Keep Lon­don on track

Chair­man of Net­work Rail, Sir Peter Hendy. In a new se­ries Philippa Stock­ley talks to Lon­don’s most pow­er­ful peo­ple

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Profile -

SIR Peter Hendy has never lost his en­thu­si­asm for trains and buses and still drives his own beloved Six­ties Routemas­ter around Lon­don. A large photo of the bus hangs in his of­fice, cu­ri­ously like a farmer’s pic­ture of a prize bull, while be­hind his seat stands a vast Fifties framed poster of a steam engine.

Happy in his work even after a 42-year ca­reer in trans­port, in­clud­ing more than nine years as Trans­port for Lon­don Com­mis­sioner, Hendy is a doer who thrives on new projects. The straight talk­ing for which he is fa­mous, even adding the odd un­re­pen­tant ex­ple­tive, makes him like­able and be­liev­able.

He has been chair­man of Net­work Rail — which owns, op­er­ates and de­vel­ops the rail­way in­fras­truc­ture and de­vises the na­tional rail timetable — since 2015. Since July, he has also chaired the Lon­don Legacy De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LLDC), which is re­spon­si­ble for trans­form­ing the 560-acre former Olympic Park into — its web­site pro­claims — “a dy­namic heart for east Lon­don”.

This in­cludes 24,000 new homes by 2031, plus a whole new cul­tural quar­ter with two univer­sity cam­puses. There’s al­ready the sta­dium, West Ham United FC’s new home, and busy West­field Strat­ford City shop­ping des­ti­na­tion. “I knew that area be­fore the Olympics. We parked loads of buses where the sta­dium is now. It was a dump,” he says.

“Part of my job is to make sure that the chief ex­ec­u­tive makes it all hap­pen.” He an­swers to big­wigs — at Net­work Rail to the Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port, and at the LLDC to Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan. De­spite be­ing hon­oured with a CBE in 2006 for keep­ing Lon­don run­ning after the 2005 bomb­ings, and a knight­hood in 2013 for keep­ing Lon­don run­ning dur­ing the Olympics, he comes over as a reg­u­lar bloke. As he sits on a bench in bustling Water­loo sta­tion, no one has the faintest idea who the man in the rum­pled black li­nen jacket is.


A few times a year, Hendy drives his Six­ties Routemas­ter to take ar­chi­tects, de­vel­op­ers and plan­ners on tours of new and on­go­ing de­vel­op­ments in Lon­don, so they can ex­change ideas.

Born in Hayes, Mid­dle­sex 64 years ago and raised in Eal­ing, he went to Latymer Up­per School on a coun­cil schol­ar­ship, be­fore a de­gree in eco­nom­ics and ge­og­ra­phy at Leeds, then into what was Lon­don Trans­port, as a grad­u­ate trainee. “I’ve al­ways been end­lessly fas­ci­nated by trans­port and loved trav­el­ling by train and bus.

“I ran TfL un­der two may­ors, and what I learnt about trans­port is that what’s im­por­tant is not how it works, but what it does. The rea­son peo­ple in­vest in it is be­cause it cre­ates eco­nomic growth, jobs, and homes.”

Net­work Rail’s do­main is im­mense. It owns 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and all the sta­tions, and it runs all Lon­don’s ma­jor hubs. Last year, we made 1.65 bil­lion jour­neys on the net­work. Now, the rail­way is in the thick of the most am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion and de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme since the Vic­to­rian era, a new golden age.

“Pas­sen­ger num­bers dou­bled in the past 20 years. Our chal­lenge is to keep ca­pac­ity grow­ing. Most peo­ple are trav­el­ling to and from work, or for busi­ness. You mustn’t get to the stage where peo­ple can’t get on, or can’t get to work.


“It is the big­gest pro­gramme of in­vest­ment since na­tion­al­i­sa­tion in 1948. In the next 12-18 months on Thames­link, Lon­don­ers will see 24 trains an hour. Be­tween St Pan­cras and Black­fri­ars/Lon­don Bridge, trains will be driven au­to­mat­i­cally, with a driver present. Out­side that area, the driver will take over.

“Thames­link goes up to Bed­ford and Cam­bridge and King’s Lynn; out to the East Coast main line, and south to Gatwick, Brighton and East­bourne. This will af­fect a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple. The trains won’t be faster, but be­cause there are more of them with greater ca­pac­ity, wait­ing and travel times will re­duce. At Water­loo, the on­go­ing pro­gramme in­volves mak­ing longer plat­forms and a new fleet of trains that will im­prove ca­pac­ity 30 per cent, while the new In­ter­ci­ties to Bris­tol and Cardiff start run­ning next Monday [Oc­to­ber 16].”


“In the next 18 months, we’re bring­ing a whole new level of con­nec­tiv­ity to Lon­don, which will touch at least half of Lon­don­ers’ rail jour­neys — Croy­don, Rom­ford, Il­ford, Slough, Ele­phant and Cas­tle will all ben­e­fit.” Even Cross­rail is in the mix, as some of its tracks are owned by Net­work Rail. “It will trans­form east-west travel. When Cross­rail was au­tho­rised in 2007 I was there. So I hope I get in­vited to the open­ing,” Hendy smiles.

“Lon­don Bridge is a re­ally good ex­am­ple of what large in­vest­ment does. It was bombed in the Sec­ond World War, and ever since I was a boy, it was a wreck.

“The front was cor­ru­gated iron; the Too­ley Street frontage was hideous; but the new Too­ley Street frontage [de­signed by in­ter­na­tional ar­chi­tec­ture firm Grimshaw] is on the way, with great shops. High street shops are strug­gling, but sta­tion shop­ping is boom­ing. We work hard at pulling in the right re­tail­ers.

“One of the rail­way’s jobs is to get peo­ple to Lon­don so they can cre­ate wealth. And bet­ter sup­ply and bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity does good things to the hous­ing mar­ket.”

12,000 NEW HOMES

Net­work Rail has an am­bi­tious tar­get of build­ing 12,000 homes on its land by 2020, and in Lon­don, a just-an­nounced pack­age of small plots should pro­vide 300 homes. “We’re mak­ing a con­certed ef­fort to re­lease our land for homes, mak­ing it eas­ier for de­vel­op­ers to build on and around rail­way land, and build af­ford­able hous­ing.

“Net­work Rail has four ob­jec­tives set out by gov­ern­ment: to look after pas­sen­gers and freight; to give value; re­gen­er­a­tion, and hous­ing. On that front, we’re look­ing at a big scheme with Capco at Clapham Junc­tion. It needs a com­plete rebuild, and we’re look­ing at putting hous­ing on a deck over the top of it. These things take years — but if you don’t start them, they will never hap­pen.”

Chal­lenge: Peter Hendy’s 42-year trans­port ca­reer in­cludes nine years run­ning TfL

£1bn re­vamp: Lon­don Bridge is be­ing turned into a “des­ti­na­tion sta­tion”

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