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Friday, 29 July 2011

A year of cycling

On Thursday we celebrated a year of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme and our announcement of the extension eastwards to near the Olympic Park and also westwards to Westfield at White City.

In a year we have had over 6m hires and there are over 128,000 members. Every day the bikes are a familiar sight across London, emit zero emissions, and are regularly used by people from all walks of life across the capital.

Next year the familiar docking stations will be installed out to the east and also out to Westfield White City. Both the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Westfield are contributing to this, and we are delighted that Barclays Bank plc are extending and expanding their sponsorship for this outstanding scheme.

On Thursday London's Mayor Boris Johnson led us into Westfield's Atrium to celebrate this occasion. The Mayor, Kulveer Ranger, representatives of Barclays Bank plc, Westfield and myself demonstrated some cycling ability inside the shopping centre.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

One year to go

Crowds from tonight's Aquatic Centre event are ferried on
fleets of buses back to Pudding Mill Lane and Stratford
Well you heard it from the Mayor himself. With one year to go tonight he said that London will most certainly be ready for the London 2012 Olympic Games in 366 days' time.

There were two events tonight - at Trafalgar Square and at the new Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Park - celebrating one year to go. So now the work gets underway in earnest as London makes its final preparations to open its doors to tens of thousands of visitors from within the UK and from overseas.

I was at the Olympic Park event tonight and there is a tremendous sense of excitement from everyone as we move into this final stage. The venues look fantastic. The new Aquatic Centre is an amazing building - partly temporary which will shrink from a 17,000 seat venue to a 2,500 seat one after the games are over. The stunning roof designed by Zaha Hadid will remain, covering the two pools. The 2,800 tonne steel structure rests on just three concrete supports. But the walls will be replaced and the venue resized for legacy use.

A fleet of buses - from numerous operators including Ensignbus, Stagecoach, Sullivans and others provided shuttle services to the venue from the reception centre and also back to Stratford Station later.

There is a real shift in mood now as the clock ticks down under one year. But the venues are broadly ready, the plans for how everyone gets to the Games are well advanced and there are detailed discussions with very many people who will in some way be affected directly or indirectly.

It will be a most exciting time in London: we have the test events, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Torch Relay and of course the Games themselves which continue, with the Paralympics into September. And with so many countries competing to hold them every four years, it could easily be another 80 years before London sees the Games again.


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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Aboard the Woolwich Free Ferry

Once a year the Woolwich Ferry ventures to Tower Bridge
for charity. Here is John Burns passing my Wapping
home and vantage point in July 2006
An often taken for granted part of the London transport system is the Woolwich Free Ferry which has been providing a link between Woolwich and North Woolwich across the River Thames since 1889.

Today I was given a very good insight and briefing into the operation of the ferry by our London River Services team and the current operator Serco.

The Woolwich Free Ferry is an obligatory link which has been provided, in turn by the London County Council, Greater London Council, the London Borough of Greenwich on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, and now TfL.

The three current vessels, John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman were all built in Dundee in 1963. They were delivered under their own power and have been in continuous use ever since. There have been extensive improvements to the vessels during their life and there is a 5-yearly major refit which takes place on Humberside. The vessels are towed there. Usually once a year one vessel makes a charity trip to Tower Bridge but otherwise ply backwards and forwards across the Thames from 0610 to 2000 (with different times and service levels at weekends).

Although there have been various proposals for a different river crossing at this point the vessels and the attendant terminals are being upgraded to provide services until 2017. They carry 1m vehicles and 2.5m passengers a year.

The infrastructure and vessels were all built to very high standards and so remain able to deliver further service for many years to come. Their huge marine diesel engines operate at a very low level of stress (about a third of the maximum revs of the old reliable Gardner 6LX bus engine) so have a very long life and their Voith-Schnieder propulsion systems are maintained and refurbished by the in-house skilled maintenance team. One vessel can be positioned for maintenance and attention above the low tide level alongside the southern terminal.

The operation remains in the hands of numerous skilled Thames seamen and engineers, many of whom have worked for the ferry for decades. Indeed there are father/son generations working the service. The propulsion system provides incredibly precise positioning as the vessels dock and undock every few minutes. The pride and skills were very evident today when I saw them in action in the engine room and on the bridge of James Newman as we criss-crossed the Thames. A family of professionals all comfortably relying on each other to provide a safe and efficient operation. An unseen part of this vital transport link.

As with many areas of transport in London, the ferry goes about its work unobtrusively, and is only noticed when there is the occasional disruption.



From my vantagepoint on the bridge of James Newman, John Bevan
prepares to approach the North Woolwich terminal





Sunday, 10 July 2011

Pedibus


There are some forms of transport in London you can try which are out of the ordinary and I am hoping to highlight a few of these over the next few weeks.

