On Our Line: The Rail and Transport Podcast

In-depth interviews and analysis of the engineering, politics and history of rail and transport systems across the UK and the world. Presented by Nicole Badstuber and John Bull from London Reconnections, each episode focuses on a single transport topic and features experts drawn from across the industry, academic and political spectrum.
RSS Feed
On Our Line: The Rail and Transport Podcast


All Episodes
Now displaying: Page 1
Apr 24, 2017

London Reconnections continues its New York podcast series with an episode exploring New York’s buses: the challenges, stepping stone successes and further ideas for improvement.

London and New York are both facing declining bus travel speeds, reliability and bus usage. In this episode we explore the challenges to providing high-quality bus services as well as what improvements can be made, such a rationalising the bus routes, improving boarding and alighting and the modernising ticketing that could reverse the decline of the bus network. Join us to find out more about the lessons learnt from the introduction of the express bus routes, Select Bus Service (SBS), in New York and what ideas proven in other cities could transform the bus service and the perception of this backbone of the city’s transport network.

Nicole talks to Jon Orcutt, Communications & Advocacy Director at transport foundation TransitCenter, and Stephanie Veras, Community Organizer at the public transport riders advocacy group Riders Alliance.

Jon Orcutt is Communications and Advocacy Director at the urban mobility foundation TransitCenter. He has nearly 30 years of experience in sustainable transport advocacy and project implementation. Before joining TransitCenter, Jon supported governments and other institutions developing transport strategies and sustainable transport projects. Jon was Director of Policy for the New York City Department for Transportation from 2007 to 2014. Jon is leading TransitCenter’s efforts to improve the bus services in New York. TransitCenter‘s report Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses outlines the declining performance and ridership of the busiest bus network in the US. It also sets out a number of recommendations to improve the New York bus network with interventions proven to be successful in other cities.

Stephanie Veras is Community Organizer at the Riders Alliance. She is heading the Bus Turnaround Campaign at the Riders Alliance. The campaign is a collaborative effort between Riders Alliance, TransitCenter, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign with the objective of turning around the slow and unreliable bus service in New York. Prior to taking up the role as Community Organizer at Riders Alliance, Stephanie worked closely with District leader and staff in the community of Washington Heights and Inwood to engage community members in participatory budgeting. She has also rallied support for bus improvements in her community. She is a recent graduate in communications from the City College of New York.

For more frequent updates on the topic you can follow our guests and their organisations on twitter at from @TransitCenter and @RidersNY. Find out more about the state of New York’s bus network and the Bus Turnaround Campaign in the Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses report and its complementary website BusTurnaround.NYC.


Feb 27, 2017

London Reconnections continues its New York podcast series with an episode looking at the challenges and changes brought about by emerging urban mobility providers.

Zak Accuardi is a program analyst atTransitCenter, a foundation focusing on data and technology research projects. He is the lead researcher and a co-author of the report Private Mobility – Public Interest which builds on over one hundred interviews with representatives from the public and private sectors across the United States. It discusses how emerging mobility services such as bike-share, car-share, and on-demand transit might be harnessed or integrated into a city’s transport network. One clear finding of the report is that the research did not support the superficial narrative that emerging mobility providers are set to replace fixed route public transport services.

Greg Lindsay is a Senior Fellow at the New Cities Foundation. He is the author of Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport which investigates the challenge presented to cities by on-demand mobility providers harnessing the ability to locate, coordinate and orchestrate passengers and vehicles via individual’s smart phones. The report builds on mobility research on four case study cities: Washington DC, London, Sao Paulo and Manila. The report offers transport authorities recommendations on how to halt the downward spiral of shrinking budgets and declining ridership as the popularity of on-demand mobility providers grows.  

We talk about how cities might react and how regulation might evolve to embrace the new mobility options. How are these new actors disrupting transport provision in cities? What can cities do in the short, medium and long term to avoid transport inequality and ensure good mobility for all? Can cities stand their ground against powerful private mobility providers?

For more frequent updates on the topic you can follow our guests and their organisations on twitter at @zaccuradi from @TransitCenter and @Greg_Lindsay from @NewCitiesFoundation.

Jan 30, 2017

After an extended Winter break, London Reconnections continues its New York podcast series with an episode on cycling in New York.

Doug Gordon is the author of the Brooklyn Spoke, which focuses on bike advocacy and safe streets. He’s also a TV producer and writer with credits for National Geographic TV, ABC, Discovery, PBS, and the Travel Channel.

