Public transportation systems around the world are being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, with ridership and fare collection in freefall as citizens social distance (ie, stay home). Now, five months after resigning as president of MTA New York City Transit, Andy Byford is reportedly heading home to helm another public transportation system in crisis: London’s.
During his two-year tenure as head of New York City’s subway system, British-born Byford (affectionately referred to online by transportation enthusiasts as the “train daddy”) did manage to make a noticeable dent in the city’s notoriously ailing train service. As previously noted, in January the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released its last Subway Action Plan update of Byford’s tenure, which showed a 10,000-delay-a-month reduction for the fourth month in a row and the highest on-time arrival percentage in four years at 72.6 percent.
Why the falling out, then? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, despite the fawning praise he’s received for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, is notorious for micromanaging, going so far as to preempt the MTA on an L Train repair plan and hand-picking most of the MTA’s board. Byford also claimed that Cuomo was at one point forcing him to organize transportation conferences instead of letting him do his job.
Now, Byford will be returning to England to help salvage what’s left of London’s public transportation system. Today, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed that Byford had been selected as the next Commissioner of Transport for London (TfL), the local governmental body that oversees all transportation throughout the Greater London region. That’s a big step up for Byford, who began his career with the organization, as TfL commissioners oversee everything from local trains, to buses, to the London Underground system, to bike paths and ferries. Byford will have his work cut out for him, as fare revenue has fallen 90 percent so far as a result of the global health crisis, and the TfL has instituted a series of furloughs, pay cuts, and fare hikes as a result of a nearly $2 billion government bailout.
Byford is scheduled to take up the mantle of Commissioner on June 29.