Transport for London
NEWS AND UPDATES
ABOUT THIS COMPANY:In the 1990s, London's transport network was considered somewhat of a mess. Public transport was badly in need of upgrades and maintenance work. In 1997, the then newly-elected Labour government pledged to return metropolitan transport administration to the city of London and Transport for London (TfL) was created in 2000 to do just this. American Bob Kiley was appointed as London's first Commissioner of Transport and Peter Hendy, who started his career as a London Transport graduate trainee, is the current commissioner. The hope was that TfL would bring the capital's creaking infrastructure up to 21st century levels, whilst control by the Mayor would ensure the system met the unique needs of Londoners.
Not a one-track pony
TfL's function is to coordinate decision-making across almost London's entire public transport network. This includes London's buses, London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway, the London Overground, London Tramlink, London River Services and 580 kilometres of main roads and all of London's traffic lights. TfL operates entirely under the control of the Mayor, by way of the Commissioner for Transport and it works closely with central government.
TfL is divided into four directorates: London Underground, Surface Transport and London Rail run one or more of the main modes of transport and the Corporate directorate are responsible for the majority of central processes. London Underground, of course, runs the tube. The Surface division looks after buses, taxis and roads and so on. London Rail runs the Overground network.
Unsurprisingly, the figures associated with TfL are staggering. In 2008, London had a population of more than eight million and TfL oversaw 28 million journey stages, like a bus trip or tube ride, every day. It ferried 1.1 million Londoners into and out of the city centre using a network of 275 tube stations and 320 railway stations, as well as 1.9 billion bus journeys a year.
Ticket to ride
When TfL was first established, it quickly set about turning around London's transport under the leadership of its first commissioner the man credited with turning round New York's subway system Bob Kiley. An investment programme, which kicked in fully in 2005 and is running until 2010, has seen ten billion pounds poured into upgrades of tube and rail lines, bus improvements, road and bridge refurbishments and new cycle lanes. However, with the Mayor controlling the spending and the government footing the bill, there was always going to be tension about how much TfL could spend.
Coming out of its shell
After the abolition of the iconic hop-on-hop-off Routemaster buses in 2005, the most visible innovation of the TfL era has probably been the Oyster card, introduced in 2003. This state-of-the-art "contactless" smartcard ticketing and revenue system allowed ticket-free travel and ties buses, tubes and other public transport into a single fare system for the first time. While the Oyster was seen by most as making life easier, TfL sent the price of paper tickets into the stratosphere. The price of non-Oyster bus and tube rides climbed steadily from 2005 to 2007, with the cash single journey tube fare reaching a whopping four pounds by 2008, making travelling on the London Underground four times more expensive than taking the subway in New York City.
The most personal of private transport methods, the bike, is also in TfL's remit. Since the turn of the millennium, TfL has set up a host of new cycle lanes and has helped secure a near-doubling of the number of Londoners who cycle. In mid-2008, it was considering placing hundreds of public bikes around the capital for hire, in imitation of the popular system used in other large metropolitan cities like Barcelona. TfL also plays a vital part in the battle to lower London's carbon emissions, and like other London agencies, in February 2008, it imposed new green requirements on suppliers.
What goes on in public
Before the Tube was transferred to TfL, the government adopted the Public Private Partnership (PPP) structure as its preferred way of investing in the Tube. Under the 30-year PPP contracts, various infrastructure companies are responsible for the maintenance and renewal of London Underground's assets, such as rolling stock, stations, track, tunnels and signals. As of 2008, there are three infrastructure companies contracted to TfL, with Metronet Rail having been responsible for two of them and Tube Lines the third. Metronet Rail went into administration in 2007.
Takeovers for London
Since its inception, TfL has gradually extended its role into service operation in new areas. In November 2007, it assumed control of the routes operated by Silverlink Metro, renaming it London Overground. Passengers immediately benefited with Oyster pay-as-you-go ticketing and staff at every station. By 2010, the line will connect directly to the extended East London line, and ultimately, the aim is to extend the East London line to Clapham Junction, allowing overground travel all the way around the periphery of central London.
On the right track
In October 2007, the city's public transport was voted the best in the world by users of popular holiday review site Trip Advisor. According to The Independent, the London Underground and the apparently ubiquitous cheerful London cabbie were singled out for high praise. The poll also highlighted the comprehensive extent and the safety of the Tube network, with London coming in only fourth for cleanliness, after Washington DC, Tokyo and Paris.
Fast train to the future
TfL's task for the future is gargantuan. First, there's the 2012 Olympic Games to provide for the ability of the transport network to ship athletes and spectators to the Games site in East London was one of the key issues of London's bid. After that, there's the challenge of keeping London moving through some tricky demographic changes. The capital is set to add more than one million people to its population by 2025 and gain nearly as many new jobs.
The problem is that, while the population growth is expected to be spread across the capital, new employment is predicted to be heavily weighted towards central and eastern London. TfL's scheme for responding to the challenge, launched in 2006, is called Transport 2025. Almost bewilderingly comprehensive, it suggests responses ranging from urging employers to stagger working hours to ease rush-hour congestion to making better use of London's waterways.
Crossrail in the crosshairs
The jewel in TfL's crown is no doubt a mammoth project called Crossrail. It will be the first new underground line in the capital since the Jubilee line was opened in the 1970s. Providing high-speed connections from Heathrow Airport to Stratford, the 16 billion pound project is designed to ease pressure on the Underground and to address the concentration of job growth along an east-west axis over the next few years.
After much debate, the project finally received the go-ahead and a promise of funding from central government in October 2007. Once it's completed, probably in 2017, next possible steps include "Crossrail 2", from Chelsea to Hackney.
From the Community