THERE is a simple message for anyone planning on watching the Olympic torch relay in Sunderland tomorrow – leave your car at home.
Whether you are going to Herrington Country Park for the day, or catching a glimpse of the famous flame in the city centre, the advice is the same – use public transport.
The best places to see the Olympic torch in Sunderland are:
•8.40 to 9.10am Whitburn to Roker
•9.15am Dame Dorothy Street
•9.25am North Bridge Street
•9.40am Wearmouth Bridge
•9.45am Fawcett Street
•9.50am Mowbray Park
•10.00 to 10.20am Chester Road
•11.00am at Herrington Country Park
>Echo readers can follow the torch on our live blog and add their tweets, pictures and video of the events by using Twitter with #sunderlandtorch. Click here to view the live blog now
A celebration event at Herrington Country Park includes:
•Outdoor film screenings of The Lion king at 3pm and the Italian Job at 6.30pm
•Food and drink village showcasing cuisine from around the globe.
•Blue Peter Big Olympic tour with Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood between 10am and 4pm
•Urban games, including BMX, skate boarding, urban dance and free running.
•Music programme featuring local bands, artists and the Sunderland in 2012 Community Choir.
•A world record breaking Hula Hooping attempt – register from 9.30am - 10.15am
With 20,000 people expected at Herrington Country Park, as well as 40,000-50,000 in Sunderland city centre, getting around by car is not going to be easy.
But, as well as the network already giving access to all the main sites, Sunderland City Council has announced a free park and ride scheme to service the Herrington Country Park extravaganza.
Ten buses will shuttle between the park and Downhill Sports Complex from 7am until 7.30pm, freeing up the roads for the relay to pass through as smoothly as possible.
Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “A large number of vehicles on the site would be difficult to manage.
“We don’t want big tailbacks preventing the torch from getting into the park. The fewer cars there are on the road, the smoother it will go.”
Initially, plans were to put in place for some form of road closures throughout the city centre, but the council announced this week that simple road block measures will be used, following the torch around.
Anyone caught behind the relay can expect to travel at about 4mph until it moves onto a different street and Coun Kelly is asking for people to show understanding.
He said: “We’re asking people to be patient. We are creating a huge event to gain a lasting legacy for Sunderland.”
The councillor hopes those travelling into work on Saturday morning will not be too badly affected but advised people should build in a little extra time to the journey.
As well as the buses, Metro stations in the city centre are ideally placed to offer access to the relay route.
A Nexus spokesman said: “The Olympic torch has attracted large crowds to city centres it has passed through so far, and there’s no reason why Sunderland should be any different. That means parking spaces will be limited and public transport is the best way to get to and from events.
“Metro is a good way to get to the best locations the torch will be passing, with stations close to the route at St Peter’s for the Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland for Fawcett Street and Park Lane for Mowbray Park.
“Passengers should buy DaySaver tickets to save time queuing after the event and don’t forget kids under 16 with a Pop card travel all day for a £1 on the Cat ticket.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Coun Kelly said: “We’re hoping for good weather first of all. We’re just trying to book it now! We can control many things but not that.
“I hope people enjoy the day however they can. This is a day for the people of Sunderland and it’s a chance for Sunderland to make its mark on the Olympics. There’s an array of things to do, so use public transport wherever you can and let’s get involved.”
NO mass programme of road closures is planned for the event, although there could be rolling road closures if necessary.
8.54am: Arrive at Whitburn Bents Road at City of Sunderland sign. Travel along the seafront on Whitburn Road (A183).
9.14am: Pass Roker Park.
9.17am: On to Harbour View in Roker.
9.29am: St Peter’s Church, then along Dame Dorothy Street, North Bridge Street, Southwick Road, Stadium Way, Millennium Way.
9.44am: Sunderland Aquatic Centre (invited guests only).
9.47am: Wearmouth Bridge, then along West Wear Street, Bridge Crescent, High Street West, John Street.
9.57am: Fawcett Street, then along Athenaeum Street, Borough Road.
10am: Mowbray Park, then along Burdon Road, Park Road, Stockton Road, St Michael’s Way.
10.14am: Chester Road (A183).
10.38am: Herrington Country Park
11.05am: Torch presented to the public.
At present, there are only two areas where traffic measures will be used to assist with the torch convoy’s passage:
•Northbound traffic may be stopped at the seafront, on Whitburn Road from the Harbour View roundabout (Bungalow Café). This will only happen after consultation with the police, if needed for crowd safety due to spectator numbers, and would be at about 8.45am.
The convoy will pass the Harbour View roundabout at 9.17am and the closure would be lifted shortly afterwards.
•Fawcett Street will be closed for a short time from about 9.32am, but should only affect buses, as it is a bus lane. This will be lifted soon after 10am when the torch convoy goes into Mowbray Park.
At all other times the convoy will be escorted by police motorcyclists who will temporarily stop the traffic as the torch progresses. Traffic disruption should be kept to a minimum.
•Normal bus services will be running, although with slight delays as the torch makes its way around the route. Full details of the route and times the torch is expected at various locations can be found at www.sunderlandlive.co.uk.
Buses from Washington are expected to be running without delays from the Galleries to Herrington Country Park. Details of all other services can be found at www.nexus.org.uk.