Monthly Archives: September 2014

Transport Direct closes today – last chance to plan a journey …

From the Universities Transport Study Group mailing list, UTSG@JISCMAIL.AC.UK, posted by Glenn Lyons.

You may already be aware but at midnight today the multi-modal door-to-door journey planner Transport Direct closes down after 10 years of service. Transport Direct was a vision back in the early days of the web – before Google became involved in journey planning – that the Labour Government committed to in its 2000 Ten Year Plan for transport. The service launched in 2004 and by 2012 had handled over 110 million enquiries with over 378,000 enquiries then being handled per week. In the two years since the level of use has continued to increase. Transport Direct was a world first in what it delivered and many other countries took interest in learning from its approach. In 2012 the Olympic Delivery Authority selected Transport Direct to develop a bespoke online portal to guide event ticket holders to and from the Olympic venues. The Spectator Journey Planner had 2.75 million unique users.

Today is your last chance to use a piece of ‘integrated transport history’ and plan a journey:

After today, going to this link will instead point you to a number of other services in the travel information marketplace that together can be used as a substitute for Transport Direct. Transport Direct Closedown Letter

Farewell old friend!


Frank Pick talk in York, 7 October 2014 …

A talk by Oliver Green, author of ‘Frank Pick’s London: Art, Design and the Modern City’.

Frank Pick, a former pupil at St Peter’s School in York, became Managing Director of the London Underground in the 1920s and commissioned its internationally famous modern architecture, posters and graphic design.

7pm Friday 3 October 2014, Memorial Hall, St Peter’s School.

Frank Pick Talk Poster1 and Frank Pick Talk Poster2.

Tickets FREE from

Looming London transport crisis ‘risks sparking riots’, says TfL chief …

The Guardian 21 September, Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent.

London could see riots again unless more trains and buses are provided at affordable fares for the poorest communities as the population soars, the city’s transport commissioner has warned.

He said the city will face “overwhelming” overcrowding on its congested transport networks by 2030 without urgent progress on new rail lines.

Despite an annual investment of about £1bn in tube upgrades and the £14.8bn spent building Crossrail, a rapidly expanding population means an additional 6m trips will be made in the capital each day by the end of the next decade, swallowing up the new capacity on public transport.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Peter Hendy, head of Transport for London, said low-paid workers now lived on the outskirts of the capital rather than in inner-city neighbourhoods, and that there could be “social unrest” if they could not easily commute around the city for work.

“London’s poor don’t live in Harrow Road, they live in Enfield and Tolworth and if you can’t get them to jobs they want, your city’s going to be in a bad way: it’s not going to progress and contribute to national economic growth,” Hendy said. “The stakes are pretty high. If you’re not able to increase transport capacity, and people find accessing work impossible, you risk social unrest. You can expect trouble.”

Bus fares have risen by more than 50% in six years under the London mayor, Boris Johnson – a policy Hendy has backed. But the transport commissioner he warned fares could not continue to rise. “The bus network is the staple of outer London. We’re going to need more revenue funding. Otherwise we’re going to leave people behind. When you start leaving people behind, you start saying to people in London they may not be able to get to work on time and when that happens, you damage the economy quite severely.”

Hendy also warned that unless major infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail 2, were started and new rail lines were built, overcrowding in central London would be “overwhelming”. Transport chiefs say it will take at least 15 years to build Crossrail 2.

“You just won’t be able to get into or on to many of our transport networks at peak times if you don’t start [these infrastructure projects] now. When Crossrail opens, it will be full within months; the population will go on towards 10 million and you’ll soon need Crossrail 2. You won’t be able to do without it. In central London the overcrowding will grow to be overwhelming.”

London’s population is officially estimated at 8.4 million and is rising by about 80,000 people a year. It is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. “If you contemplate a London in 2030 without continuous investment and more revenue money, we will have the kind of congestion you’re looking at in Mumbai,” he said.

Mumbai was one of several Indian cities that experienced protests over rail fare increases earlier this year, while more than a year of escalating demonstrations in Brazilian cities in the runup to the 2014 World Cup were ignited by fare rises on public transport.

