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Sir Peter Hendy CBE: oration

Read Dr Andrew Heath's oration on Sir Peter Hendy CBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering in June 2014.


Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the Commissioner of Transport for London.

I first mentioned to Peter that I was to deliver this oration while walking to the Chancellors Building at the start of a lecture he was to deliver to some final year students. He suggested that I should try to avoid the usual “boring stuff” but I felt I had to include some of it as what is boring for him is pretty impressive for the rest of us.

Peter Hendy graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Leeds in 1975 and then started his career as a graduate trainee at what was then London Transport. He moved up the career ladder, and after restructuring, privatization, a buyout and a trade sale, became Deputy Director for FirstGroup’s UK Bus division. In 2001, he was appointed to the position of Managing Director of Surface Transport for Transport for London, and in January 2006 was appointed Commissioner of Transport for London, a position he continues to hold. He received a CBE in the 2006 New Year Honours for his work in keeping public transport in London running during and after the 7 July 2005 London bombings, and was knighted for services to transport and the community in the 2013 New Year Honours for his work on improving London’s transport and for the effective running of the transport network for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is the longest serving person in charge of London’s transport since Lord Ashford in 1947 and has, of course, worked for both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

In spite of running one of the largest and most complex transport systems in the world, he is not someone who tells people what to do without being able to do it himself. He is the only person I know of who has driven to the University in a red London Routemaster bus to deliver a lecture, but for those who think this is one way to get around paying the parking fees at the University, unfortunately parked buses and coaches have their own “pay and display” rates.

What many will not know is that in spite of being in charge of London’s public transport system, Peter Hendy is a long-term Bath resident and is actively involved in the local community. He is President of the Widcombe Social Club which is in the process of being completely rebuilt to meet the current and future needs of the community, including some new student accommodation. He has chaired the Transport Commission for Bath which has been supervising Bath’s first ever Transport Strategy, to sit alongside the core economic strategy of the Council, which will hopefully make travelling in Bath better and easier. He has also been instrumental in campaigning for a new traffic scheme for Rossiter Road, which will alleviate some of the traffic problems on the A36 in Bath and regenerate the Widcombe’s “High Street”. As all these things are planned for completion in late 2014, many of you here today will not appreciate their full impact, but the legacy will benefit future generations of University of Bath students and visitors.

And lastly, with his Routemaster, he is helping Bath culturally, with an annual appearance at the Comedy Festival’s White (or Red) Wine Arts Trail - with both Arthur Smith and Lorraine Chase as successive conductors, and helping the little church at Imber in the military training area of Salisbury Plain survive by an annual fundraising bus service to a place only accessible for a few days a year. If you see a Routemaster bus around the streets of Bath, it is generally his!

Chancellor, I present to you Sir Peter Hendy who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa.

Dr Andrew Heath

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