In conversation with Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner

In this episode of the Connected Places Podcast Professor Greg Clark speaks to Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner about his ambitious plans for Transport for London (TfL).

We’ll be exploring where the opportunities lie for innovation in how we imagine, design and operate the transport systems of tomorrow? What’s the role of a public transport authority in managing the post-COVID economic recovery? What now for urban mobility in London and how can other UK cities learn from overseas? 

Andy Byford is the Transport Commissioner for London and he leads the capital’s transport authority, TfL. Before joining TfL, he was the CEO of the New York Transit Authority where he was responsible for 50,000 staff and an investment budget of USD$40bn. He was also the Chief Executive of the City of Toronto’s Transit Commission, and he ran the Rail Corporation of New South Wales in Australia. He began his career in uniform as a station foreman on the London Underground. 

Music on this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions and Phill Ward Music (

Show notes

Conversation topics/themes: 

  • Exploring what is world class when it comes to urban transport systems; the key differences and similarities between the four global cities Andy has worked in. 
  • The most critical areas where technology is disrupting and accelerating change in transport systems (i.e. micro-mobility, sharing economy, the customer experience of transport systems, the role of data in enhancing the reliability/predictability/maintenance). 
  • The future of public transport post-COVID: how will the dynamics of movement in cities change; what role will public transport play in adapting to those changes; and how will it integrate other kinds of mobility options (cycling/walking). 
  • How public transport systems most need to innovate in the next cycle of development – technological innovations, behavioural, financial, and organisational. 
  • Hopes and aspirations for London in the years ahead; Andy’s key areas of focus as Commissioner in creating success in the future?
  • Lessons learned from London and cities around the world which might be needed in other UK cities, both growing ones and ones that are still finding their feet. 
  • TfL’s reputation for fostering innovation, particularly around open data. What innovators and entrepreneurs should expect from TfL as a convenor and catalyst of innovation in mobility; the kind of partner TfL aspires to be in the future. 
  • The culture change Andy most wants to see achieved within TfL as a diverse organisation. 

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Green ports as energy hubs

In a world of climate change and the ‘green agenda’, the focus has been primarily on air, rail, and road transportation in regard to emissions.

So attention has now turned to the maritime transportation sector, hence the discussions around this important sector at COP26 and beyond due to our increasing appetite for consumer goods, foodstuffs and produce from around the world.

To date the government has formed a strategy to a) reduce emissions within the maritime sector and b) at the same time convert our ports into areas of ‘green opportunity’ as hubs that produce energy for the wider economy.

Challenges – How can we reduce these emissions within the maritime sector?

Governments, academia, and ecological bodies have come together to form a strategy of action to reduce carbon dioxide globally.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set a target to halve 2008 emission levels by 2050.

The strategies in place to reduce these emission levels are through:

  • increasing electrification of ports and port handling processes, and
  • the adoption of future fuels for example LNG (liquified natural gas), hydrogen or ammonia

Globally we all need to ‘come together as one’ to decarbonise shipping and ports, thus ensuring we meet our target for maritime CO2 reduction.

The UK leading the way

The United Kingdom is ideally positioned to lead the way in maritime carbon and CO2 reduction. Due to the UK being the home of the IMO, having direct access to regulators and the other bodies listed above. Though we must not forget the United Kingdom has always been a pioneering and seafaring nation when it comes to shipping. This has stemmed from the pioneering days of the seventeenth century exploration, the creation of the commonwealth and through to the present.

The United Kingdom – An opportunity to take the lead

There are over 100 ports are operating around the UK that process over 95% of UK trade. Thus, the time is right now for us to take the lead and lead by example in decarbonising our ports. ‘First mover’ opportunities within this sector allow us to build a significant competitive advantage.

For example:

  • The governments ‘Build Back Better’ strategy places the UK in the ideal position for our Ports to be among one of the first countries in the G20 to achieve net-zero.
  • The use of offshore wind farms to generate ‘clean energy’ in turn to supply the local logistics and warehousing sector with electricity.

