Wednesday, 8 July 2015

7th July 2005

Today was the anniversary of the London bombings - three on the Underground and one on a route 30 bus.

This anniversary is recognised annually but on this tenth occasion there were simultaneous marks of respect at each of the sites, as well as at the permanent memorial in Hyde Park and a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Survivors, families, colleagues and friends were joined by passers-by at each of the locations.

Whilst Commissioner of Transport Sir Peter Hendy accompanied the Prime Minister and Metropolitan Police Commissioner at Hyde Park, London Underground Managing Director Mike Brown attended Kings Cross.

For my part I went to Tavistock Square - the site of the explosion that killed 13 people on a route 30 bus which was on diversion due to the earlier incidents. The bomb detonated outside the British Medical Association who were also represented today along with the gallant and brave members of TfL staff, the emergency services, and the public, putting themselves at risk if further devices were to go off. 

With me was George Psarakadis (pictured) - the Stagecoach bus driver of that 30 bus.  He steadfastly continues to drive London’s bus passengers but today we walked, side-by-side to place the wreaths at the Tavistock Square memorial site.

Later we went to St Paul’s Cathedral for a memorable and moving service of remembrance. All of the faiths were represented and the service was attended by the Prime Minister, past and present Mayors, Ministers and members of the London Assembly. With us all were the families and survivors of that terrible day.

Uplifted by the music, words and prayers of the service we left the main entrance of St Paul’s to London going about its business as usual. As it did immediately after those terrible events of ten years ago.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Donald Allmey

Former London coach operator Don Allmey, who founded and ran Allmey Coaches of Eastcote, died on 6th June aged 78.

Don was more than just a family coach operator which were typical in London and elsewhere in the post-war years. Both Don and his wife Jean were well-known to their loyal customers for very many years and their fleet a familiar sight.

Don and his late brother Allan, had a special interest in old London buses. In the 1960s, they formed together with Prince Marshall of Old Motor Magazine, the London Bus Preservation Group. In the early 1970s they broke new ground by securing a former Vickers building in Weybridge and created the first undercover private museum for London buses. The collections of vibrant and working London buses through the years owned by private individuals, owes a tremendous amount to their foresight and courage often at huge personal risk given the guarantees and commitments required.

That museum now lives on in a different location, inside Brooklands Museum. It is open to the public daily - an extraordinary achievement inconceivable in those early days.

Allan and his wife Lyn were tragically killed in a car accident in 1978. Don and Jean brought up their young nephew William, together with their own children: Victoria is married to Des Maybury, Director of the Big Bus Tours empire, whilst in another twist of genealogy, son Martin works in vintage vehicle restoration with Prince's son Sebastian.

An old fashioned entrepreneur (although he would have considered that a posh word for 'wheeler dealer'), Don ran a successful business selling spares, parts and vehicles. His encyclopaedic knowledge of AEC products and their workings made him always in demand.

Don belonged to a special era when deals were done on personal knowledge and trust, and his eye for business was as acute as his kindness and genuine desire to help others.

He and Jean retired to Cyprus. However, after his onset of dementia, they returned to England. For some years now Don had been in full-time care. As is often the case, recollections of some wonderful days in the past would reawaken his otherwise declining awareness, always bringing a smile to his face.

The funeral is on 22nd June.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

"Take a number 11...."

Our Year of the Bus celebration is coming to a close. After an extraordinary year we are undertaking the last few events. 

A couple of weeks ago the Bus Sculptures were unveiled across London and today nearly 20 heritage RT family buses from the 1940s and 50s joined together in a celebration operation along route 11.

Retracing its route of the time, the buses ran from Liverpool Street Station (still the present terminus) through the heart of the City and West End to Chelsea and then on to Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush.

Rides were free and thousands of ordinary passengers were surprised and delighted when a bus some 60 or 70 years old arrived to take them on their journey. Passengers received commemorative tickets and the buses ran mostly full all day. Early rain did not dampen spirits and by the afternoon the weather was fine and dry.

The onset of dusk reawakened memories of over half a century ago as the yellowish glow of light bulbs heralded the arrival of the buses as they criss-crossed London amongst the flashing theatre signs in London’s West End.

Importantly the young – for whom this is not a memory but a story told by adults – were fascinated to see urban public transport as it was over fifty years ago. The buses themselves kept pace with London’s much changed traffic conditions which is a testament to British engineering from the post-war period.

Buses were supplied by private owners, supporting companies and individuals notably Ensign Bus and London Bus Company. The event was organised by London Bus Museum at Brooklands, who also provided the oldest RT family bus itself, prototype RT1.

