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Monday, 17 December 2012

More steam on the Underground

Met loco No 1 leads the train at Edgware Road Station
With the Underground's 150 anniversary now only a month away there was one more full-scale rehearsal needed to prove that we can indeed haul passengers along that original 1863 route from Paddington to Farringdon.

Early on Sunday morning (at 0152 in fact), we are standing on platform 1 at Earls Court watching restored Met loco No 1, lead the equally expertly-restored Metropolitan Coach 353, together with a flat wagon (with emergency water) and at the rear electric loco Sarah Siddons. Those charged with checking this operation, together with a few others and a couple of members of the press boarded and we set off.

Riding in 353 we again experienced the sensation of being hauled by steam: the smoke, the smell, the sounds. Yes we chuffed around the Outer Circle at 2am in 2012 as if it was an every day occurrence. The coach itself had several lives. It was built in 1892 and retired from London in 1905, whereupon it saw service on the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway.

A glimpse into one of the
compartments of 353

After the line closed in 1940, it went on to be used as a shop, a clubhouse for US servicemen, a home and a farm outbuilding. The restoration has been expertly done by the Ffestiniog Railway. 

Periodically, from the anonymous darkness of the tunnels we would pass through familiar Underground stations - High Street Kensington, Edgware Road, Baker Street (where we get vented huge quantities of steam to test the station's atmospheric reaction), and perhaps most amazingly of all Kings Cross which is the most modern on this section of line. Bright lights, illuminated signs, modern fittings, all glimpsed through the varnished wooden window frames and gold fittings.

At 0302 we pulled into the bay road at Moorgate, where No 1's water tanks were replenished.

Dating from 1898 she pulled her load through the tunnels - back in 1963 she played a major part in the Underground's centenary but subsequently changed hands and deteriorated until this recent expert restoration which brings her back into action again on London metals exactly 50 years later.

The youngest member of the train is of course the most famous - Sarah Siddons - the 1923 electric locomotive which was on hand in case of assistance being needed and to lead the entourage back from Moorgate later.

We mustn't forget the stalwart Sarah Siddons which was
ready to assist and indeed led the ensemble back
from Moorgate
The train paused at Edgware Road on the return before returning through Earl's Court as London was again waking.

With all the tests for this year completed the scene is now set for the rehearsal and formal events in January 2013 which will mark the 150th anniversary. It will see fare-paying passengers - as well as dignitaries and VIPs - re-enact the experiences of a century and a half ago.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Night time enforcement

This weekend I was able to join two of my night time enforcement teams who are working continuously to maintain and improve safety on London's streets.

Operation Kansas targeted stretched limousines and novelty vehicles and together with VOSA we set up a facility on Victoria Embankment where vehicles could be inspected and checked.

The population of stretched limos has grown considerably in recent years and many operate in dubious legal territory. Vehicles with more than 8 seats need an Operator's Licence but many run without them. Moreover the construction of these conversions is often dangerous. We found plywood roofs, non-flame resistant materials, and glass which cannot be broken or cut in an emergency. With such potential traps for passengers in the event of a crash or fire, we were staggered to find doors which could not be opened, as well as faulty brakes, steering and defective lighting.

Some vehicles were so dangerous they were immediately impounded, others had to be towed away.

As you would expect,  for as long as vehicles are operated in this condition we will continue to target them. It causes some inconvenience to the occupants but without a doubt they had no idea their safety was being risked. Needless to say there are respectable operators and their vehicles fully comply and are well maintained. Indeed after spending £80,000 or more on such exotic equipment you really would take good care of them, wouldn't you?

Later I joined our Taxi and Private Hire compliance team and we toured Kings Cross, the West End and Camden. Again we were specifically looking for Private Hire vehicles which were plying for hire - something only licensed black cabs are legally entitled to do. Late night venues are an obvious place for such vehicles to congregate and we found again cases where drivers were taking passengers who had not pre-booked, as they are required to be. These drivers will now find their licences being reviewed, as will those black cab drivers who only hold suburban (yellow) licences but were plying for hire with their lights on inside the central London area.

Why do we do this? The law provides two quite distinct types of 'taxi' services in London - both designed to suit different markets but both arranged to protect customers, many of whom are vulnerable. Unless we ensure the services are operating legally the way is open for unscrupulous people to take advantage - if you get in an unlicensed vehicle then it's just like getting into a stranger's car.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday

Brian Everett MBE, President of the
London Transport 
Old Comrades Association
ahead of Peter Orchard, Wreath Layer,
and the TfL contingent formed up
ready to march off.
Last Sunday it was my immense privilege to lead the London Transport Old Comrades as they undertook their traditional annual duty to pay their respects to those London Transport staff who gave their lives in active service.

The veterans are welcomed to 55 Broadway for breakfast early on Sunday morning. Not all are able to march but can watch the whole service on a large screen in our Board Room (in the company of portraits of our founders Lord Ashfield and Frank Pick). Those who are able go to the briefing before assembling in the foyer for photographs.

Peter Orchard, a former Navy man who served on HMS Antrim during the Falklands conflict, was our wreath layer. Peter works for me in Surface Transport in East London as an Area Manager.

