Gareth John: Transport for London

With a panel review taking place alongside the continuing developments for the 2012 Olympics, TfL legal head Gareth John has a marathon remit. By Malar Velaigam

Transport for London’s (TfL) 42-strong legal team has had an eventful year. The team scooped the In-house Public Sector Team of the Year Award at The Lawyer Awards 2007 in June and is now running full speed ahead with the £10bn upgrade of the City’s transport network.

Under the development programme, and in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics, TfL is upgrading the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and extending the East London Line. TfL’s legal muscle is also occupied with work on the transfer of the North London Railway and Victoria Station’s upgrade works, as well as the legal issues pertaining to what it calls ‘surface activities’, such as taxis, buses, traffic, roads and highways, river travel, cycling, congestion and ticketing.

It is no surprise, therefore, given the legal group’s workload, that TfL director of legal and compliance Gareth John has such a large team – 33 lawyers and nine support staff. It is also no surprise that John spent £30m last year on external legal advice.

“The team at TfL is very talented and constantly working on diverse, complex, high-profile matters in the public eye,” John says. “We aim to prioritise projects that are most important to TfL and look to external assistance depending on the magnitude of the project.”

The legal department is divided into four main subgroups: commercial, property, public law and disputes. The commercial group consists of nine lawyers and deals with what John refers to as “all major work”, such as the transfer of the North London Railway and the East London Line extension. Tramlink, fares and ticketing also fall under the group’s watch.

Seven lawyers make up the property team, which handles stations, offices, acquisitions of land and buildings, and highways. There are six members in the public law team. Meanwhile, the 11 lawyer-strong disputes group handles litigious and non-litigious work, such as renewing employment policies and general contractual disputes respectively.

However, all legal work pertaining to PPP and PFI issues and the network rail interface fall outside John’s remit and come under a separate legal team that is attached to its group company London Underground.

TfL general counsel Howard Carter, to whom John reports directly, meets with John and other TfL directors once a week to update each other. John also meets with his three team leaders on a fortnightly basis to discuss workloads and strategy.

At present John has his hands full with a review of both of TfL’s external legal panels. TfL is reviewing both its own one-firm mainstream operational panel and its larger joint panel with London Underground for complex projects.

Requests for tenders were issued earlier this year (The Lawyer, 19 March), but a final decision on both panels has not yet been finalised.

TfL has historically instructed Eversheds as its mainstream operational adviser, which assists with high-volume, low-value work, such as leases and tribunals for property issues and general commercial work such as IT contracts.

Meanwhile, 18 firms were invited to tender for the joint panel, including present advisers Berwin Leighton Paisner, Bird & Bird, Hammonds, Herbert Smith, K&L Gates and Manches.

“We look at cost and a good commercial approach, but it’s also about firms understanding our risk profile. Not many firms have the expertise for our size of work,” explains John. “The aim is to keep the in-house team focused on the big strategic projects in London.”

TfL is, however, not averse from going off-panel. John explains that he reserves the flexibility to conduct one-off ‘mini-tenders’ for major projects. For example, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was instructed on the transfer of the North London Railway.

Given the quality and quantity of work expected of John’s in-house team, it is little surprise that he needs flexibility when selecting the group’s external advisers.
Gareth John
Director of legal and compliance
Transport for London (TfL)

Name: Gareth John
Organisation: Transport for London (TfL)
Title: Director of legal and compliance
Sector: Transport
Reporting to: General counsel Howard Carter
Number of employees: 21,000
Legal capability: 27
Legal spend:


Main law firms: Ashurst, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith, Simmons & Simmons
Gareth John’s CV:

1986-90: LLB Hons (European), Exeter University/Aix-Marseille
1990-91: College of Law, London

Work History:
1992-94: Trainee, Frere Cholmeley Bischoff
1994-97: Associate, Frere Cholmeley Bischoff
1997-2005: Head of legal (UK & Ireland), Hewlett-Packard
2005-present: Director of legal and compliance and company secretary, TfL