow’ protest across Tower Bridge.
However, TFL claimed that commuters and London residents heeded messages and stayed away. A TFL spokesman said: “So far so good. The traffic is moving, the lanes are working well”
Londoners also took to Twitter to vent frustrations at the restrictions. Lucy said: “Wow. Putting all traffic in 1 lane so you can have 2 completely empty right now for games lanes. Well done.”
Huw Rollinson tweeted: “Vehicles using the ORN must belong to “the Olympic family”. How exclusive is that?! Is it me or has this whole organisation gone way OTT?”
ZenasTaxis said: ”We can’t pick up disabled passengers from games lanes, get rid of them all.”
Ever since traffic chaos blighted the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, which prevented some athletes missing games they were meant to compete in, every Olympic bid must now include an official Olympics Route Network.
TFL has been planning the ORN for London 2012 for seven years.
The lanes will be closely monitored by TFL headquarters and are likely to be switched off and open to the public if traffic is light.