At precisely 1015 those who are marching assemble in Queen Anne's Gate and are called to order by Bob Lawrence, former Emergency Planning Manager at London Underground. With the veterans called to attention I am required to address them and finally, in a carefully choreographed military fashion, give permission for them to march off to the Cenotaph.

The right to march past the Cenotaph was granted to the London General Omnibus Company in 1917 by King George V. Some 900 buses and their drivers were requisitioned to drive troops to the front in World War 1 and bring back the wounded. This was astonishingly dangerous and the drivers were reputedly 'volunteered' without choice. In recognition of their bravery the King bestowed the right to march and so the LGOC became the only civilian organisation able to do so. This right transferred through London Transport and to TfL.

On return the veterans march back to Queen Anne's Gate where I receive them. Once again Bob Lawrence approaches, announces that the men have completed their duty, and asks me for permission for them to be dismissed, which of course, I give.

All are then reunited for lunch at 55 Broadway and an afternoon of old friendships, reminiscences, and reflection.

Until next year....


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lord Mayor's Show

Today, as Vice President of the London Bus Museum, I was invited to take part in the Lord Mayor's Show - a 477 year old tradition celebrating the annual appointment of the Lord Mayor of London.

My hosts had both horse and motor bus participation and I was pleased to be aboard Dennis D142, dating from 1925, for a number of reasons.

It was rescued from otherwise certain extinction by the late Prince Marshall with whom I worked in the late 1970s. Having been expertly restored it had been as far afield as Japan on promotional visits and after the London Transport Museum opened in 1980 it ran from time to time on a special Vintage Bus Route 100 from Covent Garden. The only remaining vestige of that service is the old bus stop post (but not flag) in Wellington Street.

In fact I drove it myself in the Lord Mayor's Show in 1980 with the Chelsea Pensioners aboard so today's trip was a significant piece of nostalgia for me.

D142 is now resident at the London Bus Museum at Brooklands. It stayed overnight at Bow Garage before being on point at London Wall at 0730. For the parade the Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers in their blue and white regalia were aboard. We followed their Master and guests in open vintage cars and we ourselves were followed by the Three-Light Horse Bus from the Museum led by Tony Drewitt.

The early morning rain faded, and very soon we were ready to move. D142 demonstrated the same shyness in getting started as she did to me 32 years ago, giving the team and the Pageant Master one heart-stopping moment. But soon we were underway and beautifully captured by the live BBC television coverage as we passed Mansion House.

It was over too quickly and before long we were at the lunch stop by Temple, followed by a trouble-free return.

As ever the thousands of smiling faces said it all as Londoners and visitors saw modern and ancient vehicles, from civilian life and the military, parade through the City of London.


Friday, 9 November 2012

Euro Bus Expo 2012

The new Optare MetroCity for London
Photo: Stuart Jones Bus and Coach Buyer

It only seems yesterday we were bathed in the heat of summer in the Olympic Park. Now it is mid-November, the nights are long, which must mean our  annual expedition to Birmingham for the industry's trade show at NEC Birmingham.

There are in fact two different shows both occurring every two years. This one was the Euro Bus Expo and lasted over three days.

Our New Bus for London was there - LT3 looking resplendent despite already having several months' daily service under its belt. ADL and Optare showed their latest wares, as did all the other major manufacturers.

Technology continues to make great strides; the latest hybrid and electric vehicles demonstrate how far things have come in the past few years. Transport Minister Norman Baker announced a further £20m Green Bus Fund, again demonstrating Government determination to get the volumes of ultra-low emission vehicles up and unit costs down.

Science is also delivering assistance in many other areas of the industry. These include systems to improve engineering and operating efficiency, vehicle tracking, and fuel economy.

I was impressed with the Optare MetroCity on display for London operation. This 10.6m single-decker is designed for urban bus conditions, is light, which allows a capacity of 60 passengers, and at long last allows a rear window - a feature missing from this particular manufacturer's products for some time.

Optare already has a number of full, size electric vehicles in operation - so far with good results - and in a design where the vehicle requires very little modification regardless of the power plant, be that diesel, hybrid or EV.

So an optimistic show in tough economic conditions. The industry is trying hard for sure.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Poppy Day

We are supporting even more vigorously than usual Poppy Day 2012, recognising those who have given their lives for this country. We do so especially given the great contribution by the military to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

There are buses, trains and locations promoting the poppies and in an event this past week on Trafalgar Square HRH Prince Charles demonstrated the value of hopping on and off - in this case RM1005 owned by Commissioner for Transport for London Peter Hendy.


Saturday, 27 October 2012

The veterans

Ian Aitchenson tells me about his military service
and long career on the buses
On Friday I was delighted to join some of London Transport's war veterans to launch our two buses adorned with poppies for the Royal British Legion.

Together with an Overground and Circle Line train these buses are designed to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by London's service men and women. We are also launching the Veteran Oyster photo cards and decorating some bus shelters too.

London Transport is the only civilian organisation permitted to march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. It was granted by King George V in 1920 in recognition of the services to the country of bus staff who drove buses to the front line in France in 1915.

Each year the London Transport Old Comrades do so remembering the 1500 staff who died in World War 1, the 3000 who died in World War II, and others subsequently.