Strategies & Enablers – reducing the carbon footprint within our ports

Ports are a complex mix of internal processes and wider stakeholder interactions that present significant challenges and opportunities in terms of reaching our national net-zero targets. Today our ports incorporate a broad range of infrastructure ranging from dockside facilities built in the Victorian era to highly automated cargo processing equipment. Therefore, what is the upshot and what is needed to achieve net-zero within our ports? Here are a few examples:

  • Adoption of ‘clean fuels’ e.g., Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) or Hydrogen. It has been noted that a green hydrogen industry could generate £320bn for the UK economy by 2050 and would support over 120,000 jobs within Freeports nationally.
  • Offshore renewable energy – the UK has the largest installed offshore wind capacity in Europe. This creates significant opportunity for our ports in the wind supply chain, for example, manufacturing, maintenance, and servicing. Plus, the added benefit of supplying energy to connected stakeholders (warehousing and logistics hubs).
  • IT (Information Technology) integration and ‘The Cloud’ – streamlining goods handling processes and reducing the number of goods movements within the port, saving time and energy consumed by loaders, forklift trucks and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs)

Ports as Green Energy Hubs – some examples

  1. Shell is developing a hydrogen hub through the Port of Rotterdam and the Hollandse Kust windfarm. Aiming to start production in 2023 it is expected to produce up to 60,000kg of hydrogen daily. This would in turn fuel 2,300 hydrogen-powered goods vehicles per day.
  2. The Port of Amsterdam is also involved in a green hydrogen project with Tata Steel and Nouryon, with the aim to create a 100MW hydrogen plant using energy generated by offshore wind.
  3. The Port of Aberdeen, Scotland is an accredited EcoPort and is playing a leading role in the region’s transition to a hydrogen economy, through the creation of an Energy Transition Zone. The Port of Aberdeen ETZ has primarily focused on renewables and their links to the wider transport network including hydrogen-fuelled buses and heavy goods vehicle fleets.

Find out more

This article is a summary of a full feature article which you can read in our Net Zero Places Innovation Brief.


Clean Maritime Day at COP26

Shipping is how we get most of the goods that we buy and rely on to enhance our lives. But shipping also produces a lot of carbon, and governments, ship owners, and shipbuilders have sort ways to reduce maritime dependence on fossil fuels and move to cleaner types of fuel or energy.

Global shipping depends on similar cargo handling facilities, repair yards and a ready supply of spare parts to keep breakdowns to a minimum. Therefore, how do we even start to change a whole system, made up of millions of moving parts that the world relies on?

CPC in partnership with Maritime UK, hosted the International Maritime Hub, bringing together innovators from across the globe working on the challenges of maritime decarbonisation. Here are the outcomes of their deliberations, though in reality the challenges the sector faces are continuous and solutions are unable to be found in one week.

‘Collaboration at its best’

The Department for Transport, Knowledge Transfer Network and Maritime UK hosted a session bringing together representatives from many of the projects in the recent Clean Maritime Demonstrator Competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. This was pivotal as a starting point for discussion.

Connected Places is pleased to be working with industry and academic partners in four of these successful projects, based at ports across the UK including Portsmouth International Port, PD Ports, Aberdeen Harbour and the Port of Tyne.

As part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan (announced in March 2020) to position the UK at the forefront of green shipbuilding and maritime technology, the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) is a £20m investment from the government alongside a further £10m from industry to reduce emissions from the maritime sector. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK. Government funding has been utilised to support early-stage research relating to clean maritime. The programme will be used to support the research, design and development of zero-emission technology and infrastructure solutions for maritime and to accelerate decarbonisation in the sector.

