River Lea towpath could be shut over Olympic security fears

A TOWPATH alongside the Olympic park could be closed during the 2012 Games for fear it could be used for a terrorist attack.

The Metropolitan Police and the Home Office are in discussions about shutting the towpath along the Lea River Navigation Canal which runs through Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham close to the Olympic stadium for fear that it could be used to launch a terrorist attack on the Games.

A Met police spokesman said: “Together with the Home Office we are in discussion with British Waterways regarding how we can best protect the Olympic Park during Games times. This includes early consideration about how best to regulate access to the Lea Navigation Canal.

“These discussions have started due to the specific geography of this area and how close the canal is to the Olympic Park. It is vital that the Park is safe and secure and we will work with all our partners to make sure this happens.

“No final decision has yet been made.”

British Waterways’ head of regeneration for the southern region Richard Rutter said it is spending �2 million on refurbishing the towpath next to the Olympic Park at the River Lea Navigation towpath and Hertford Union Canal to improve the cycling and walking routes as part of the policy to make the Games ones of the greenest events of its kind.

In a response to the London Assembly’s transport committee’s investigation into 2012 transport he said: “Closing and thus severing the continuous route for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will have a significant negative consequences on those people that regularly use the towpath, especially the residents of Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. The experience of cycling and walking adjacent to the Park is part of the Games experience and should be a memorable opportunity for many thousands of people.”

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Any closure if the canal near the Olympic Park could put paid to the planned 30 minute water bus service between Limehouse Basin and Old Ford Lock next to the Olympic Stadium.

It is planned that each of the four Water Chariots will carry 70 passengers to and from the Games.

Mr Rutter said: “Both the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority) and BW recognise that it provides one of the quickest, safest, accessible and most reliable and enjoyable transport options to the Games.”

However he said BW would support any police and security service decision to close the towpath if the risk of attack is considered too great.