It was a great privilege today to meet several old and not so old veterans in Whitehall where we launched and then took a ride on one of the two Stagecoach vehicles which will now run in service for the next few weeks.

I talked to Elsie Davies, who is now 94, a former conductress who was one of 11,000 women recruited during the early months of the war. I also talked to Ian Aitchenson who proudly showed me a photograph of himself in Germany on the last day of World War II in 1945. Ian was a driver at Walworth and Camberwell, finishing his career on the Original London Sightseeing Tour from Wandsworth eventually being the sole driver and guardian of Routemaster ERM242 which over time was gradually polished and smartened up. He was sad to end his driving career even though well into his 70s but as a Scotsman proud to know his particular bus ended up in Edinburgh.

The next time we see them will be with very many other colleagues as they march past the Cenotaph in a couple of Sundays time, as we take a moment to remember all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Representatives of road and rail London Transport
staff launch our poppy buses and trains


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Kenny Martin MBE

My diary for Friday certainly had Night Network Traffic Controller Kenny Martin's investiture at Buckingham Palace in it but the day turned out rather differently than I expected.

Along with Arriva's Peter Middleton, Kenny was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours following his heroic actions at the height of the disturbances last August.

He was deployed to the Brixton area shortly before events there escalated. Despite his own vehicle coming under attack, he continued to assist passengers and bus drivers helping to get them to safety. Kenny also then went out to recover a number of abandoned buses in the area returning them to garages. This prevented them from being damaged in the street and as a result the number of bus 'casualties' was amazingly small.

As a complete surprise Kenny's friends, colleagues and family (some from overseas!) arrived unannounced at Buckingham Palace aboard L1 - the first Leyland Olympian in the London Transport fleet nearly 30 years ago and now preserved by Neil Bird.

Neil instantly offered me the chance to drive L1 and so we arrived at the Palace as Kenny was finishing his interview for BBC TV News. Once he had recovered from the surprises (several at once - the bus, the destination blinds, the passengers and me!) the film crew recorded him celebrating aboard the bus and this was later broadcast on the evening local news.

The rain did not dampen anyone's spirits and we were even tolerated by a lone policeman when we ventured a little closer to Buckingham Palace than he would have liked.

A memorable day for Kenny Martin MBE which he won't forget and a good reminder of the dedication of our team who face unexpected challenges every day.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Far East

Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

I am sorry to all my followers that you've heard so little from me of late. Suffice to say it has just been really busy in the post-Olympics period as we now focus on the Mayor's manifesto commitments and we wrap up all the Olympics learning and document it for the future. This is not just about future Games but all major events that we might get involved in.

There is a huge thirst for information about the Olympic Games and I am just back from Singapore where I was delighted to be the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by the Land Transport Authority. Singapore is of course a fitting place to start as this is where the IOC elected London as the 2012 host city back in 2005.

Nor surprisingly Singapore has many of the challenges we face in London. A growing population and demand for transport. Major rail projects underway but some time yet to coming on stream and a need to cope with the requirements in the meantime, all, of course subject to differing political opinion as to how it should be achieved and paid for.

It is some 15 years since I was there: it was a periodic stopover when I commuted to Hong Kong for Board meetings when my company was owned by the Chinese. Since then more land reclamation, significant new development, and the corresponding rise in demand. Singapore also boasts a congestion charging scheme which predates London by many years and is highly automated and dynamic.

Electronic Road Pricing in action

Audiences are very interested in the Olympic legacy - not just the physical infrastructure such as the DLR extension and Stratford International station - but the learning. Our Travel Demand Management demonstrated that we can achieve behavioural change by properly targeting our audience and this shows much promise for the future.

Similarly, for the first time, we properly addressed freight issues. Freight occupies 25% of Central London's roadspace. Freight competes with public transport for kerbside space, carriageway space; it is licensed by the same Traffic Commissioner and the vehicles are built and powered by the same manufacturers. Yet for too long the industries merely stared at each other over an unspoken divide. The Games has helped us realise in the future we will have to work much more collaboratively and, I am delighted to say, the freight industry has taken up these opportunities very enthusiastically.

I have no doubt that whilst we won't have anything to match the Olympic Games, our 2013 will be hugely challenging and exciting!


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Colin Curtis OBE, BSc (Eng), CEng, MIMechE, MIRTE

Matthew Wooll took this photo of Colin
(leaning on the wing of the bus)
holding his audience's interest at the
2001 RML40 event at Cobham Bus Museum
After a long period of ill health Colin Curtis sadly died this morning at Crawley Hospital, aged 86.

His name was synonymous with the specialist engineering development of London Transport road vehicles - a role which even survived into the London Regional Transport era by which time vehicles were owned by the operators themselves.

He joined in 1947 and despite the considerable technical advances over his period of influence he remained fixed on the benefits of saving weight, was determined to deliver designs which made maintenance and unit changes simple and fast to do, and pioneered the widespread use of hydraulics - notably, but not only, in the Routemaster's braking system.

He bemoaned the unstoppable rise in vehicle weight and was finally proved right when fuel costs started to really count in the economics of bus operation. By this time the amazing weight/passenger ratio of the RML had long been lost.