For my part, I was delighted to be offered the chance to drive RT3232 (which once pounded the streets between Brentwood and Aldgate as a Green Line coach) and later RTW75, whose owner, Roger Wright stopped for me outside Peter Jones at Sloane Square. What the passengers made of apparently letting a random member of the public take over the driving we do not know. A brisk run at dusk through the West End brought back many happy memories from a long time ago.

The buses went home and the passengers vanished into the night. Some passengers only just noticing – but the majority enjoying a surprise trip back in time as they went about their business in London. 


Monday, 29 September 2014

Tube train returns to Ongar branch after 20 years

Twenty years ago London Transport ‘pulled the plug’ on the Epping-Ongar branch of the Central line.

The story however started in 1865 when the Great Eastern Railway reached the Essex outpost of Epping. In 1950, driven by post-war housing demands, it became a fully-fledged part of the Underground.

London Transport became part of the Greater London Council during the political changes of 1970, which highlighted losses incurred on this line. There were several proposals for closure and indeed occasional interventions to promote usage. When it became impossible for the branch to justify the modernisation needed, the third closure proposal was successful and services ended on 30th September 1994.

The story does not end there. Ownership of the line is complicated by property aspirations and inherent obligations to provide some commuter services. Thus following a change in ownership in 2007 and significant investment, operations resumed in 2012 using miscellaneous stock.

After initial investigations in 2013, the last tube train from 1994, now owned by Craven Heritage Trains, was propelled onto the branch by diesel locomotives twenty years since its demise.  

A busy weekend of activities started on Friday morning when MD London Underground Mike Brown rededicated the long-standing milepost at Ongar Station. All mileposts on the Underground take their reference from here.

During the weekend 26-28th September the Craven unit was pushed and pulled between North Weald and Ongar. 

Video: Craven set leaves Ongar after 20 years

Steam locomotive Met 1, no stranger to the line, also pulled passenger coaches in service.

Throughout the weekend, visitors were able to enjoy a variety of bus services using interesting vehicles operated from Epping to Shenfield via North Weald and Ongar.

CRL4 now looking as new all those years ago
On Sunday the very first prototype Routemaster coach was unveiled. Now superbly restored with its original design front end and quirky interior layout. For the first time in several decades all four Routemaster prototypes were displayed together – three of them now looking much as they did in 1957-8.

With so much nostalgia around us, it was not surprising that there were happy crowds – from passionate enthusiasts to smiling children.

Twenty years ago the prospect of crowds on a railway which was lucky to carry 100 people a day seemed very remote.

Yet on a sunny Sunday in 2014 it was all there to see.

Updates often on Twitter at @LeonDaniels


Sunday, 6 July 2014

London Pride

Last Saturday we were celebrating Pride London with many thousands marching through the West End. Nothing was going to dampen spirits, not even the rain.

The first march took place 40 years ago, and over the decades it has become more of a carnival and less of a protest. For many years, the festival at the end of the march was held on Clapham Common or Finsbury Park. Nowadays it finishes in Trafalgar Square.

The Pride London event, supported by the Mayor, Boris Johnson, is currently organised by LGBT+ Community Pride who have a five year contract.

A dramatic new feature this year was a ‘rainbow crossing’ which replaced the usual one in Pall Mall East for the day. It was expertly laid down by our contractors and christened by Mike Freer MP, Stephen Gre
enhalgh, the Mayor’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, and TfL’s Martyn Loukes, Steve Allen and me. 

After we had posed for our ‘Abbey Road’ style photographs the crossing was declared open and it quickly became a huge attraction as everyone jostled to have their photo taken!

We then headed to Baker Street where the carnival was lining up. Numerous vehicles and floats from very many agencies and supporters were gathering together, notwithstanding the bursts of torrential rain.

Close to the very front of the parade was TfL’s own open top bus with Trevor Wright in charge and home to the TfL LGBT contingent. Ignoring the rain, the carnival moved off at 1pm and headed along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Lower Regent Street to Trafalgar Square. There were extraordinary crowds cheering along the entire route.

Such was the rain that our open top bus shipped huge quantities of water which eventually drenched poor Trevor and took out a number of the bus’ systems. Luckily the gear selection was unaffected so we kept moving but various other features (like doors, wipers and lights) took on a mind of their own. 

Aboard the bus numerous TV and radio interviews took place and the team took it in turns to march in front and around the bus passing out flyers and stickers to anyone and everyone.

And what about the rainbow crossing? 

