The news that Tim O’Toole is to leave as Managing Director of London Underground and return to the United States is bad news for Londoners, especially those of us who use the Tube every day.
I have been impressed with Tim O’Toole since he was recruited by Mayor Livingstone some six or so years ago and, when I worked much more closely with him during my four years as an Advisor to the Board of Transport for London, my respect grew even further. He has a deep commitment to public transport, coupled with serious experience of running railway systems and a toughness sufficient both to deal with the contractual mess left by the PPP arrangements and with the history of volatile labour relations on the Underground.
So where does this leave Mayor Johnson?
Firstly, there is a big hole to fill. Secondly, the Mayor now has to demonstrate that it is not what Simon Fletcher calls the culture of back-biting, internal division and second-ratism at the heart of his administration that has led to Tim O’Toole’s decision to step down.
Tim O’Toole’s separation from his family has been going on for the last six years and TfL’s likely capital funding gap has been known ever since the Government announced the decision to go ahead with Crossrail. Tim O’Toole, when I last saw him, showed every sign of being a man who was still hugely enjoying the challenges of his job – something must have changed for him to decide to go now.