While the completed Crossrail, a revitalised Thameslink line and tube upgrades will bring great leaps in capacity in the next five years, transport chiefs are struggling to keep up with passenger numbers, which have risen by a third on the tube in the past 10 years. The underground ran more services and carried more customers than ever before in 2013-14, with a record 1.265 billion passengers.

The capital’s growth was putting pressure in places that “people never expected”, Hendy said. “I’ve been a strong advocate of putting fares up a lot in an era of declining government funding. But if the poor are not living in Tower Hamlets, Stockwell, Hackney and Southwark any more and all the places where people on low incomes used to live, they are living a long way away and a future mayor is going to have to make sure they can afford to get to work.”

The chancellor, George Osborne, cut funding for day-to-day operations in London by 25% in the last spending review, meaning fares are likely to rise in coming years. Hendy and TfL will be joining with counterparts in Transport for Greater Manchester in the coming weeks to push for greater powers over revenue and spending for cities. Hendy said TfL was already unable to match the rising demand for buses. “The choice as we look forward is not whether people come to London, but if you have enough revenue to cope with them and whether the people who do the poorer paying jobs can access them.

“In 2016, unless there is more money we will start leaving people behind. We’ve had a 1-2% increase in mileage every year with a fairly substantial reduction in subsidy. The growth in bus demand has far outstripped the mileage because we haven’t had the money.”

Transport chiefs believe pressure on road space is likely to be even more intense than on the rail and tube network.

Michele Dix, director of planning for TfL, said: “We’ll have to manage it radically better or provide new space. We’re looking at more of the space being in tunnels – putting certain vehicles underground. We don’t want to generate more traffic. As many people we can get to walk, cycle or use public transport we will.”

Dix said road tunnel schemes, primarily designed for freight vehicles and deliveries, were an option TfL was considering. One proposal for a 22-mile inner orbital tunnel has been published, including subterranean dual carriageways, although Hendy said the timescale for completion was likely to be decades.

Dix said any such schemes would be tightly controlled to deter a rise in private car use. Both TfL and independent transport experts argue that increased charging for road access seems inevitable.

Geoffrey Hilditch …

Times obituary, 9 August 2014

Bus company manager whose passion for his work helped to revive vehicles made in Britain

General managers of municipal bus companies were once prominent figures who had their names written in gold leaf on the side of the vehicles they shepherded through Britain’s towns and cities. As a bus-obsessed boy in Cheshire, Geoffrey Hilditch decided that one day his name would be emblazoned on the side of a bus.

In this quest, Hilditch had a profound impact on British buses as he climbed the industry ladder, becoming the youngest general manager of a bus company at 33, advising the Thatcher government on its privatisation of the industry in the mid-1980s and helping to secure the survival of British bus manufacturing.

He took great pleasure in driving the buses himself and his vision for the ideal urban workhorse was the Dennis Dominator: a rear-engined double decker, which he helped to develop in the 1970s while general manager at the Leicester bus company. Rear-engined buses had been introduced several years before to enable drivers to take fares and render the traditional conductor redundant. However, early versions brought out by Leyland and Scania were blighted by reliability problems. Hilditch was particularly frustrated with the industry leader British Leyland, which he witheringly called “Old Mother Leyland”. The ailing giant was riven with industrial strife and more focused on trying to develop new cars. Hilditch believed it was using its market dominance in buses to restrict customer choice.

He cited the Dennis Loline as one of the best-engineered buses and had bought the last five built in 1967. The Guildford-based manufacturer had not built a bus for several years when Hilditch provided the company with a scrap vehicle on which to experiment. While general manager at Leicester he bought 143 Dominators — powered by Gardner engines — from 1977. The Dominator proved its reliability by remaining in service in Leicester until 2005. Today, the last Dominator still in operation works on a school run in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Hilditch cut a traditional figure with his old-fashioned suits and slicked-back hair, but as the industry faced change, he moved with the times. In one of his provocative columns in industry magazines, such as Buses, he claimed that government subsidies were only inflating the price of building buses. After taking early retirement from Leicester in 1984, he became a trusted adviser to the transport minister Nicholas Ridley, who was drawing up plans to deregulate and privatise the industry.

No shrinking violet, he shamed Ridley into shelving plans to transfer local government pension rights to the arms’ length organisations that would initially replace municipal companies. “How would you like it.” he told Ridley, “if you worked in an industry all your life only to see your retirement rights stripped away at once.”

