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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Wedding Day

Well the media is full of the success Royal Wedding but a critical part of it was as a result of the excellent planning by all of the agencies involved and then its equally superb delivery by their teams.

I was able to witness first hand the work done by TfL. The closures of the streets, diversions for the bus routes, provision of information were all planned months in advance and in consultation with the many other organisations. There were full contingency plans for very many situations and as always it relied on the work of the bus, streets and Police control facilities which are all co-located and work like this together every day of the year, together with those of the other agencies.

During my visits to them all I witnessed first hand the very calm reactions to the inevitable problems which occurred and which were resolved without the slightest impact on the Royal occasion.

Most Londoners and visitors would be amazed just quite how much management of the network is always in place and how well it works together whether or not major events are underway.

But none of this would be possible without the tremendous experience and ability of the people who were working behind the scenes, those who had worked on the plans and those who were on duty in front of the public helping make their day enjoyable. They did a spectacular job and London is grateful for their tremendous professionalism. I have to say I am particularly proud of the team I have just joined.

Now if anyone wonders whether we will deliver the transport for the Olympic Games then they should look no further than the delivery on Friday. Plan, test, review and deliver is the key.

I think some of us did have some sore feet on Friday night. The crowds did stay in Central London until very late in the day and so the removal of barriers, opening of streets, and dealing with the departing masses kept my people busy until late but of course London woke up as normal this morning.

And despite all this hard work - some lovely touches. Yes the big screens did show an early 1950s Cinegazette from the British Transport Films archive for the early morning risers and, in a discreet display of subtlety when Kate Middleton's car headed through deserted Central London roads to Westminster Abbey we forced the traffic lights to green. Not one snapshot of her going through a red light and no opportune, funny headline!


Friday, 29 April 2011

On our bikes

TV Presenter Grant Stott and Kulveer Ranger flank the
TfL Barclays CycleHire Scheme team at the awards presentation
It is the night before the Royal Wedding and we are assembled at the Novotel in Hammersmith for the London Transport Awards 2011 presented in association with the Transport Times.

In something of a contrast Vice Chair of TfL Daniel Moylan opened the proceedings and former Mayor Ken Livingstone gave the after-dinner address. Much was made of all of the achievements which have been made in London plus also what needs to be done to maintain London's position in the league table of capital cities.

My sincere congratulations to my team who won the prize for the Most Innovative Transport Project - the part of TfL Surface Transport who brought us the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. This was a project which was delivered in double-quick time and has become a huge success in London. Further expansion is now being planned. There are already almost 400 docking stations in London and one in five users is new to cycling.

Unlike comparable systems in other cities we have had almost no pilferage and there is a high degree of confidence in the system which is open to members (who pay a fee) and casual users. We've just had our busiest day ever.

A very well-deserved award, ahead of a short night before the busy Friday ahead and the Royal Wedding!


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Harlem Globetrotters

About the last thing I did at First was to agree our UK sponsorship of the 9-day tour of the Harlem Globetrotters. In the USA they are transported by Greyhound so we thought similarly so they should be here in UK.

They are doing a nine-city tour which started on Sunday in Manchester and I was glad to be there with my boys. Also with us on this tour are families from the local operating companies and the customers who have won the local competitions. We met the players backstage, the boys then played 'musical chairs' in front of 4000 people and of course the team went on to beat the Washington Generals as they have done for many years.

Greyhound is of course transporting the team and their entourage from city to city and this is being organised out of Swansea where Greyhound maintains the service to Cardiff. Like their US counterparts out Greyhound coaches are high-tech with wifi and laptop power plus extra legroom. Good if you are nearly 7' tall!

The iconic Greyhound brand of course is ideal for this particular venture with these extraordinary basketball players. Try and see them in a city near you!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Under the Surface

So, back in UK and two days into the new job of Managing Director, Surface Transport at Transport for London.

Well I see on my return that items from this blog and from TfL's own "Upfront" Magazine are already in the trade press so my news and intentions are already in wide circulation.

So perhaps this is a good place, having left the private sector, to make some observations on the non-London market thatI have left behind and which is delivered under quite different legislation.

