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New Ideas, New Technology and the Purpose of Transport
CILT International Speech – 9/5/2016
1) Thank you for your introduction
2) And thank you for the invitation to speak from Paul Brooks, International President. He is a
man of immense energy, and the architect of the return of CILT UK seeing a revival of the
3) Also, thank you to the local hosts – Tom, Bob, David Gillen. And to all the sponsors for such a
4) And a real pleasure to be in the big, big country – Sue and I have been here for 2 weeks
admiring the landscape, cuisine and culture. We’ve loved it – and only crossed a fraction of
the country – Ontario and Quebec.
5) For culture try the Musee des Beaux Artes here in Montreal – and also Expo rail – The LNER
Dominion of Canada designed by Sir Nigel Gresley!
6) And I have spoken here at this conference before, maybe in the UK once, but only by video
(twice I think) – so here I am in person! Anyhow, so to the transport of today. I want to talk
about new ideas, new technology, and the purpose of transport.
7) I’ve spent all my working life in transport operations, as you have heard. As I should do, as
everyone in transport and logistics should do. I became a member of CILT by study and
examination in 1975 (or 6, or 7), and I have studied transportation – as a practitioner – ever
8) The first thing to say is that there aren’t many new ideas. So I’ve relentlessly copied
everything I’ve seen that has made sense to me – As Paul Brooks said this morning, “steal
with pride!” It’s a good reason to be an active member of a professional institute like this
one – Information is easier to get, and this profession exchanges information very freely –
not many secrets!
9) Some examples – In the UK the bus industry was declining; fewer passengers, fewer services,
more subsidy until in 1985 Harry Blundered (who was, I think, a member of this institute)
decided to use small buses, cheaper drivers, higher frequencies, and so reversed the trend.
Some thought it was a gimmick – but keep in mind, after safety and cost, frequency is the
principal determinant of the use of urban public transport – it was successful.
10) So I tried it in London – where (although some of the vehicles we bought were pretty
useless) it worked too; and not only started the upward trend in ridership again, but by
looking for a different sort of driver – customer friendly, less of a mute driver – solved a
relationship problem too.
11) In fact, we have now gone full circle that many of the routes on which we used small buses
have now got bigger ones now – but at much higher frequencies.
12) And after the terrible events on the 7th
July 2005 in London – If I did anything, I had the least
inspired idea of all – simply, to keep the city moving by reinstating service. My contribution
was a lot less than that of the staff that went to the aid of the dying and severely injured.
But at least we kept the city moving and, some say, defeated the terrorists who set out to
13) I could go on – mainly everything I’ve done has been lifted from somewhere else!
14) But there is one idea I want to tell you about that I – we – thought was new and is worth
learning about. That’s T.D.M. When London won the Olympics in 2005 it was clear that
despite investment we were never going to be able to cope with the peaks of demand that
holding the games in the inner city would inevitably give us – on public transport system and
the road network.
15) So we thought that we would try something in a big way we’d never done before, and
neither had anyone else. We would try not only setting out in detail where and when the
congestion would occur, but asking people to change what they did, and/ or how they
travelled, and/ or when they travelled, to avoid those hotspots. We did it by making public
all the information we had, and talking to employers, civic leaders, businesses, and of course
travellers themselves and supporting if they could what else they could do.
16) This wasn’t so much for Olympic ticket holders themselves – I recommend, if you have a
ticket to see Usain Bolt in the 200m, you don’t aim to get to the stadium ‘just in time’; you
do it hours early – and so people did.
17) It was to ensure that people who lived and worked in London could continue to make the
city function. And through relentless marketing and publication, as I said to businesses and
individuals – we got our Olympics over.
18) Over a third of Londoners changed how, when, or where they travelled. Sometimes, the
advice was another route; sometimes much simpler. I was awarded “UK Beer Drinker of the
Year” by the UK Parliament’s all-arty group for advising people – if they could – to ‘go for a
beer’ to avoid the crowds at London Bridge Station.
19) Even better, it worked for freight too. I am a bus person really – although now turning into a
railway person I think. But I didn’t know much at all about the modern logistics industry. The
Olympics changed all of that. I learned that cities can’t function without daily deliveries of
fresh food, drink, newspapers, cash, office supplies, blood – and collection of parcels, and, of
course, waste too.
20) What I thought about the logistics industry, and the people in it, is that they work hard but
are determined to succeed. What they said to us was “give us the information, and we will
replan – and, please, speak to our customers to tell them why things might be different”. So
21) And the result was an enormous success for them – for London – and for the Games too.
Their replanning, aided by their contingent knowledge of the businesses involved in
rebalancing their employee travel – produced significant retiming of delivery and collection,
reducing road use by 10/20% (just as well given the 10% required for Olympic lanes) and
ensured the city continued to function.
22) And that’s how we managed to squeeze the Olympic transport needs into London’s historic
fabric without stopping the city.
23) And I think T.D.M. is one of the genuinely new ideas I’ve seen in transport – now they used
on a wider, larger team basis in London and elsewhere (Sydney) to spread the load of
transport demand on structural city infrastructure, either in lieu of it being upgraded
(northern Line) or whilst it is being upgraded (Sydney).
24) And if anyone is interested I can point you in the direction of some great people who know
how to do it too! In fact, Jon Harris here is one of them…
25) So, in my view, not many new ideas. But, of course, lots of new technology. Another good
reason to study and be an active member of a professional institute like this – is to learn
about new technology, and put that learning into practice as fast as you can for the benefit
of you, your company, your organisation, your customers.
26) Here, there are so many examples to choose from.
