Commissioner Byford’s resignation leaves TfL staffers stunned

After negotiating the crisis of covid and delivering the Elizabeth Line, Andy Byford presents the Mayor of London with a new challenge: finding his replacement. By our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON

One-way ticket: after two-and-a-half years as TfL Commissioner, Andy Byford’s returning to the US

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has been confronted with a new crisis over the running of the capital’s public transport system with the shock resignation of Andy Byford, his £355,000 per year TfL Commissioner.

Byford announced his resignation today after just a couple of years in the job.

The departure of the man known as “The Train Daddy” has been described as “a big loss for London”.

Christian Wolmar, the widely respected transport expert who has written the definitive history of Crossrail, described Byford as “a lovely fellow” and told Inside Croydon today that Byford “probably always intended to see Crossrail through and then leave. He is essentially a projects man”.

Byford began his appointment at Transport for London just at the start of the covid lockdown in 2020 which would dominate his time in charge. Others who have worked with him through these dark days spoke only in glowing terms of their departing boss.

“London didn’t appreciate him,” according to one.

“I firmly believe he was a force for good and I will miss the integrity that came off him in spades.”

Lined up: London Mayor Sadiq Khan was delighted that Byford was able to see the Elizabeth Line to completion

The insider also flagged up the growing issue of an exodus of talent from TfL in the coming weeks, with Byford one of four big-hitters to announce their departure from the organisation in recent months.

Officially, Byford’s resignation has come because, after two-and-a-half years in the hottest of hot seats, at the age of 57 he wants to return to the United States where his wife is still based. Byford had been recruited from New York, where his management of the city’s Subway system was widely admired.

Byford’s task when he arrived in London was to get Crossrail, now known as the Elizabeth Line, completed to the timetable and budget which he inherited, after years of delays and over-spends. That Byford accomplished.

But it was the covid pandemic, when TfL’s income overnight dropped like a stone due to the lack of passengers, and the often tense negotiations which followed over a financial bail-out from the Tory government, which was to become an even greater challenge for Byford.

A longer-term settlement was finally agreed at the end of August, though it came attached with plenty of government strings – such as the dangerous demand for driver-less Tube trains and the contentious re-moulding of TfL’s staff pension scheme – which many suspect Byford wanted to have little to do with.

Last weekend, Byford was front-and-centre of TfL’s massive efforts to ramp up the Tube, bus and Overground networks to cope with the influx of visitors for the Queen’s funeral. Byford called it his biggest ever challenge.

Today Byford said, “When you leave a job, there is always more to do. We have a new vision and values for the organisation.

“It has been an intense two-and-a-half years, I’ve had about 10 days off.”

An insight into Byford’s real, longer-term thinking about the capital’s transport system came in an interview with the Grauniad last year, after more than 15 months of battling with Transport Minister Grant Shapps and the government for a fair and equitable settlement to keep London’s transport system running after the profound impact of the pandemic.

“Without wanting to be too grandiose, we are at a crossroads,” Byford warned. “We can go one of two ways: an infrastructure-led recovery that creates jobs and decarbonises transport.”

The alternative, Byford said, is “The negative route.”

He elaborated: “The danger we face is a managed decline. A sustained bleak future for London’s transport system, in which you can look forward to roads full of potholes, much wider gaps in train and bus services, and a complete grinding to a halt of the clean-air agenda.”

Interim Commissioner: Andy Lord

Byford warned that maintenance would suffer, plans to electrify buses would have to be abandoned, as would cycling routes. The tram extension to Crystal Palace, which Boris Johnson and his Tory backers promised three times when he was running for Mayor, you can forget about.

Without proper backing, London’s transport will see “a complete regression to the bad old days”, Byford said.

It might just be that after his two-year arm-wrestle with the Tories’ and their use of imposed austerity as a way of undermining London’s Labour Mayor, Byford has decided to turn his back on those “bad old days”.

Andy Lord, TfL’s chief operating officer, will become Commissioner on an interim basis from October 25.

Byford’s deputy Commissioner, Gareth Powell, is not available to step up into his boss’s boots: earlier this year, he left to become managing director of Stansted Airport. TfL’s chief financial officer and chief customer officer also quit for new posts this year amid the funding cuts. Byford himself expressed his concern over the “exodus of talent”.

According to Sky News, Byford had notified the Mayor of his intention to step down several months ago.

Today, Byford said that now was “the right time to bow out and resume life in the US with my wife”.

Mayor Khan said Byford deserved huge thanks for leading TfL through an exceptional time in its history.

“From keeping the city moving during the covid-19 pandemic, to the historic opening of the Elizabeth line this year, Andy has provided Londoners with an exceptional service and his work has ensured that despite the challenges we have faced, our public transport network remains world-class.”

Tom Edwards, BBC London’s transport correspondent, wrote today that while negotiating government funding, Byford “was affected by the strained relations of a Labour-run City Hall and the Conservative government”.

Edwards said, “The role of commissioner is not straightforward – it’s part politician, part transport boss.

“Gregarious and popular with his staff, Mr Byford seemed like he was in the job for the long term and his departure is a big loss for London.

“His successor faces significant challenges though – TfL needs to make more cuts while executive pay and bonuses continue to attract criticism.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Commissioner Byford’s resignation leaves TfL staffers stunned

  1. In building the Silvertown Tunnel, which does the opposite of decarbonising transport, we’re being led down what Byford calls “the negative route”.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Mr Byford has clearly done a very good job here in London. His return to the States now is understandable. How nice to know thgat he is a decent guy, as well as being a great manager!

    His words on the eays forward–or backwards– are a real reality check. Very timely at this Trussian times of tax cuts.

    What really benefits the country most– road repairs and workers (the tyoe who actually have to go some miles to a workplace by 7, 8 or 9 a.m. being able to get a seat on a bus, and get to work in a reasonable time, or tax cuts for the comfortably off (and the rich) , the vast majority of whom would never get on public transport, nor mix with people of the bus-travelling kind..

    As a generally happy user of London buses over decades ( now – I feel a bit guilty- as a free riding pensioner) I have been consistently impressed by service frequency and holding to timetable- the latter is very important. Quality of buses (and eco-friendly fuels) has improved. On-board cameras make things about a safe as possible.

    The bad old days still exist outside London with high fares and poor services, particularly on rural routes.

    I am sure that experts on Transport like Mr Woolmar can say whether the concept of franchises with London Transport and deployment a number of bus company francisee providers is working? Does it work any better than on the railways?

    Mr Byford’s clear message about need for continued investment to maintain standards, gives a benchmark . One hopes that the politicians don’t torch the bench.

    How soon will people be saying “Bring back Boris- he liked buses.” ?

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