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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!