He was latterly dubbed - rather inaccurately - the 'father of the Routemaster' . He didn't like the term - if anyone was, it was Bill Durrant*. More correctly he was really the sole survivor of the team who worked with the prototypes and rose in seniority as the fleet grew and was developed.

After retirement from London Buses he ran his own consultancy and tried very hard to get his own 'Q-Master' design adopted by one of the commercial manufacturers. Sadly it never materialised.

He was active in the preservation movement - he had his own RF - and was Life President for what is now the London Bus Museum and the Routemaster Association. He wrote about his life and times in a book '40 Years with London Transport' although long since out of print.

His wealth of knowledge and experience was always in demand and he would give interesting and thought-provoking lectures until eventually, his health did not allow it.

I finish with a phrase my old friend used to me decades ago, but which has held true ever since and which, I must admit I have frequently repeated. When I asked him - some 25 years ago - what he felt about current vehicle purchasing policy in the context of what had been a series of unsatisfactory London bus types he forcefully said to me:

"When the Operating Department makes its b-----y mind up what sort of bus it wants [one-person or two-person crew; double-deck or single-deck; front door or open platform].....

"........We'll build it !!!"


* A A M Durrant CBE was Chief Mechanical Engineer (Road Services) London Transport for more than thirty years

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Olympics recap

The party atmosphere of London.
Here tons of feathers are swirling

above Piccadilly Circus.

The Paralympic Games have been an unmitigated success on and off the field and part of an incredible London 2012 Olympics. Every day we had sell out venues, huge crowds travelling on our transport system. As with the Olympics themselves, no one disagrees with the statement that transport in London did us proud.

In a flash it was over and we are left with nightly parties as Games Family members hang on to the friendships and fun. But most have now gone home and the Olympic Park is silent.

The key to these widely-acclaimed Games is that there was exceptional teamwork. All the agencies worked closely together, there was adequate resource, and all the meticulous planning paid off.

The Mayor accurately summed it up post Games on Wednesday night: in the run-up to the Olympics there were doom-mongerers everywhere. Interviews with taxi drivers leaving the country, shopkeepers, businessmen and others foretelling impending disaster in the manner of Private Fraser in Dad's Army.

With all the media here and no sport, the few days before the Opening Ceremony was like a pigeon shoot for the media but I was heartened when on the first day of the Olympic Route Network in operation - two days before the Opening Ceremony - the BBC people stood idly in our London Streets Traffic Control Centre and said they couldn't find a jam anywhere for the helicopter to film and could we help!

Londoners did as we asked and planned ahead. They changed their travel habits, times etc which gave us the space we needed to deliver transport for the Games. So successful was it that soon after it all started the media then started trumpeting the opposite tune. Not gridlock - we had chased everyone away! Ghost town London.

The Olympic Family had quickly grasped the excellent public transport available in this city and then used it. As a result demand for the dedicated Games Family Transport was lower than expected and we were able to leave the infamous Games Lanes (of which there were only ever 31 miles) switched off for more than half of the time.

My daily Travel News spot on the radio became a general chat about issues of the day as there were few transport issues to talk about.

Of course there were issues - every day something on our network had a problem. But such was the resilience it never spoiled any spectator or official journey to the Olympic venues.

Despite the dramas ahead of the Games many businesses did well. Even Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber was forced to admit the meltdown in his theatres did not materialise. Generally speaking, those businesses which anticipated the Games did well. Those who tried to soldier on as normal didn't fair so well. A major retailer told me he knew he would sell less clothing and more bottled water so adjusted his stock accordingly.

The regular army of cab drivers who descend on Heathrow Airport at 0530 found they waited rather longer for business whereas those who headed instead for Park closing time at Stratford, Wembley and other venues were rewarded with good business.

For those of us who planned each day in meticulous detail over months and years, the days ran through frighteningly fast. And during the brief respite between the Olympic and Paralympic Games we quickly adjusted our plans so that when we came onto the field for the 'second half' we had an even better plan thanks to the experiences of the first.

As a result the significantly different audience profile - more groups, more coaches, more children, more mobility impaired people got a great service and we were able to keep London moving for everyone else despite the whole "return to work from holidays" and start of school term.

And so, now what? (other than the nightly Games Family parties).

Well there was that election back in May so we have a raft of Mayoral pledges to deliver and this will all start to unfold over the next few weeks and months. We can do this thanks to the legacy from the Games - not just the infrastructure but the new ways of working and co-operation together with a determination to do great things in our city.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Second half

The climax of the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games

Once again London is transformed as the Paralympic Games get underway - the second half of this huge once-in-a-lifetime sporting and cultural spectacle.

The Paralympics are an equal challenge to the main Games - it is sold out with some 2.5m tickets in the hands of spectators and once again athletes, officials, media and spectators all needing to be at venues at specific times. There are fewer venues this time (although one new one at Brands Hatch). In addition there are the additional challenges of more people with mobility difficulties and also many more groups - several hundred coaches on certain days.

The note was set by the outstanding Opening Ceremony - with its own flypast, fireworks, high-wire acrobatics and music. All delivered around the arrival of 164 countries' athletes.