Hilditch had always supported the principal of “buying British” and believed that the privatised industry could be sustained by domestic manufacturing and engineering. While at Leicester, he had supported the development of the Avon Maxwell automatic gearbox as a British alternative to the German-made Voith gearbox. “If the product cannot come from a British-owned company then hopefully most of the order will begin life in a British factory,” he said.

Hilditch was heartbroken as great names in bus manufacturing went out of business. “Every time one is closed, another design team is broken up and it is only through the competitive activities of design teams that the breed improves,” he said. However, he was cheered when British bus building began to recover recently, with the emergence of Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, and the consolidation of Alexander, Dennis and Plaxton into Alexander Dennis, which saved the Guildford plant.

Geoffrey Graham Hilditch was born in Disley, Cheshire in 1926 and won a scholarship to Hulme grammar school in Oldham. The local bus company — needing to disperse its fleet in case the main depot was bombed during the war — started parking several of its vehicles opposite the family home. Hilditch, became an “unofficial staff member”. Sent to a newsagent to buy some pipe tobacco for his father, he paused outside the shop transfixed by a passing tram. The shopkeeper asked: “Are you interested in transport, lad?” When the boy nodded shyly, the proprietor gave him a transport magazine. From that day on, Hilditch devoured any bus literature he could lay his hands on.

He became an apprentice railway engineer in Manchester, but his heart was on the buses. The existence of so many municipal bus companies was good news for ambitious young engineers and Hilditch moved to Oldham, Coventry, Manchester and Leeds before becoming assistant engineer at Halifax in 1955. The steep hills of the West Yorkshire town provided a great challenge for a bus engineer, especially keeping fuel consumption to a minimum. Hilditch often landed himself in trouble for telling bus manufacturing executives what was wrong with their models.

In 1959 he became the youngest general manager in the country, in Great Yarmouth. He moved back to Halifax to become general manager in 1963 and on to Leicester in 1975. Here, he built up a reputation for answering all customer correspondence personally. When the cowboys and cowgirls of Leicester Western Society were barred from buses because of their replica guns, he wrote to commiserate and started his letter: “Howdy Partners,” before telling them that with regret they would have to find another wagon for their journey.

He went to extraordinary lengths to recruit the best young engineers. One such was, David Kent, who was working in Reading and thought he had failed his interview. Several weeks later he was working under a bus when one of his colleagues reported that a “strange man” was wandering around the garage inspecting operations. Hilditch announced he was going up “to have a chat with Jenkins” (Royston Jenkins, the general manager). “Mr Jenkins, I’ve had a look at Mr Kent’s workshops. They seem OK. He’s coming to Leicester. When can he start? I need him now. We’ll sort out the terms and money. How about next Monday?”

Hilditch was appointed OBE for pioneering the first bus service for disabled people in Leicester; he worked on the design of the bus with the Second World War flying ace Douglas Bader.

Hilditch never dismissed bus enthusiasts, however eccentric, as oddities — perhaps because he recognised something of himself in them. His future wife Muriel found as she sat nervously in his parents’ parlour that she had to place her legs in front of a model railway that had snaked around the house for years.

When Hilditch moved to Halifax he drilled tunnels between the bedrooms of his house to add further authenticity to his model railway. Later, while at Leicester, he kept his spare train sets in what was the general manager’s private toilet. He also built up a large collection of model buses.

He is survived by their son Christopher, who has also worked as an engineer and manager in the bus industry, and a daughter, Diane, a special needs teacher who as a child once mischievously wrote to her father to complain about her school bus service. Muriel died in 2007.

His autobiography, Steel Wheels and Rubber Tyres, found a wide readership who appreciated his wry style and social commentary. The third and fourth volumes will be published later this year. He has been given an eight-page obituary in Buses.

Hilditch would give his young engineers a verbal roasting if he thought it would improve their performance, but many of his charges still looked up to him as a father figure. One of them, John Hanchett, was killed along with his wife when a tree fell on their car. The Hanchetts’ two orphaned children were brought up by Hilditch and his wife.

Geoffrey Hilditch, OBE, bus manager, was born on February 27, 1926. He died of a heart attack on June 20, 2014, aged 88