Traffic snarl ups around the Arsenal ground on match nights are legendary. As construction of a new stadium kicks off, Alan Sparks learns how the problem will be tackled.
Construction of Arsenal Football Club's new Ashburton Grove stadium began last month - 60,000 fans will benefit from state of the art facilities and quality seating. But with that many people flocking to the new ground, surely a huge amount of new car parking will be needed.
Not so. Transport consultant for the scheme Steer Davies Gleave (SDG) argues that nearly everybody travelling to watch Arsenal play will in future have to travel by public transport.
This will come as a huge relief to local residents who have been horror struck by the prospect of gridlocked traffic in their streets.
With four major rail and tube stations within walking distance of the existing 38,000 seat stadium, Arsenal is arguably already the UK's most sustainable ground in terms of transport.
Around 70% of journeys can be made without using a car.
Ashburton Grove is little more than a stone's throw away, but rather than leave people to work out the best way of reaching it by trial and error, a detailed analysis was deemed necessary.
The planning brief demanded that the stadium relocation should not negatively affect local residents. Travel was to be 80% by non-car modes. But according to SDG director Tim Spencer, 'when you get into the detail you see that even this would not be enough. With our latest analysis we expect up to 88% will now travel by non-car means'.
He adds: 'Sports stadia are without doubt the most complicated developments to model and plan transport for, as you can have 60,000 people travelling at once in addition to the normal background people movements.'
To ensure fans do not automatically arrive by car, a match day controlled parking zone will be enforced. SDG is expecting most of the journeys to and from the new Arsenal ground to be via Finsbury Park station - a vital north London interchange served by the Piccadilly Line, Victoria Line, the North London Line and national rail services.
As Arsenal earns plaudits on the pitch, the team's popularity has soared, making all home matches complete sell-outs, notes Spencer. Despite increasing capacity by 22,000, tickets will still be as rare as a misplaced hair on Denis Bergkamp's head. 'Which means that a large portion of the crowd will be regular visitors who will very quickly accept that if you want to watch Arsenal play at home then you do not travel by car, ' says Spencer.
In developing a transport management plan SDG needed highly detailed information. 'We know exactly who the spectators will be, where they live and how they will travel, ' says associate Allan Gooch. In the past most of the fans would live close to the ground, 'but today at any Arsenal match, you see people from every borough in the South East. There is total dispersal.'
adds Spencer. Exhaustive surveys have also included monitoring of visits to local bars and restaurants, which helps reduce peak transport demand.
Generally, all spectators will be able to leave the area within 45 minutes of the final whistle, SDG reckons. 'The easiest way to improve capacity on any line is to increase the size of the trains. We have already agreed with train operator WAGN to increase the length of trains from four to eight cars, ' adds Spencer.
The design process has also been informed by the Metropolitan Police National Stadia Project Team to ensure that chaos does not break out when transport strikes or breakdowns occur. And SDG has drawn extensively on the traffic management knowhow of local borough Islington Council.
'You have to accept that the local authority will know its area better than any outsider, ' Spencer notes.
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