Like the Torch Relay earlier that day, the ceremony ran rather late and so breached our notional curfew of midnight - after which our planning shows we are at risk of not being able to deliver everyone home. By the time 60,000 people have left the Olympic Park we are really into the times of last trains despite them running significantly later than usual. And whilst everyone can be whisked away from Stratford on one of several different services there is the question of onward connections for those passengers.

It worked. The ceremony finished at 0009. The train service was gently held back to fill them some more and this stretched the times of the last ones. The contingency bus fleet was deployed running extra journeys on route 25 to Central London and on local bus services (never forgetting there are the park staff to get home too).

With this logistical challenge behind us we settle into the ever changing routine of events at multiple venues, crowds leaving them, and an ever-increasing background of general traffic in London as holidays end and schools return.

So as ever we repeat our request which was so splendidly taken up by London and Londoners during the Olympic Games, which was to plan ahead, avoid driving in the City, on or near the Paralympic Route Network and the venues themselves. Use our excellent Journey Planner which will route you on the public transport network away from the hotspots and we will get everyone to and from their destination again successfully.

Spectators and Park staff using
late-night bus services from Stratford

Friday, 17 August 2012

Eye of the storm

We find ourselves at half time - after an extraordinary 17 days the Olympic Games are over and the athletes have returned home. A time with very little sleep, huge exhilaration, and when London's transport system performed admirably. Everyone got to their events: the athletes, the spectators, Games Family and the media. And London kept moving, as we promised.

I was regularly invited on BBC Radio London and LBC onto the Travel News but as the Games wore on there was less and less to talk about. Paul & Gabby on Radio London and I ended up discussing other things including superstition and tea.

Londoners did what we asked them to do. They changed their travel habits. The Games Family was quick to learn to use public transport. As a result, the controversial Games Lanes were kept open to all traffic for more than 50% of the time. We carried a record number of passenger journeys on London Underground, Emirates AirLine and DLR. There was flatter peak hour demand and a longer, later more intensive service.

Leading up to the Games, there were those who predicted traffic chaos, the TV series “2012” immortalised it. Yet, from my control centre we observed free flowing roads, a “Good Service” on the rail and underground network and trouble-free airports.

But demand was up throughout the Games and by the busiest weekend we were delivering a huge 27% more passengers into the West End after 1600. No wonder retailers, West End theatres and other customer-facing organisations reported a 'feel good' factor with extra spend. Only a few - who perhaps were out marketed and had not adjusted their product to the Olympics - did not do so well.

And then it was all over, at least for some. The first Paralympic athletes arrive this weekend, the village reopens, and a record number of spectators head for the venues. And this time there will be fewer special arrangements, but there are many more groups, more people with mobility difficulties, and an Autumn School Term starting on 3rd September.

Team TfL and its associates are taking a short breather to get ready for part two. A no-less challenging second half for sure.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Routemaster carries the flame

So the countdown to the Olympics continues and today, completing its journeys on different forms of transport, the Olympic flame travelled aboard First's RMC1510 - an open top Routemaster - along Oxford Street.

This event took a great deal of planning. The Torch bearers themselves had to be convinced, and the organisers comfortable that the bus did not interfere with the tightly timed event. No branding was allowed so the bus was all red without any fleetnames.

McKenna Brothers kindly made the destination blinds - there are more displays than this photograph shows too!

So the RMC was taken to Great Cumberland Place where our guests, including the Mayor of Westminster, boarded. The Torch convoy consists of several elements and all has to run precisely to time. The "Activation" module came into position and started its progress along Oxford Street. Then under Police escort the Wrights Streetlite bus brought us the Torch bearers. The first went to receive the flame from the bearer carrying the flame along the Bayswater Road whilst the others boarded the bus. The usual Police escort runners came too.

The flame lit, the Torch bearer boarded the bus and in no time at all the bus pulled into the traffic stream and we made our way along an Oxford Street crammed with crowds. They weren't just in the street but hanging out of windows and on rooftops.

The flame is transferred by "the kiss" - the two torches held together to transfer the flame from one to another. This was done on board the bus. The Torch bearer stood at the front on a special platform built to make sure he or she was head and shoulders above the bus.

The bus was driven by Peter Hendy, the Commissioner for Transport in London. After its last Torch bearer left the bus, we followed the convoy along Regent Street and into Haymarket.

So now the flame is in Hyde Park and soon will transfer for its last journey - to the Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremony.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Opening Ceremony preview

I really did take this in the Olympic Park but
not necessarily yesterday!
With so little time left now we have had the last rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. All 50,000 of us were sworn to secrecy so no photographs!

In public transport terms all the guests were delivered to the Olympic Park in good time and the system whisked them away again afterwards. The park was clear by 2300 and there were trains to spare.

There is now a great feeling about the Games. Traffic is flowing in Central London, the Games Family is travelling to and from their venues, broadly in line with target journey times, and everyone appears to be ready for it all to start.

Meantime, as I write the Torch is on its final day of touring the London Boroughs and very shortly we will join it for its last few miles before arriving in Hyde Park. It has one more unique mode of transport to enjoy and will be uploading photos later!