Julia Kite is the Policy and Research Manager for Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt), New York City’s advocates for walking, biking, and using public transportation. As part of TransAlt’s mission to reclaim streets from motor vehicles for all New Yorkers and to advocate for initiatives that bring the city closer to achieving Vision Zero, she guides the organization’s evidence-based policy initiatives and undertakes research on topics including safe street redesign, cycling expansion, and transportation equity.

Doug and Julia give us an introduction to cycling in New York. The discussion covers evolution of cycling, its infrastructure provision and public policy, as well as the culture and media narratives.

For more frequent updates on the topic you can follow our guests on twitter at @BrooklynSpoke and @juliakite.

Nov 10, 2016

In this, the second episode of our New York mini series, Nicole talks to Sam Schwartz about the efforts to introduce road and congestion pricing in New York.

Sam Schwartz served as New York City‘s Traffic Commissioner and the New York City Department of Transportation’s Chief Engineer.  He now runs his own transport consultancy, Sam Schwartz Engineering, and is a columnist under the moniker Gridlock Sam. Sam also spearheads the Move NY campaign, which has put forward the case for a new approach to managing and financially supporting transport in New York. The proposal includes rationalising the bridge tolls, introducing congestion charging in the city centre and importantly also investing in public transport.

A native New Yorker Sam joined the city’s transport department, which is responsible for street space not public transport, neither surface transport nor subways or commuter rail, as a graduate in the early 1970s.

In the podcast, Sam outlines current efforts with the Move NY campaign to manage congestion, traffic levels and transport demand in New York. He also reflects on the various attempts in the last few decades to introduce road pricing or congestion charging and meet the public transport funding gap in New York – and his part in them.

Check out the Move NY campaign where you can find more detail about Sam’s current proposal. For a summary of Sam’s role in transport in New York read Aaron Renn’s profile of Sam in the Guardian. For a deep dive Sam’s book Street Smart – The Rise of Cities and Fall of Cars offers insight into the his story and changing attitudes to transport in New York.

For more up to date views on transport in New York, you can find Sam’s column in the Daily News.

Look out more episodes of the mini-series coming soon.

Oct 11, 2016

London Reconnections heads to New York and brings you the first part of a mini series on transport matters from across the Atlantic. To kick off the series we talk to Ben Kabak who gives us an overview of the transport politics, policy and projects in New York.


Ben Kabak is the Editor of the 2nd Avenue Sagas a website covering all matter transport in New York. What started as a blog in 2006 to trace the progress and politics of the 2nd Avenue Subway has since morphed into a site the spectrum on transport stories: from politics to long range planning, capital investment, funding challenges and new technology adoption.


Ben gives us an introduction to transport in New York’s metropolitan area by outlining the fragmented governance structure with its many institutions in charge. This plays itself out in transport policy and infrastructure pipelines for the region. It does not appear to be leading to coordinated and integrated transport planning for the metropolitan area. Are politician’s ambitions distorting transport investment? How is funding choking transport investment and maintenance of good repair?


Tune in to hear about the challenges of the institutional arrangements, political horse trading and funding for providing transport in New York and some suggestions on how they might be overcome.


Check out Ben’s transport blog where you can find more detail about a lot of the issues touched upon in this podcast, such as the large infrastructure projects such as the Second Avenue Subway, the TriboroRX line, and 7 line extension. For an overview of the instutional arrangments for transport provision in New York, I would recommend the report Getting to the Route of It – The Role of Governance in Regional Transit by the Eno Center for Transportation and Transit Center offers an overview of the institutional arrangements for transport in different US city regions and includes a chapter dedicated to New York.


Look out more episodes of the mini-series coming soon.

Aug 31, 2016

In the latest episode of our On Our Line podcast series , Nicole discusses the architecture and design of Crossrail’s stations with architecture critic Hugh Pearman and Crossrail’s Head of Architecture Julian Robinson.

Tune in to hear about the design vision for Crossrail and how it was implemented. Our guests elaborate on the guiding design principles, what was learnt from London Underground and the challenges to implementing that vision. In addition, they discuss how the Transport for London brand and the new unique Crossrail identity were woven into the fabric of each station to create familiar, easily navigable stations that also reflect their history, character and community.

Julian Robinson is Head of Architecture at Crossrail Ltd. He is in charge of delivering a coherent design for Crossrail’s new and upgraded stations by working with Crossrail’s many partners. Julian has described his vision for the new railway line as one that seeks to balance the uniqueness of the Jubilee line stations with the rigidity of Holden and Pick”. Before moving to Crossrail to head its architecture team, Julian worked on the transformation of St Pancras station and the extension of the Jubilee Line.

