Andy Byford, the British-born former President and CEO of New York City Transit Authority, is returning to his roots to take on an expanded transportation executive role in London as the city’s Transport Commissioner, reporting to Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The transit operations veteran, as of June 29, will run the city's $12-billion a year Transport for London agency, which manages rail, bus, ferry and road operations. He resigned from his previous role in February.
Byford's new post also includes monitoring progress of the $22-billion metro London Crossrail transit project, now over budget and set to open this year, nearly two years behind schedule, but facing new constraints on that date from COVID-19 impacts. Construction, managed by a separate "delivery body," had shut down on all project sites on March 24, but has resumed on its eastern and western ends, said UK construction publication Building on May 28.
Other reports point to more completed stations set to be transferred to Transport for London in coming months. Its board is set to meet in early June.
“Andy brings with him a wealth of experience and expertise to lead [the agency] as it faces ... the unprecedented challenge" of coping with the coronavirus, said Khan.
Facing a 90% drop in passenger fares, Transport for London secured over $1 billion of government cash in mid-May with conditions, including having to raise its debt by $615 million. Since social distancing will severely reduce fares, income will not cover the cost of running services, so “we will have to negotiate a new funding model with government,” said the mayor.
In the wake of the pandemic, “all transport authorities around the world will need to reimagine how their services and projects contribute to the safe and sustainable re-start of the social and economic lives of the cities they serve,” said Byford.
The rail executive started his career as a graduate trainee in London’s mass transit system in 1989 rising to manage customer services on three metro lines 14 years later.
He also had been Toronto Transit Commission’s CEO and held senior posts in railroads corporations in the U.K. and Australia.
Byford left NYC Transit after being in the CEO role since 2017, earning the local nickname of "train daddy" for his noted improvements in subway service and operation.
But he clashed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, head of the transit agency's parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority, over some key transit issues, including executing the upgrade of a major subway tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The project was completed in April three months early after it had been scaled back in scope by Cuomo to fast track work.
Former MTA board member Sarah Feinberg is interim transit agency chief, but no official Byford successor has been announced.
Byford will earn $432,000 a year plus bonuses in his new role. He is the second New York transit boss to take over in London, following Bob Kiley in October 2000.
The executive will replace Mike Brown who will leave the post to lead the planned $5-billion renovation of the aging U.K. Parliament building.
In light of COVID-19 economic impacts in the UK, British media are speculating that renovation of the deteriorating 19th century structure, now getting underway, could be delayed.