Transport chiefs in London have been urged to “get a grip” after road closures at the weekend around Hyde Park for the World Triathlon Grand Final sparked gridlock in the heart of the capital.
The British Hospitality Association said while large one-off events provided a “welcome” boost to hotels and restaurants the positive publicity was being lost in a haze of disjointed transport and road closure planning.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive, said: “The very businesses these events are designed to support can lose out if customers can’t reach them.
“London has got to sort this out if it is to continue to attract and host world leading events, without comprising too much on everyday business operations.”
The BHA represents the country’s hotels, clubs, restaurants and leisure outlets. The protest comes amid growing concern about the number of big events necessitating road closures in some of London’s best known tourist hotspots. Last month, 11 bridges over the Thames were closed for much of a Sunday to allow 20,000 bicycle enthusiasts to take part in RideLondon100.
At the weekend a number of major roads in central London, including Hyde Park corner, Park Lane and roads around St James Park and Buckingham Palace were closed on Saturday morning and almost all of Sunday.
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions – which represents the nation’s museums, galleries, parks and zoos – said that for some members, transport disruption in London was having a bigger effect on revenues than the weather.
A spokesman claimed the regular engineering work on the London Underground was ALVA’s main concern. He said: “Tube line closures can have a devstating effect on visitor attractions, particularly those outside of central London. Regular Northern Line closures over many weekends have impacted on the RAF Museum at Hendon and can often have a bigger effect than awful weather.”
He added: “Attractions rely on good transport infrastructure, but London, equally, relies on its second most important industry – tourism – being open for business and financially healthy.”
Transport for London was not immediately available to give a comment. In a statement late last night, Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for surface transport insisted his traffic control staff “work around the clock” before, during and after big evenst to “ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum”.
He added: “London has proved it is a fabulous venue for prestigious sporting and cultural events which bring in huge economic benefit and support tourism in London and across the UK.”
But today motoring chiefs at the RAC backed the hospitality industry’s concern. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We have a lot of sympathy with the BHA.
“Of course a world-class city should hold world-class events. But central London is not a theme park, it is a place where people live and work. From the state opening of Parliament and Royal weddings, through to the Marathon and the Olympics, there is no shortage of occasions for transport managers to hone their skills in keeping disruption to a minimum.
“Constant road closures infuriate not just drivers but also residents and businesses who see surrounding streets choked with traffic.”