There is no doubt the industry is in some turbulent times. Significant reductions in local authority income affecting tendered bus volumes and concessionary fares income; the imminent arrival of the preliminary findings of the Competition Commission; tough economic times affecting fares revenue; high fuel costs; and now less than 12 months to go to the significant reduction in BSOG. The financial challenges for the foreseeable future are significant. Notwithstanding all these issues, fleet investment must continue as the DDA deadlines are looming, and the prospect of further requirements from the EU always are on the horizon.

At the same time the industry is adjusting to the progressive retirement of its founders - now only Brian Souter at Stagecoach remains amongst the big groups and equally amongst the smaller companies a succession plan must be being prepared for those who either bought their nationalised businesses or something else instead. Simultaneously investors are promoting change at National Express, rumouring other activity at Stagecoach, are watching the changes at First, DB/Arriva and the effect of new stewardship at Go-Ahead.

And finally this market, and that of rail, looks attractive to the foreign companies from Europe.

For the non-London market it still feels as if the industry is stuck in the halfway house between being a utility and a retailer. British Airways, BP, BT, and the energy companies have long since shaken off their postwar history. Yet in the meantime the bus industry still doesn't make the big leap forwards nor embraces the consequences of any step backwards. It still seeks external funding for its street furniture, ticket machines, investment needs even though any use of public money must by definition bring with it an element of control.

We wouldn't see any of the major retailers asking the local authority to pay for its signage or new tills.

A problem remains that the industry is far from "deregulated". In fact it is significantly regulated - the Traffic Commissioner, VOSA, HSE etc. But there are regulatory forces in play inside telecommunications, aviation and energy as well.

The big issue therefore is - does the bus industry want to be a proper retailer? if it does, it has to behave like one and boldly make the step. Otherwise, if it only is half-in and half-out, it will have to accept significant influence from the local authorities and other stakeholders who will be providing some of the funding.

Increased devolution of power and responsibilities to local authorities is bringing with it a stronger demand for control as well.

A real crossroads for the industry, new dynamics in play and new players as well.

I am watching with great interest, from my Central London vantage point...........


Friday, 15 April 2011

Still on holiday

Yes am still on holiday but will be back on Tuesday 19th so should drop back into some twice weekly updates depending on what is going on.

Still not cracked remote uploading of images from my iPad but there are one or two across on Facebook.

Meantime yes it is still hot and sunny so enjoying every minute. Thanks for all your good wishes and for my next message I will be back in Lomdon...!


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Holiday bulletin

Well as you probably know I am on holiday.

Currently at St Pete's Beach is on the west coast of Florida and where it is generally in the mid 80s. Everything so far provided by British Airways, Avis and everyone else has been great.

Gulf sunsets are magic every night as the colours change with the weather and cloud formations so are popular with everyone. And our hotel was hosting an advanced American Customer Service conference which I thought was really funny. American service industries are very good but to have several hundred really polite guests as well, all holding the doors open for each other and wishing each other to have a nice day was hysterical.

And if you DO hold a conference at a beach resort you do risk people drifting off in the afternoons. However the suits were a bit of a giveaway!

I'm afraid posting photos on this blog remotely isn't going too well but periodic photos of this excursion are on my Facebook site. I will post the sunset over there next.


Friday, 1 April 2011

A good Friday

So my last proper day at First after a really busy week. 

Mary Grant held her leaving party the night after mine so there was another round of people and goodbyes, and then I was in Aberdeen on Thursday. By a happy coincidence I was on the plane with Sir Moir Lockhead who was, of course, enjoying HIS very last day on the books of First and heading home.

But another surprise this morning as crafty work by my incredible PA Sheila and my team lead by Nick Vane got me on a train the public knows as the 0802 Bristol Parkway to London but we know as 1L24. However today my reserved seat was in the cab and I had a tremendous run at up to 125mph in the nose of the HST125 all the way to Paddington.

These sets have done several times their design mileage - some 8m miles on some of them and their future on the UK rail network remains assured to some extent for the near future. A reminder, as with the Routemaster, of how a higher purchase price and superior engineering repays itself with a long and reliable lifespan.

A whirlwind day of meetings, catching up with people and trying to get finished. One or two old friends also dropped in.

I'm off on two weeks' holiday now to the USA, before my first day at TfL on 20th April. Maybe some more unusual stories here whilst I am away.

Whilst I pack here are two photos - firstly my going away card - a spoof front cover of leading transport magazine RouteONE (look at me with Boris' hair!) and a view from the front of 450 tons of High Speed Train earlier this morning.