Hugh Pearman is a London-based architecture and design critic. He is the editor of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ monthly magazine RIBA Journal. He was The Sunday Times architecture and design critic for 30 years, from 1986 to earlier this year. Hugh was a Visiting Professor in Architecture at the Royal College of Art in 2015. He served as Vice President of London’s Architectural Association and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Hugh’s books include the bestselling Contemporary World Architecture. His latest Platform for Design tells the story of the Crossrail stations’ design, documenting the design vision and approach taken, as well as the unique features of each of the 40 stations.

Aug 19, 2016
To celebrate the start of the Night Tube service this evening, London Reconnections is pleased to bring you the first episode of On Our Line: Extra.
We will be offering these podcast extras in addition to our regular month episodes. These podcast extras still focus on all matters transport but might vary in scope and format from the our regular month episodes. For instance, they may be on very timely topics such as this episode on the Night Tube today    
In this episode, Nicole talks to the man responsible for the implementation of the Night Tube. Kevin Dunning is the Director of Asset and Operational Support for London Underground , and has been responsible for the logistics and preparation for the new 24hr service. 
The talk covers a wide range of topics, from the initial planning and engineering challenges, to the testing process, and we can expect from the service in the months and years to come, as it becomes a staple of London life, and impacts upon the city. 
Jul 27, 2016

In episode three of our podcast Nicole discusses the history of British transport policy with Dr Geoff Dudley and Christian Wolmar. 

Dr Geoff Dudley is a Visiting Research Associate at Transport Studies Unit at the University of Oxford’s. His research interest focuses on dynamics and process of policy change. His work includes an investigation into how how policy communities and different interests steered British transport policy after the Second World War – published in his book Why Does Policy Change? Lessons from British Transport Policy 1945-99

Geoff has also been examining the decision-making processes for the High Speed Rail 2 project and this year, is set to start investigating the governance of Uber in London. 

Christian Wolmar is a journalist and author specialising in transport. Christian writes regularly for a wide range of national newspapers, is a frequent guest on the radio and has been a columnist for Rail magazine since 1994.

He is the author of many books on railway history including his latest book Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain Has No Transport Policy considers why there hasn’t been a coherent transport policy and why transport has never held the political importance it deserves. 

Together, Dudley and Wolmar look back at the last seven decades of transport policy since the Second World War. As well as discussing the shortcomings of current and past transport policy and they investigate drivers of policy change over time. 

How did the motorcar disrupt transport policy?

How have we ended up with the current institutions drafting transport policy?

Why do certain projects and policy gain momentum whilst others do not?

Why does Britain not have a coherent transport policy?

Are we in an era of a transport policy vacuum and how have we ended up in this state of affair?

Jul 1, 2016

Nicole talks to Dr Max Roberts, lecturer in Psychology at the University of Essex, and transport author and informational design expert Peter Lloyd.

Dr Max Roberts is an expert in transport schematics, effective design and how to evaluate them using an objective methodology. He has authored two books on metro maps and conducted design and usability studies for transport bodies including TfL. 

Peter Lloyd, meanwhile, has a background in information and software design. He is also currently documenting the complete history of the New York City subway map, with the first of nine volumes published in 2012. He us currently preparing ‘Diagram Decade,’ a trilogy of books on New York’s experiment with diagram maps which started in 1958.

Together, Roberts and Lloyd discuss the current crisis in metro map design.

As networks and their connections grow in size and complexity communicating this information effectively to the traveller becomes an increasingly complex challenge. The pair talk about the fragmentation of metro map design across the globe and the the falsehood of infinite mental capacity.

They also explore the history of metro map design and design elements in London, Paris, New York and beyond. And discuss the geographic and diagrammatic design schism and how this has manifested in various cities around the world.


Our thanks, as always, to our producer Josh

May 29, 2016

Nicole talks to former Executive Director of the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) and former board chair (and current board member) of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Mort Downey.

In addition to his experience on Metro systems, Mort was also the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 1993 to 2001, making him the longest-serving person to ever hold the post. He was appointed by President Obama to serve as part of his transition team in 2008 and led the review team for transportation.

In this episode, Mort talks about the political, logistical and engineering challenges currently facing public transport in the U.S. He also talks about the infamous "death spiral" of under-investment that led to the Washington Metro train collision in 2009, the deadliest accident in the network's history, and the changes this brought about in metro (and wider railway) investment and planning in the U.S.