Byford, Ex-Subway Chief in New York, Will Be London Transport Commissioner

New York City’s former subway chief, Andy Byford, won’t be returning to New York City after all. Instead he is going back to the European city where his transit career began.

On Wednesday, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, confirmed Mr. Byford’s appointment as commissioner for Transport for London, the agency that runs that city’s sprawling subway, bus and road system.

“I am delighted to be taking up the role of Commissioner and to have been chosen to lead the organization where I started my transport career over 30 years ago,” Mr. Byford said.

Now, as the pandemic eases its grip in many places, transit agencies face the challenge of regaining the confidence of riders and finding ways to protect the public’s health.

Mr. Byford, one of the most revered transit leaders in recent memory, left the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in January, after clashing repeatedly with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Critics across the political spectrum faulted the governor for failing to embrace the man he had hired to run the foundering system. Mr. Cuomo’s allies said Mr. Byford did not do enough to find a way to get along with the governor, who controls the system.

In Mr. Byford’s January resignation letter, he suggested that the governor had sidelined him by initiating an agency overhaul that took away some of his power.

The governor would also hold meetings about the subway system and not include Mr. Byford.

At the time of his resignation, Mr. Byford said he would like to remain in New York, a city he had grown to love. Mr. Byford had already worked as a top official transit official in London in the years before coming to New York.

When Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, tapped Mr. Byford to run the country’s largest subway and bus system in 2017, it was embroiled in its worst crisis in recent history. Years of mismanagement and neglect had caused service to crater.

Only 58 percent of trains were arriving on time, the worst performance since the 1970s. Mr. Cuomo had declared the subway in a state of emergency.

During Mr. Byford’s tenure, he helped implement an $836 million spending plan to stabilize the system, which included upgrading tracks and plugging leaks.

He and Mr. Cuomo also lobbied the state legislature to approve what was poised to be the nation’s first congestion pricing scheme, which would charge drivers entering Manhattan’s busiest corridors and was scheduled to start in January.

The revenues from congestion pricing were supposed to help fund a sweeping $50 billion spending plan that Mr. Byford helped draft to turn the subway into a 21st-century network with a modern signaling system.

But the plan’s prospect now look uncertain given how the pandemic has decimated the agency’s revenues and transit officials have suggested that the implementation of congestion pricing will be pushed back.

“Andy Byford did wonders for New York and put us on a track that will serve us well for a generation,” said Danny Pearlstein, the policy and communications director for Riders Alliance, an advocacy group. “London is very lucky to have him.”

Mr. Byford is scheduled to start his new post on June 29.

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