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Torch goes Underground

A week of late finishes and early starts. As the dust settles on Monday night's dress rehearsal for the Olympic Opening Ceremony Tuesday morning sees me on an early train to Wimbledon to be ready for the arrival of the Olympic Torch for its historic ride on the Underground.

The Torch is now visiting every London Borough before arriving at the Olympic Park on Friday. The last time I saw it was in Newcastle when it arrived on a high wire on the quayside. Now it was transferred to the care of long-serving London Underground employee John Light, a Signalling Operator who has worked for us since 1963.

John, 64, carried the Olympic Torch along platform 1 at Wimbledon station this morning before taking it into the cab of the train adorned with Olympic rings for its unique journey one stop to Wimbledon Park.

On arrival there were media interviews and photographs before the flame was carefully taken onto its next whole day run which ended in Ealing tonight.

The public were delighted to see the Torch travel by train and many early morning commuters were surprised to be part of the trip.

Later on, a flag bearing the Olympic rings was hoisted on the flagpole at 55 Broadway in a short ceremony.

So we approach the final few hours before the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. In that short time the Torch has more Boroughs to visit, there is a further rehearsal at the Olympic Park, and tonight the last of the mayor works on London's roads takes place. Tomorrow morning at 0600 the Olympic Route Network is operational. As a result the "big peel" takes place as the next layer of road signs is unveiled.

The hot weather has certainly cheered everyone up. Not long to go!


Saturday, 21 July 2012

My diary continues

So that was Thursday - all eight LTs together for a photocall at Ash Grove. 

What happened on Friday?

Well of course a stream of important things as London gets ready and on Friday night an army of highway contractors moved in to make the final changes to London's road network: three nights of major works ahead of the final week before the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games.

These changes are now the physical ones - banned left and right turns, removal of pedestrian crossings and barriers to prevent illegal movements. In addition we continue change London's traffic signals. This is a gradual process as the traffic has to adapt. But in essence we are creating the capacity needed for all the additional people in London. These measures give priority to the Olympic Route Network to deliver the journey times to and from Olympic venues which we are required to deliver, by the Olympic authorities, and create space by adjusting the rate of flow into Central London.

But on Friday night the Torch itself came to London, Two Sea King helicopters flew in from Surrey, through Tower Bridge to the Tower of London.

The first Sea King swooped in, took up a position just above the Traitor's Gate to allow several personnel to descend by rope to the ground. It's job done, the first Sea King departed and took up station near The Shard.

Then the second Sea King hovered above the Traitor's Gate and Royal Marine Martin Williams descended the rope carefully carrying the Olympic Flame. Once on the ground a new torch was lit and Dame Kelly Holmes proudly carried into the Tower of London itself.

With military precision it was all done in minutes but with typical flair it arrived at 2012.......

The Torch is now visiting all of the London Boroughs. Greenwich to Newham today; Redbridge, Barking, Havering and Bexley on Sunday. This carries on all week until arriving in Westminster on Thursday.

The Torch has already travelled on the TfL network - it was on the Woolwich Ferry today, and it has an Underground train and a bus to use yet.

London is really different and each day the excitement is growing. More news here and on Twitter as it happens!


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Not long to go!

It is now very exciting and I promised something of a diary.

The weekend was dominated by concerts in Hyde Park - Springsteen on Saturday, Paul Simon on Sunday and Madonna on Tuesday. All late finishes as there are road closures and we have been working to reopen them a soon as possible. Also we have practiced the mixed operation of a general road closure of Park Lane whilst allowing LOCOG cars to circulate, as we will have to do on the night of the Opening Ceremony.

This week we have really made changes to the road network, building on two consecutive weekend changes. In short we are using traffic signals to constrain traffic so that there is enough room around the Olympic venues (including Central London) for all traffic to flow. This week we have the most - schools still active, Olympic family arriving, and London going out its business.

Yesterday we officially reopened London Bridge bus station - a really useful by-product of the investment in the area now dominated by The Shard. I was delighted to meet the Chairman of the developers Irvine Sellar whose foresight and confidence has delivered this magnificent building despite the economic downturn which has taken place during its construction. I declared the new bus station open and with The Shard. London certainly has a new compass from which to take its directions.

This morning I gathered together all eight of the New Bus for London together at Ash Grove bus garage for a photocall.

I know the detractors would like to say something else but all eight are running fine. We are winding up their daily mileages and we remain pleased with their amazing fuel consumption and low levels of emissions. Each is now carrying commercial advertising for a different West End production.

Here they all are!

Tomorrow (Friday) the Torch comes to London and then things really get busy. I've been defending all we are doing on radio and TV this week and it was great to have Mayor Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Justine Greening pay an official visit to our Transport Co-ordination Centre to thank all the troops for their work which has now been going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since the Torch has been out and about.

Of course the Torch is going to travel on our transport system. Woolwich Ferry on Saturday, on the Underground early next week and then on a red London bus on Thursday. Stay close for news.

Am sending updates by Twitter too.

An exciting time for London - keep you all posted here.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Two weeks to go!

There are just two weeks before the Olympic Games and you would expect things to be becoming VERY BUSY.

