Some of you will know I am a Director and Trustee of the London Transport Museum and last night was our annual fund-raising dinner at the Royal Opera House.
Since its third reincarnation at Covent Garden in November 2007 visitor numbers have remained strongly ahead of where they were previously. This is undoubtedly because the Museum has a wide-ranging appeal both in terms of interests and age. Transport in the context of the history of London is fascinating and we have extraordinarily high levels of satisfaction from visitors who come from all over the world to see it.
Some people have mentioned to me that they preferred the larger collection of vehicles that were in evidence at Clapham, Syon Park, and indeed earlier iterations of Covent Garden. The truth is that the cost of running the museum is far more than the receipts from ticket sales. As a result it has to generate revenue from other activities, including the retail shop, on-line sales, corporate hire, and certain other services. Transport for London contributes a multi-million pound sum plus we have substantial contributions from the Friends, Corporate Friends, and other organisations.
To achieve all this the Museum has to be attractive to the widest possible audience of individuals and organisation and as a result it now covers all forms of transport in London, the history, the science, the people, and the future.
Which brings me to last night's hugely successful dinner. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, made a typically funny and at the same time hard-hitting speech covering the tremendous progress which has been made in London and the major projects it has to deliver over the next few years- the Olympics, Crossrail, East London Line extension, New Bus for London and so on.
Numerous corporations had paid a significant sum for a table at this prestigious event and many then took part in an auction to raise even more money. Organisations had donated hospitality packages, a hot air balloon ride, and so on but the top bid went to the ever-popular evening out by bus driven by Peter Hendy. This year the winning bid was £20,000!
Guests slipped away after 11pm having had a very good evening and having raised a significant sum for the Museum once again. Credit to those organisations and individuals for the generosity during these very tough economic times.
Whilst talking about old London buses there will be tomorrow (Saturday) a commemorative run of RTWs celebrating 60 years since they first entered service on route 41. We are hoping for a good day and a good turn out of RTWs. It is frightening to recall that their withdrawal started some 16 years later and of course the last one ever in service RTW467 last ran in service in May 1966. It went straight into preservation and I am privileged to be a co-owner of it - in fact it seems to have been around for my entire adult life! It now starts to be a contender for the bus which has been in private preservation with a single organisation for the longest time!