"Everything in transport touches everything within a city... So it’s one of the greatest jobs to make a difference to people’s lives and to better the quality of transport."
With currently 8.4 million people in London, this is expected to grow to ten million in the 2030s. Therefore, Transport for London (TfL) is continuing to carry on supporting this growth. They serve three main areas: surface transport, underground and Crossrail. In 2015-16, TfL had a budget of £11.5 billion, 40 percent of which comes from fares and the rest comes from government funding, borrowing, Crossrail funding and other income. This week Sarah Wright had a conversation with Simon Reed, the Head of Bus Systems & Technology at TfL. One thing to take note of is Simon's view on the changes between public transport between now and ten years' time.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the public transport industry?
Simon Reed (SR): Initially, it was by accident – it certainly wasn’t planned! I was running a large service management business for a publicly-quoted company, and it was around the time when Transport for London ( @TfL ) were investing in large, outsourced IT contracts. I came in to help implement and manage one of the contracts, and I’ve been at TfL ever since! It’ll be 11 years this year.
SW: What do like most about your job?
SR: Most previous jobs I’ve had have been about invisible delivery. I’ve worked in the finance sector, the local government sector, in software and services. What you do every day in those industries is important and effective, but it’s difficult to go out and have a tangible asset to go and play with. Everything in transport touches everything within a city. If something goes wrong, people know about it straight away; they complain, they write, they tell you. So it’s one of the greatest jobs to make a difference to people’s lives and to better the quality of transport.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
SR: Our biggest challenge is to balance our funding challenges with a fast-growing population. The expectations of delivery continue to be massively high, while at the same time we’re seeing a lower overall income. Central government funding for transport hasn’t been strong since the last General Election and locally, we have some ridership decline and a fares freeze; so it’s about trying to balance these paradigms.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between public transport now and in 10 years’ time?
SR: It’s got to be about the rise of automation, from driver-assisted services right the way through to fully autonomous vehicles. That’s bound to make a colossal difference to what we do. It’s about what role we play as a transport authority and how we react to the inevitable. In future, we’ll certainly have pods running around, demand responsive travel and the technology for a new generation of public transport offerings.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
SR: I’m from West Cornwall, and there is a great stretch of line that goes along the sea wall from Exmouth to Newton Abbot. It runs right along the coast adjacent to the English Channel. It’s brilliant, particularly when you can see the waves crashing against the track-wall.
Last week's 5 minutes with... Paul Boyle, Head of ERTMS at Virgin Trains East Coast.
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