Leveraging Variable Message Signs (VMS) and Adaptive Signal Control to Inform and Regulate Travelers Reduced 10 to 20 Percent Peak Time Traffic for Central London During Olympics Game Event.

A Range of Traffic Management Strategies Were Implemented for Mitigating Congestion and Handling High Demand Attracted by 2012 London Summer Olympic.

Date Posted

Success of London’s Olympic public transport systems

Summary Information

The 2012 Olympic Games in London were held from July 27th to August 12th, followed by the Paralympics from August 29th to September 9th. The overall planning aims to meet the goal of ensuring transport to the Games would be primarily via public transportation, whenever feasible, and favors the utilization of existing infrastructure. During this period, the London transportation system faced significant challenges with 700,000 ticket holders in attendance at Olympic events. To address the heightened traffic demand and alleviate congestion, the Transport for London (TfL) authority implemented a range of management strategies. These included establishing Games lanes, upgrading traffic signals, and sharing and deploying new Variable Message Signs (VMS) and CCTV cameras.


A dedicated 109-mile Game Lane route (Olympic Route Network [ORN]) was established for the Olympic Games, connecting Heathrow Airport to the main event sites in central and east London. For the Paralympics, a 36-mile Game Lane route was set up. The TfL made substantial upgrades to the traffic infrastructure, including the modification of 1,300 traffic signals with an advanced control technology known as Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique (SCOOT). Furthermore, Variable Message Signs (VMSs) and CCTV cameras were deployed to help traffic management. Among these, 200 new solar-powered VMSs were installed, while the remaining ones were utilized through data sharing agreements with London's local boroughs. These measures were integrated with a TfL 'hub' of traffic modelling and management software to manipulate signal timings in favor of ORN and Games Lanes. 


Increased congestion was reported initially on the Olympic Route Network but traffic volumes and activation of Games Lanes were less than expected.

Figure 1. Game Lanes for London 2012 Summer Olympics


  • Traffic during peak hours in central London was reduced by 10-20 percent compared to normal levels for that time of year. 
  • The Game Lanes were active approximately 40 percent of the time, in part due to the efficient implementation of the adaptive signal control strategy, which effectively managed traffic flow saturation. Increased congestion was observed during the first few days of Olympic events as Game Lanes came into force, however by the end of the first week, TfL found less need to call on the lanes than expected. 
  • The VMSs proved to be effective by providing beforehand information to the public. This was evidenced by the fact that the 700 road closures for the Olympic cycling road races did not lead to significant congestion.