27) Take London’s Oyster (and now contactless) ticketing. Since the dawn of railways in the UK –
Thomas Edmonson – station master at Brampton on the Newcastle to Carlisle railway –
invented the card railway ticket in 1837 or so – we have forced people to change the
currency in their pocket into one the railway recognised – a ticket.
28. Modern technology has enabled us to firstly reduce the need for this transaction - and more
recently eliminate it with contactless cards - but also revolutionise the back office.
29. The dominance of the convenience of Oyster (how many people here have one?) has made
it the world’s largest smart card - 50m in circulation - and has enabled us to close the Tube
ticket offices and remove cash off buses.
30. I am amazed there is anywhere in the world's cities where cash is still taken, as this
technology is available worldwide.
31. But even better, contactless technology on bank and credit cards means people need not
ever buy an Oyster card now. The bank card will act as a purse for you - giving you the best
value ticket on a daily or weekly basis - and the operators back office is replaced with a bank.
32. And the reward is higher usage (not knowing how to pay or how much to pay is a significant
deterrent to the use of urban transport for many) - which gives much more - but also a
reduced cost of fare collection. 15% of total revenue, down to 9%, to 6% in London now.
33. Alongside the cashless revolution is the information revolution. The growth of PDAs, and the
Internet, has made the paper timetable and the wait at the bus stop and railway station
redundant. Journey planners - with real time info - are common really everywhere, and
enable public transport travel to be as convenient as private vehicle usage in real time.
34. Although not quite a new technology, in London we have extended the usefulness of web
based real time information enormously by giving to 'open data'; that is, giving out our
information freely to app developers for them to use away as they want.
35. I was sceptical - I thought people would develop their own algorithms for bus times and get
it wrong. But I was wrong - bad apps don't survive. Good ones do. Over 500 different users
of TfL travel information now. When at TfL - and still now - I prefer not to use the TfL one,
but to use "Tube Tracker" - it's just really convenient.
36. One of my colleagues wanted to get in touch with the developer - he said "I'll invite him in".
Except, he couldn't. Turned out the author works for an Australian bank in Sydney, New
37. I could go on and discuss alternate finds - watch, in the road passenger and road freight
areas - the rapid technological pushes of low and zero emission vehicles - astonishingly fast
progress. My former colleague Leon Daniels just drove the first all-electric double decker bus
on route 98 in London last Wednesday. But there isn't time.
38. However, with a nod to my new job at Network Rail I would just like to mention digital
railway signalling. Just as the railway ticket is becoming obsolete after nearly 200 years, 10,
in congested conditions, is the traditional railway signal too.
39. As I left the tube we had 4 lines, and the DLR, with effectively automated train control –
Some of these applications designed here in Canada.
40. And it is coming – it must come – it will come – to the main line in the UK too. We have
Europe’s most crowded railway, growing at 5% per year – 40% of it is congested, and on
much of that train length is as long as we can cope with.
41. So what next? Well, signalling, ECTS, or the metro signalling system adapted for the big
railway. Abolition of fixed blocks, trains that know where each other are, and can adapt their
speed and distance between them much like aircraft landing at an airport – slower they are,
the closer together they can get.
42. The manufacturers of this technology are international – we also need users internationally
to wake up to these developments and propel them (another good reason for encouraging
people to join this institute!)
43. Lastly I want to turn from ideas and technology to the purpose of transport; And no better
place to talk about that than in Canada, a country – literally created as an entity by the
railway. William Van Horne of The Canadian Pacific bound the country together and created
an economy by linking east and west. His sumptuous coach is in in the Exporail museum, and
his paintings in the Musee des Beaux Artes, and I’ve seen both. The country enabled his
realm to be built, and his railway brought property.
44. And the same is true everywhere in the modern world. After the Olympics in London, and
the better rebuilt success it’s given transport, I began to remind people that transport –
connectivity – creates enormous growth, jobs and the building of houses. My absolution is
that as transport professionals, and as an institution, we should not only study new ideas
and technology but we should remind politicians, business, every audience why what we do
is important. And, round the world, CILT is very powerful at doing that. Look at the efforts of
the Public Policy Committee in the UK informing government.
45. And my experience is that people get it when you tell them about the link between transport
and the economy, because it’s so self-evident, but that they need reminding – regularly.
46. Particularly governments, who never have enough money and can spend it in many ways.
They need regular reminders that improving transport provision and the infrastructure
needed for it (both new, and the proper repair & maintenance of the existing infrastructure)
is the key to economic growth – even more so it’s the teeth of international recession.
47. And I think individually – and as a professional institution – we have a duty not only to keep
reminding people of that, but also to point out that business gains, developers of land for
housing and business gain, as a consequence of transport investment.
48. Which is why, in the UK, we have seen transport taxes and property rates – and straight
payments – put into schemes such as Crossrail, the new East/ West railway in London – and
why on the national rail system for our next 5 years financial settlement we are advocating
to government that one of the principal determinants of which capital improvement
schemes are funded should be the proportion of their private and business contributions
into the individual schemes.
49. In fact, my experience in London is that the business community itself is a better advocate of
transport investment than any of us are – it was they who persuaded government to fund
the £15.5bn Crossrail scheme in 2007.
50. I’ve said enough – hopefully something of interest. I want to leave you with the thought that
through CILT our profession needs the fullest exchange of ideas – of information on
innovation and technology – and about advocacy, to make its maximum impact on the world
in which we live.
51. That means a thriving professional institution – the CILT is not a luxury, but a necessity, and
its educational and training activities are essential. Fortunately the chartered institute is in
good hands, and is thriving – as evidenced by this conference. Long may it continue!
PH – 8/5/16