The challenges are the same the world over, says Transport for London Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy CBE. He also serves as president of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), which gives him a unique perspective. The common features he sees are that cities are suffering from congestion and an essential part of coping with city life, economic growth and social cohesion is transit. London is no different.
“If you look at the big picture in London where the city has 8-1/2 million people and it is growing by about 70 or 80,000 people a year, it will reach 9 million people by 2018 at which point it will be bigger than any time since the start of the Second World War in 1939,” Hendy said. Added to that, he mentioned the people coming to London are disproportionately younger and the demand on the system is almost overwhelming.
Transport for London was created in 2000 and is responsible for the capital’s transportation system, including bus, rail, ferry, congestion pricing, roads and traffic lights, taxi regulation, and cycling and pedestrian initiatives. TfL has three subsidiary companies: London Transport Insurance Guernsey Ltd., TfL Trustee Company Ltd. and Transport Trading Ltd. (TTL). TTL also has a number of subsidiary companies.
The mayor of London has the duty to develop and implement policies to promote and encourage safe, integrated, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from, and within London. TfL has the responsibility of completing these duties for the mayor.
Hendy says the organizational structure has been very successful for them. “If you look at North America as an example where cities are used to having mayors, having a comprehensive transport authority that covers all of the transport in the city responsible for the mayor has proved to be a very durable way of meeting the challenges of a modern city,” Hendy stated.
CBE Hendy joined then London Transport as a graduate trainee in 1975. He has served in various positions, including managing director of CentreWest London Buses and deputy director UK Bus for FirstGroup. Since 2001 he had served as TfL’s managing director of surface transport and in 2006 was appointed commissioner of TfL.
“I’ve never really had a dull moment in 37 years,” said Hendy of his career in transport. “It’s got some fascinating people and it’s got some really big challenges.”
He was elected president of UITP in May of this year and added that one of the nice things about being president is that he meets people that do his sort of job around the world. “The organizational structures are different but the challenges are very similar.”
The “CBE” in his title stands for Commander of the British Empire and is an honor given by the Queen. He was given it after the terrorist attack in London in July 2005, when there were three explosions on the Tube and one on a double-decker bus. At that time he was in charge of surface transport, bus service and the streets. “I would say it’s not really an award for me; it was in recognition of the work that all the staff did in order to keep public transport going after the bomb attacks,” he said.
“Occasionally you get those bad people like in Boston; I don’t think we’ve ever felt that the city is under serious threat from prolonged terrorism.” He continued, “What you have to live with is the possibility or the actuality that three or four completely mad people might do something incredibly destructive and that’s all you can say, really.
“We are quite vigilant, but on the other hand, the nature of city life is [there are] several million people in a very small space. You can’t search everybody going into the station and you can’t search everybody going onto a bus.
“You rely on people to not carry bombs on board.” He stressed, “I know that sounds a bit trite, but that’s what the police and the security services are for.”