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TfL CIO Steve Townsend taking Olympics confidence into new projects

Edward Qualtrough | July 30, 2013
Transport for London (TfL) CIO Steve Townsend talks about his next projects, which include building on the underground WiFi rollout and a complete overhaul of TfL's end-user computing.

A year on from the London 2012 Olympics, Transport for London (TfL) CIO Steve Townsend is still buoyed by his organisation's success in delivering a smooth service during Games time and is looking forward to his next projects, which include building on the underground WiFi rollout and a complete overhaul of TfL's end-user computing.

Townsend, who began his role in August 2011, oversees the technology that moves 24 million people around the capital daily, and told CIO in June 2013 that TfL has been working with a new confidence since last summer.

"The Games to me proved the benefit of planning," he said, "and not just for my information management (IM) department but for the whole organisation.

"While some of those early horror stories were being written we were busy running scenario after scenario, making sure no stone was left unturned.

"Did it boost our confidence? Certainly. We knew the task was huge, and the reliance on technology was massive. We were extremely proud of what we could deliver.

"And it demonstrated to the wider TfL the power of working collaboratively.

"There are other things I'm proud of doing but being part of that journey and being able to support an organisation and challenge the public perception we have and to deliver that level of service made me extremely proud."

WiFi rollout
Aside from the ubiquitous, dumb Britain-esque articles peddled by some sections of the media about the UK's ability to deliver on a grand scale, TfL had to deal with the huge influx of visitors while also rolling out its ambitious underground WiFi project - 200ft below the surface in one of the world's oldest underground systems, much of it with Victorian infrastructure.

Townsend and his team hit their goal of having connectivity installed in 72 key stations by the start of the Olympics, which he said demonstrated the organisation's ability to respond to the travelling public's needs, and utilise technology as part of the future customer service they offer.

Subsequently, 120 Tube stations are now live — with Townsend and his team now looking at ways TfL can use the new infrastructure to improve their own way of working.

"We are looking at not just the travelling public's benefits of having that level of mobility. What was always part of the strategy was how we would enable internal mechanisms to utilise the new service."

Townsend explained that the WiFi system &madsh; delivered on budget and on track to deliver its RoI by 2017 — is already underpinning a number of other projects, including data monitoring in order to run a smoother service.

"We're not just leveraging the fact that it's available to our customers, we're leveraging the fact we have an internal WiFi capability and we're utilising that to transmit real-time information and also use conditional monitoring data as well.


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