Today I have been at one of the training sessions for our 3500 Travel Ambassadors who shortly will be deployed all over London. These are managerial and office staff from TfL who are joining some 8000 people helping deliver a successful Olympic Games by working on the front line. An exciting time for everyone involved. Today they were all excited about the challenge going forward. We are hugely grateful to them for their hard work and enthusiasm.

It is all happening now. Athletes and media are now arriving. Fortunately the M4 reopened this morning. The media didn't quite grasp the need for the motorway is actually now - not in two weeks' time. People are arriving and the good folk at the Highways Agency have delivered what is needed.

Now we continue to change the way in which London's traffic works. The normal summer reduction in traffic is being supplemented by our Travel Demand Management which has worked for many months to discourage usage now. Many businesses are, as a result, "Games Ready". Undertakers, Stem Cell transporters, The Army and the Evening Standard have all become so.

But let's be clear. With all the people coming here this month life in London will change. We are building Olympic venues, changing the road layout, and all ready to host the biggest cultural and sporting event of our lifetime.

Plan ahead has always been out watchword - make sure you see where everything you could possible want to know is available in granular detail, including journey planners for spectators, public transport users, and freight.

Everyone is now working hard to deliver a great Games and keep London moving. I will try and keep something of a diary going here....


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Locked in

On Friday night I stayed at the Olympic Athlete's Village as part of a "pressure test" of the facilities.

Of course we were late, so were the last to be admitted before "lock-down". So I have experienced the vehicle screening and personal security checks as well as the same "check-in" as the athletes. In due course climbed aboard a Go-Ahead Scania single-decker to be taken to the residential area.

All very interesting - reminds me of the places built by the Soviet countries to train their spies: nearly English but not quite - e.g. belisha beacons but no crossings!

Anyway found my accommodation, and then to test the catering arrangements.

The food was great and the bar attractive (although during Games time there will be no alcohol). We tested the plumbing, beds, catering and transport and all went quite well. Easily ahead of the facilities provided to athletes at previous Olympic venues at this stage of the Games!

The Village Service Centre, gym and police station will all become a school post-Games.

In the catering facility the tent is 18000 sqm - 880 double decker buses could fit in here. It sits 5000 people. On its busiest day will serve 65,000 people.

Those who made it to the bar also found themselves "exposed" in the Observer on Sunday. Members of the Press Office were immediately caught by our "rule" that any of them who are caught IN the media must buy cakes.

The village is amazing and very soon real athletes will be arriving here. Meanwhile outside tonight the first white lines and Olympic rings are being painted on the road surface. From here on every weekend will deliver more changes to the road network both in terms of traffic signals science and physical changes.

All the details are at of course.

I left early Saturday morning - somehow the early morning shoppers at Westfield appearing unaware of the deluge about to arrive at Stratford.

One of my near neighbours filmed it all - you can see it here


Friday, 29 June 2012

Service "suspended"

Today London's newest transport service commenced operations. The Emirates Air Line, a brand new cable car across the River Thames, carried its first passengers this morning, with a press launch, before opening to fare paying passengers at midday.

It is less than two years since the project was announced. It runs from North Greenwich to Royal Victoria Dock - about 1km in length and some 90m above the Thames. It is the first urban cable car in the UK, can carry some 2,500 passengers an hour (about the same as the Blackwall Tunnel carries), and is sponsored by Dubai-based airline Emirates.

There was never any specific intention to include Emirates Air Line as part of the transport for the Olympic Games despite media suggestions to the contrary but an extremely fast design, approval and construction programme has brought it into service ahead of the Opening Ceremony.

Testing and certification was complete during June and was able to open for business today.

Mayor Boris Johnson, plus other VIPs including Tim Clarke, Emirates' President were aboard the first cabin to cross the Thames, heading south to a large press contingent waiting at Greenwich. After the speeches we made several trips across the Thames where, happily, the sun came out, and allowed us extraordinary views in all directions. Landing aircraft for City Airport flew over us, DLR trains, buses and boats scurried beneath us, whilst the queue for rides outside grew. The Mayor was clearly delighted with this newest addition to the transport network.

After press interest was satisfied, there was a continuous passage of invited guests followed by the long-awaited opening to the public.

The views are amazing, the ride is smooth and the whole experience one of quality. The Emirates Air Line is fully integrated into the TfL network - you can use Oyster to pay for journeys, it is fully accessible, and of course appears on the Underground map.

It's London's newest tourist attraction!



Saturday, 23 June 2012

34 Days to go!

Key members of the team delivering the Olympic Games transport from
every agency imaginable gather together alongside RM613 in
Greenwich during a brief interlude at their last networking event
before Games Time really gets underway
Firstly to say thank you for the hundreds of messages I have received on and around my birthday. I know Facebook and all the other electronic media tell you when it is, but you all did take the deliberate step of writing to me either by email, on Facebook, and similar. So thank you!

It has always been the longest day (in terms of daylight that is, although the day I was born my mother also thought so), but this week with everything going on, it certainly was. The number of hits to this blog is always a bit of a litmus test and in the time before the strike on London's buses people were certainly checking in here for any information and news.

