Presentation address by Mr Nigel Foster

Vice-Chancellor,

Change is constant in the modern workplace, and graduates must be adaptable in the face of shifting circumstances.  Those who graduate in the historic splendour of this Great Hall not only possess intellect and deep learning, but they also have sharp critical-thinking skills and the ability to solve hugely difficult problems.

Today we honour Sir Peter Hendy, an alumnus who possesses such skills in abundance.

After nine years as Commissioner of Transport for London, Peter became Chairman of Network Rail just eight days ago after being asked by the Government to help fix the nation’s railways.  His main task will be to review the planned £38 billion rail improvement programme. The role is complex and challenging, but Peter is uniquely placed to succeed.

At Transport for London, he managed a budget of £9 billion, 27,000 staff and the capital’s Underground and Overground railways, its 8,000 buses, the public bike scheme, and the Docklands Light Railway; and the licensing of taxis and the Congestion charge.  London became a world leader in integrated and innovative transport delivery on his watch.

Peter’s mantra has been that transport must be seen to improve if funding is to follow.  He confounded doubters by overseeing the largest long-term investment in London’s transport network and public transport ahead of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Colleagues speak of Peter’s attention to detail and ability to recall and combine large quantities of complex information on different topics, enabling him to predict how a change in one part of London’s symbiotic transport network has ramifications elsewhere.  Outspoken yet diplomatic, he is known for his insight, effectiveness and leadership.

Peter grew up in London before graduating from Leeds with a BA in Economics and Geography in 1975.  A graduate traineeship at London Transport followed, and then a spell in the private sector.  He re-joined Transport for London in 2001 and became Commissioner in 2006.  He is, I am sure, the only honorary graduate to own a London Routemaster bus, which he drives near his home in Bath, when not cycling, his main pastime. 

We are not the first to honour Peter– he received a CBE in 2006 and was knighted in 2013 – but we are extremely proud to call him one of our own. 

Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you for the Degree of Doctors of Law, honoris causa, Peter Gerard Hendy.