Key speakers on the day:

  • Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Maritime, spoke about the importance of making our transition to net-zero an economic opportunity for the UK.
  • David Tozer, Head of Maritime and Land Transport at Innovate UK shared more on the high levels of engagement from industry.
  • John Hutchison, Head of Maritime, Department for International trade outlined the support available to businesses and innovators

Five Clean Maritime Projects projects were showcased:

  1. Electric charging infrastructure – Portsmouth Harbour
  2. Hydrogen fuelled survey vessels – by Acua Marine
  3. Clean energy offshore service vessels – Bibby Marine
  4. Feasibility of electric port operations – Port of Belfast
  5. Vertically Integrated ‘cloud based’ port operations – General Electric & Teeside University

Clean Maritime–a technology perspective

Technology has always influenced the way the UK undertakes trade and the twenty-first century is no different from the sixteenth. The following organisations presented the impacts of new technology within the maritime sector:

Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), a Belgian shipping company, showcased an impressive range of hydrogen-powered innovations. These included hydrogen-powered heavy goods vehicles, floating hydrogen refuelling stations, multi-modal hydrogen refuelling hubs and hydrogen survey vessels.

BAE Systems, Varuna Marine Services and Lloyd’s Register, with a special introduction from Paul Little, founding Principal and CEO of The City of Glasgow College. Delivered thought-provoking presentations in the regard to the future of clean maritime. These ranged from the circular economy (shipbuilding in a modular format and decommissioning) to the handling of new propulsion systems, ways of working and regulatory aspects.

Whilst these challenges may seem vast in their complexity, much progress has been made in recent years and throughout COP26. As a result, the future for clean maritime looks promising.

Connected Places Catapult is pleased to see not only the progress at COP26 but also the work already ongoing in the UK with the Government’s support to accelerate our transition to a greener maritime and ports sector. We look forward to sharing more about our own work, together with our partners across industry and academia over the coming months.

To find out more about our Clean Maritime activities, simply click here.


A bright future for the UK’s Freeports

As announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in the 2021 budget, the UK will soon have eight new Freeports. But the Government specification for Freeports includes requirements to work as an Innovation Hub for regional growth and support the transition to Net-Zero.

What is a Freeport?

A Freeport is defined as either a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or a Free Trade Zone (FTZ). SEZs are geographical e.g., a region that covers all industrial and service sectors. An SEZ has beneficial tax, tariff and duty on goods and services. SEZs have differing commerce rules from the rest of the country. FTZs are known as ‘commercial-free zones’. Commonly they are fenced in, offer duty-free areas, warehousing and storage for goods transiting the UK.

Freeports – a ‘win-win’ strategy for the United Kingdom

Freeports have the potential to be powerful engines of regional growth, by attracting foreign direct investment and stimulating innovation and collaboration.

As part of the Government’s UK’s strategic objectives, Freeports have been devised to:

  • Build Back Better – Freeports have the potential to be powerful engines of regional growth, by attracting foreign direct investment and stimulating innovation and collaboration.
  • Levelling Up – To address regional inequalities for example ‘the North-South divide’ by providing opportunities not just in the South East by supporting regional economic growth nationally. As a UK government initiative ‘levelling up’ is a cross Whitehall departmental plan to implement better links with regional partners and decentralise power from the South East. The UK government has set up a £4.8 billion fund for regional infrastructure projects. Support is provided by the Department for Transport, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government together with the treasury.
  • Transition to Net Zero – Investment of £12 billion as an ‘enabler’ to facilitate industry, business and, transportation to plan for a ‘greener economy’

The UK’s Global Position as a Freeport

The majority of UK maritime ports and airports have an international outlook and global presence and this becomes even more important in the case of Freeports. UK Freeports have the opportunity to build a strong global position by building on the UK’s key relevant characteristics:

  • attractive investment ground;
  • a global reputation as a good place to do business;
  • a robust platform for innovation; and
  • ease of access to import and export markets.

The UK is in a extremely good position to take advantage and become a global player when implementing Freeports.

Locating my business in a Freeport – what are the benefits?

The benefits of locating in a Freeport are many:

  • customs, reduced tariffs e.g. VAT,
  • stamp Duty Land Tax;
  • enhanced Structures and Building Allowance; and
  • enhanced Capital Allowances.

Where can I find more information?

To find out more, please download our publication ‘The Freeport Playbook’.