Well of course, since it is NOT approved in the Traffic Signs and General Directions Regulations it had to be removed before general traffic returned. But the good news is that it was thoroughly cleaned and now resides at the Reception desk at TfL’s operational HQ at Palestra. Once again people are clamouring to have their photos taken on it!


Monday, 30 June 2014

Looking back down Regent Street

A week on from last Sunday’s Regent Street Bus Cavalcade and we are still receiving enthusiastic tributes on the hugely successful day.

We have had the most amazing reaction. It seems some 400,000 people attended, which is more than double that predicted. Across the world, social media has reported the wonderful, family atmosphere as people wandered around and through the buses. Allowing people onto the buses and in the cab was clearly a great element to the success of the day.

A special thank you to all of the vehicle owners, for not only supporting the event, but also welcoming visitors on board their vehicles.

It wasn’t just the buses or the Lego bus stop that were busy. Emma Hignett is the voice you hear announcing all the stops on London’s Buses. Emma spent the day making personal announcements on people’s iPhones. Non-stop all day. So thousands of people now have their own personal Emma announcement.

But as at all such events, not everyone will be quite so enthusiastic and we had some internet chatter on certain aspects.

We spent a great deal of time working on the parking plan. Getting the vehicles in and out safely with no conflicting movements or awkward manoeuvres, and no delay on arrival was our biggest challenge.

We also had to contend with the median strip which occupies much of Regent Street.

We deliberately avoided ropes and no-go areas so people could go almost anywhere. Securing a licence for the event meant that numbers of vehicles was prescriptive, where they parked etc. ensuring emergency vehicle access at all times.

As to the choice of vehicles, quite simply it came down to what was available, what was mobile, what could be moved and when assembled would provide a colourful and interesting streetscape. Of course there were types not represented but the wish list was governed by the total number of vehicles allowed.

We are still collecting photographs, videos and stories from this amazing day. There have been many calls for a repeat. How and when this might be will have to be decided. For now though, we look back on a hugely successful event and again send a huge thank you to everyone who made it possible.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Year of the Bus Cavalcade

Photo thanks to Peter Zabek

Wasn't Sunday's Bus Cavalcade in London's Regent Street amazing! It was attended by tens of thousands of people in glorious sunny weather. Not just bus enthusiasts, as I heard one person comment, but many members of the public especially families - many taken by delighted surprise when they found vehicles and cabs were open for exploration. Queues built up for several of the vehicle types and lasted all day. You had to be there to appreciate the atmosphere.

We lined up 185 years of London bus history from the 1829 Horse Bus to the New Routemaster on the road closed for traffic for the occasion. In between were examples of London bus types as diverse as a 1952 BEA coach and a converted STL used latterly as a tree lopper.

Too late to be included in the official programme, two vehicles sold at auction the previous week from the collection of the late Michael Banfield (S454 and his Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric). A last minute casualty was Optare CityPacer OV2 which couldn’t be made ready in time.

Others made appearances after a long time in obscurity. Prototype Routemaster RM2 is back after a decade during which time a carefully hand-built replacement front end was created solely from photographs of how it looked when new in 1957. Not far away was the only rear-engined Routemaster FRM1 painted in its original 1967 colour scheme of red and flake grey with its original front end design.

There are numerous stories to be told about the event - including the planning and our work with our partner organisations to make it happen. A huge number of people gave up their time to bring the show together and spend not only their Sunday, but countless hours beforehand in preparation. Any list of thanks would never be definitive. But I shall try nonetheless.

The Cavalcade was only possible thanks to City of Westminster, Regent Street Association and The Crown Estates.

Over half of the vehicles came from the London Transport Museum, London Bus Museum and Ensignbus. The planning needed to get them there (especially the ones which don’t run under their own power) was extraordinary. Others came from individual owners as well as TfL's contracted bus companies.

From within TfL - Andy Barr, Simon Buxton and Jon Hodges directed the event; numerous people from Sam Mullins’ team at the LT Museum made it possible for so many vehicles to be present; Bob Bird arranged more vehicles from Acton than ever before. The team at London Bus Museum under the Chairmanship of Guy Marriott gave us all they could without emptying their own place at Brooklands. Peter, Ross and Steve Newman delivered eight of their collection including newly repainted T499 completed only that week.

Working away too were the volunteers, the people from TfL Marketing & Communications, the Museum Shop and numerous others.

A huge team effort by a great team. Thank you. As you can imagine, I loved every minute of it.

And we promise to do it again - perhaps sooner than the 35 years it has taken since we last did so!

Above: Peter Zabek