I am sure you will understand that this personal blog isn't the place for me to discuss the dispute directly but I do want to use it to thank all of the TfL, rail and bus company staff who worked so hard to help keep London moving. Thanks to your hard work the inconvenience to London was minimised.

This now leaves us with just some 34 days to the Opening Ceremony. The Torch Relay, today approaching Manchester, is now half way through.

But things are happening now. The Mall is already closed for the construction of the Central London venue, as is Horse Guards Road. All over London magenta signs are appearing at stations and signs indicating the Olympic Route Network are being installed.

From the start of July we will start to adjust traffic signal timings to create enough capacity on specific routes as the Olympic family, media and others start to arrive. Early in July the Kingsway Subway will operate in the reverse direction and from the weekend of 20th July all the major physical works, banned turns, stopping places, and bus route diversions will be in place. The Torch Relay is in London that week.

The message is clear. Plan ahead. You can see in great detail every area of affected London on the web - tells you everything you need to know. So in your circle of work colleagues, friends, relations; in the pub, club, gym; on the golf course or at home - tell everyone you can that the time is now and a little preparation will help everyone enjoy this amazing experience which is about to unfold onto the streets of London!


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Torch Relay Day 28

"The Kiss" here close to the Quayside in Newcastle
There are lots of potential stories and I know from the hits to this blog that quite a lot of people are coming here looking for news about a number of significant issues currently generating a high profile.

So I thought I would write about Friday when I joined the Torch Relay on Day 28 as it made its way into central Newcastle.

The Torch Relay is really well organised with a selection of interesting vehicles clearing the way, rousing the crowds before the Torch itself, led by a media vehicle, is carried by one of 8,000 torch bearers. Each one carries the torch some 300 yards before handing over to another, lighting his or her flame in 'the kiss'.

The Torch is travelling in many different ways and on different modes of transport. For the most part white-suited joggers are carrying it through the streets of Great Britain (as well as Northern Ireland and Eire).

One of the fleet of ten Wrights Streetlites here taking a break in Wallsend.
They will join the fleet of Stagecoach South Wales when finished
For the Newcastle segment we drove past thousands of cheering people from Wallsend before arriving in a thoroughly appreciative City Centre crowd. From my vantage point in the BMW behind the Torch bearer it was amazing to see all the positive reactions of the crowd - more than half of whom were filming or photographing the event. Jack Charlton was the Torch Bearer briefly in the City Centre where I made a hasty exit from the BMW and made my way to the control centre high above the Quayside. From there it was incredible to see a wire hung from the Olympic rings of the Tyne Bridge some 200ft above the water. From there, soon after 1900, adventurer Bear Grylls, clutched the Torch and flew down a zipwire which brought him down the Quayside and the lighting of a cauldron.

The 'Activation' vehicles which precede the convoy

The Torch's job done for the night the crowd settled in to watch a football match on huge screens across the Tyne. (Not me I should add).

The Torch has some 40 days left to go - almost entirely now in England. When it reaches its last week it will be with us in London, spiralling around the suburbs before visiting the 1908 Olympic site at White City, and threading its way through Camden and Westminster before ending up in Hyde Park. Some interesting modes of transport may feature!

When all this exciting and frantic activity is completed, we will have arrived at the moment of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. THEN it REALLY starts!


Monday, 4 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee weekend

A short distraction to the busy weekend of events, road closures, bus service diversions and river pageants is the occasion once again of public access to the deserted village of Imber on Salisbury Plain.

Commandeered in 1943 and never returned the village itself remains at the centre of a military training location and is a curious mixture of what has been frozen in time plus the construction of other types of buildings.

As ever a bus service numbered 23A is in operation today with Routemasters but making its debut is LT1 which is also in action there today.

Of course I'm afraid I haven't been able to venture out of London this weekend but fortunately I already have news and photographs beamed from Wiltshire so here indeed is LT1 along with RM1005 at Warminster Station before setting out onto uncharted and mobile phone-free territory on Salisbury Plain.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Peter Hendy congratulates the team on restoring RT2775
and LBPT Chairman Peter Duplock listens intently.
Already Thursday and time passing so quickly. 84 days to the Olympics and a few days since the torrential rain at Wisley which reduced the attendance at this annual event.

Peter Hendy and I were pleased to bring LT1. Not quite as pleased as all those poor rain-soaked people who came aboard for a ride around the airfield to get dry.

LT1 was widely appreciated by everyone for its own qualities - comfort, noise levels. design etc and we received numerous positive comments.

After lunch the rain cleared away and so we were able to line up RT1, RM1 and LT1 - London bus prototypes from 1939, 1954 and 2012. And then with clearer skies RT2775 arrived - the London Bus Preservation Group's latest restoration and the sole surviving member of the trio of buses which traveled coast to coast across the North American continent - twice.

Peter Hendy welcomed relatives of members of the 1952 crews and acknowledged the tremendous restoration of RT2775 which was rescued by the original founders of Cobham Bus Museum and now is the newest member of the new London Bus Museum. 

As ever what history does is help us understand the future. New technology, new demands by our passengers and stakeholders, and a new Mayor for London. As I write all the votes have been cast but no result until tomorrow. Watch this space!