They are of course nothing to do with Transport for London!

So how about the Pedibus, which carries 12 passengers - eight of them sat sideways and each with pedals and a chain connected to the drive mechanism, and four in a 'VIP area'. It is a bit like at at a dinner table but without the table. Available for hire for groups on pre-organised trips or following a prescribed route you can make a bit of a statement as you travel around. (Advertising is also allowed!). It looks like great fun.

Of course being entirely human-powered there are no harmful emissions so is environmentally friendly.

More information is available at http://www.pedibus.co.uk. I should stress I know nothing about the organisation and haven't experienced the trip - anyone who has please share it here!

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Thursday, 7 July 2011

7th July

Well there can only be one blog today and it is about the events of six years ago.

On that day I had been in Edinburgh for the G8 summit. At First we had a significant number of double-deckers on good rates parked at the summit as waiting rooms for the Police. Huge revenue and no miles.

On the morning of 7th July I flew back to London arriving soon after the troubles had started. I was faced with no Heathrow Express and then no Piccadilly Line. Early news was sketchy.

Of our First management team Nicola Shaw was in Leeds and Dave Kaye on his honeymoon. I did get a taxi towards London but the driver warned me of huge congestion. On the way the taxi driver tried in vain to call his family - so much so that before the elevated section of the M4 we were stopped by the Police.

He pleaded his case but also said he had me in the back in great need to reach HQ. They then led us under blue lights all the way to Central London. By the time I arrived the facts were increasingly obvious. The transport system in London had been the victim of a major terrorist attack.

London was very quiet that afternoon and evening but the following morning the buses and Underground services all ran.The resumption of ordinary transport in London was a huge boost for the capital in the aftermath of this terrible event.

This morning Mike Brown, MD London Underground and London Rail, and I, laid a wreath on behalf of all of TfL, at the 7th July memorial in Hyde Park. Later we visited all of the scenes of the events and for my part I took a bus southbound past Tavistock Square.

The day before these atrocities, as I saw live from my hotel room, the IOC had awarded us the Olympic Games. Now, in less than 400 days, that event will take place here in London. Much has changed in those years. But very much of what we are now delivering and will be doing so next year is as the result of the brave and amazing way in which London's rail and bus staff went back to work immediately after 7th July.

We are proud of everything our staff did during this terrible day and afterwards. We remember this especially today.


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Friday, 1 July 2011

Another end of an era

The 1967 tube stock mock up at Acton Works

The days are streaming past so quickly I am sorry not to have posted a new blog for over a week.


It has been really busy but tonight there was chance to take a short break and ride on the last 1967 stock train on the Victoria Line.

The set, with 3079 at the north end and with appropriate headboards, left Northumberland Park depot just after 1400 today and ran between Brixton and Seven Sisters until 1930. (The automatic train operation signalling has already been decommissioned north of there).

Can it really be over 40 years since this stock entered service? The line itself had been under consideration since the war. At a young age I was taken to the Design Centre in Haymarket where a mock-up of the 1967 stock, and its attendant ticket barrier equipment was displayed. It all looked so modern and space-age.

In due course the stock arrived and entered service in September 1968 initially from Walthamstow Central to Highbury and Islington. How amazed we were with the new features - taller windows in the doors so we could see the station names, those split level armrests, and of course the famous automatic train operation which was a triumph of 1960s electro-mechanical engineering.




I also liked the different tiles at each station, featured in typical London Transport style, in a special booklet available in colour price 1/- (5p).

By 1971 the line had been extended southwards to Brixton - the first time since the 1920s there had been a new tube south of the river. I can remember vividly 23 July 1971 when I went on the first day of the extension (which co-incided, I recall, with the conversion of route 50 to DMS operation which I went on as well).

The Victoria Line decor was in the blue and grey colours associated at the time with mechanical efficiency under the direction of Misha Black. I recall a letter at the time in London Transport Magazine criticising the illuminated station name roundels as a waste although, as we know, lighting levels are lighting levels and what you don't do in one place, you have to do somewhere else.

Now it is amazing to realise that this stock, which I was to excited to see and ride on when it was new, has now reached the end of its passenger service life. The new replacement 2009 stock is now in total charge and with the departure of its predecessor, the regenerative braking system can be switched on. This will lead to increased efficiency and less heat generation. In due course the signalling system will be improved further to take advantage of no longer being restrained by the poorer performance characteristics of the older stock.

The passing of the 1967 stock was accompanied by a number of enthusiasts and staff but the general public will hardly notice tomorrow the gentle improvement in overall service on this and other Underground lines as upgrades occur. Even though trains are newer, journey times are faster, and waiting times reduced.

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