Byford Returns to His London Roots

Written by David Briginshaw, Consulting Editor, International Railway Journal
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Andy Byford starts his new post as London’s Transport Commissioner June 29.

The New York Metroplitan Transportation Authority’s loss is Transport for London’s (TfL’s) gain. On May 27, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the TfL Board named Byford as London’s Transport Commissioner.

Byford will take up his new role with TfL on June 29, where he will succeed Mike Brown, who will stay on until July 10 to aid the transition. Brown will then move to his new position overseeing the renovation of London’s historic Houses of Parliament.

Byford was President and CEO of New York City Transit (NYCT) until he resigned unexpectedly on Jan. 23, two years after his appointment. During his tenure at NYCT, Byford was responsible for 50,000 staff and devised a $40 billion, five-year investment plan to renew the city’s transport system. The New York Times called Byford “one of the most revered transit leaders in recent New York history.”

Byford has almost gone full circle after he started his career as a graduate trainee with London Underground in 1989 before working his way up to general manager, customer service for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines. Byford then switched to main line railways to become director of safety and operations with South Eastern Trains,  followed by director of operations with Southern Railway.

Byford then moved to Australia to take on the role of COO and deputy CEO with New South Wales Rail Corporation, before transferring to Canada to become CEO of Toronto Transit Commission, prior to his appointment with NYCT.

Byford joins TfL as it works to help the British capital recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID-19 has had a profound impact on public transport in London, but Andy brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise to lead TfL as it faces this unprecedented challenge,” Khan said.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all transport authorities around the world will need to reimagine how their services and projects contribute to the safe and sustainable re-start of the social and economic lives of the cities they serve,” Byford said. “It is a huge challenge, but I know that Transport for London has some of the best people anywhere in the world, and we will meet these challenges and will together help build an even better city for everyone.”

Retired FTA Regional 2 official and Railway Age commentator Larry Penner, “The Federal Transit Man,” comments: London’s gain is indeed New York City’s loss. While serving as MTA NYC Transit President, Andy Byford never promised what could not be delivered. As they say in Brooklyn, his word was his bond. This gave him excellent credibility with major funding agencies such as the Federal Transit Administration. The MTA is heavily dependent upon federal assistance for more than $8 billion in formula and $3.5 billion in discretionary competitive funding to help pay for the its $51 billion 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Program. This doesn’t include billions more in emergency COVID-19 funding. Byford made an excellent advocate for federal funding. Subway and bus riders, transit advocates and elected officials will continue to miss Our Englishman in New York.

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