Crossrail have announced that Howard Smith, currently Chief Operating Officer at TfL London Rail, will join Crossrail in March as Operations Director:
Howard Smith is currently Chief Operating Officer for Rail at Transport for London and has successfully led the £1bn East London Line extension project as well as the development, launch and operation of London Overground and management of its operating concession.
Howard Smith will be responsible for leading the development of Crossrail’s operational and customer service strategy, defining the structure of the new railway’s operating and maintenance organisations as well as leading on the arrangements for the future Crossrail operating concession.
The key words in the above announcement (and the reason why Smith is an excellent choice) are, of course, “Crossrail operating concession.” Smith has been instrumental in making London Overground the success it is, both from a passenger and a franchise perspective.
Indeed his name will be familiar to anyone who has followed our coverage of the Overground over the years, as he has consistently proven to be a figure who gets the importance of both urban and suburban rail, and has been a vocal proponent of taking the concession model forward. He’s also continually demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the practicalities and possibilities of rail work both north and south of the river. In that regard, Crossrail’s gain is very much TfL’s loss.
As a final thought, we will leave you with the (anonymous) words of one of Smith’s colleagues at TfL:
Howard brings together in one package, several key attributes that made him absolutely the right person in the right place when it came to the creation of London Overground and these will be equally crucial and valuable to Crossrail. Firstly, he is a Londoner through and through, he is also a Railwayman through and through and he is passionate about both of those “causes”.
Secondly, while he gained the invaluable experience of learning the railway business from the ground up as a Station Master at Richmond and London Bridge, he is acutely tuned to the bigger picture of the complexities of providing integrated transport services to Europe’s largest and fastest growing city. He understands the private sector politics of big business as well as the everyday public sector politics swirling around the running of London’s transport system which make it a three dimensional game.
Thirdly, he has the straightforward skill of mastering the changing day to day knowledge required to run a large transport organisation and that is a huge task which should never be underestimated. If you want your pub quiz team to be the unbeatable champion year in year out, get Howard on your side; if you see him on the opposition team, withdraw from the competition.
Finally, he is a genuinely helpful, cooperative and good person to work with.
Smith is thus an excellent choice for the Ops role at Crossrail, although it will be interesting to see who steps into his shoes at TfL.