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Meet the Brit in charge of fixing NYC’s subway

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Media captionNew York commuters tell Andy Byford how to fix the subway

He made a name for himself running transport systems in London, Sydney and Toronto. Now Briton Andy Byford is in charge of turning around New York's aging, failing subway system. What did he get himself into?

About 400,000 people pass through the Bloor-Yonge subway station every day in Toronto, Canada's largest city.

And on a summer's day in 2013, the city's transport chief Andy Byford tried to apologise to every one of them.

Earlier in the day, water damage had caused a signal failure, delaying trains from rush hour that morning until early afternoon.

Walking up and down the platform, Byford tried to apologise in person to harried commuters while a recording of him formally apologising played on a loop on the station's loudspeaker.

"Sorry about this morning," Byford said in his clipped British accent to anyone willing to engage.

"Ultimately, I am responsible and I apologise without reservation."

Image caption Byford started his career as a uniformed station foreman for London Underground

Five years later, Byford is bringing this penchant for apologies to New York where he has taken on the top job at the New York City Transit Authority.

He issued his first mea culpa after just a month on the job, when signal problems caused a five-hour delay on six lines in Queens.

"Days like this morning drive me crazy," he told reporters.

The next day, when the cameras were off, he made the trek to Queens to meet some of the commuters personally affected by the delays.

"To be honest, I expected to get a lot of flak but people were very appreciative that I was there," he says, from his corner office at NYC Transit headquarters in lower Manhattan.

Around his desk are memorabilia from his previous jobs in Toronto, Sydney and London.

At first glance, Byford may seem like an odd choice for the leader of the largest subway system (by number of stations) in the world.

New Yorkers are not known for their patience or their tact, and his quiet earnestness can come across as naiveté.

Image caption Byford's office is decked out in memorabilia from the many places he's worked over the years

But within five minutes of talking to him about his favourite subject, public transport, you soon realise that beneath the buttoned-up exterior is the soul of a zealot.

Perhaps this job was his destiny. His grandfather drove a bus for London Transport for 40 years, and his father also worked there before moving to Plymouth, where Byford was raised.

He studied German and French at the University of Leicester, but made a beeline for the London Underground at a jobs fair.

Starting his career as a uniformed station foreman, he climbed the ranks to become general manager for Kings Cross Tube Station. From there, he worked in transport around the UK before heading to Sydney, Australia in 2009, where he was the chief operating officer for RailCorp, which at the time ran the city's commuter rails.

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In 2012, he moved to his wife's home country of Canada (they met, naturally, on the London Tube) where he was appointed the head of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Three months ago, he announced he was leaving Toronto for the Big Apple.

Now on the subway each morning (he has never owned a car), Byford takes in the labyrinthian network of tunnels that connect the subway to Grand Central Station with the wide-eyed wonder of a pilgrim arriving at Mecca.

"Sometimes I could pinch myself because the system is so iconic," he says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Delays have increased while ridership is down on New York's "iconic" subway

This enthusiasm will be put to the test, however, as Byford is facing one of New York City Transit's darkest hours.

Last June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency after a series of paralysing delays and a train derailment injured dozens. The signalling system – the technology that tells subway cars to move from one station to another – has not been updated since the 1930s.

Overcrowding, aging equipment and signal failures mean the average number of hours lost due to delays increased by 45% in just five years.

Cuomo has pledged $1bn towards improvements but experts say the city needs billions more.

Meanwhile, competitors like Uber and other ride-sharing services have chipped away at average ridership for two years in a row.

Howard Roberts, who held the job of NYC Transit chief from 2007 to 2009, says the system has long been held hostage by the whims of politicians.

"Incompetent politicians are a big problem for anybody that's trying to run the Transit Authority," he says.

Public transport is currently in the crosshairs in the power struggle between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo.

The two have been butting heads for years and the rapid deterioration of the subway has given them ample opportunities to spar in the press.

The mayor wants to have more input into how state money should be spent in his city and more funding in general. The governor, perhaps not surprisingly, disagrees.

Byford will find himself sitting in many meetings where board members are split by allegiances to the city or state, and one of his greatest challenges as a public servant will be to stay out of it.

Being in the middle of a political dogfight is a situation he is all too familiar with. When he took on the job in Toronto in 2012, his predecessor had just been fired by then-mayor Rob Ford for opposing the mayor's proposal for a subway extension in the neighbourhood of Scarborough, on the outskirts of the city.

When Byford submitted a briefing note in favour of the subway to Ford's successor, it rankled many who instead favoured light rail. Just weeks before his last day in Toronto, he got into a heated showdown with a city councillor who accused him of kowtowing to political pressure.

Byford describes that debacle as a "hard lesson" and vows he will "do the right thing, say the right thing, stand my ground and not allow myself to be politically influenced" in New York.

"I have tried to do that (in Toronto) but you can do something in good faith and it can rebound on you," he says.

Toronto also provided a testing ground for some of the challenges he will face in New York, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Image caption A map of some of Byford's plans for reorganising New York City Transit Authority

Like in New York, a mid-century signalling system also meant frequent delays. Employees were demoralised from frequent leadership changes and bureaucratic red tape. Ridership had grown by about 20% over a decade, yet the operating budget had remained basically the same.

Under Byford's watch delays had been cut by almost 20%, while customer satisfaction increased. More night buses were added, and a long-overdue new signalling system was installed.

Toronto won the American Public Transportation Association award for "most outstanding public transit system of the year" among large metropolitan areas in North America.

The news was not met with universal enthusiasm because there was still plenty travellers complained about – the new automatic fare system, Presto Card, was frequently out of service and less than half of the new streetcars had been delivered.

"I mean, there are awards I could see giving the TTC. As a kid, I won a hockey award for "most improved player" on my team that I (and all my teammates, I think) understood to mean I was not very good at the sport at all, but was obviously putting in a lot of effort and practice to get less bad at it. Something like that," quipped Toronto Star columnist Edward Keenan.

But criticism is just part of the job, says Byford, with a shrug of his shoulders. "We knew there would be some scoffing, which there was."

Although he agrees the system is "far from perfect", Byford believes his time in Toronto will prepare him for the hard job ahead in New York, where he is in charge of about 50,000 workers, many of them unionised, and the daily commute of 5.6 million people.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Byford met his wife on the Tube, where he also once worked

Some of his first priorities, he says, will be to fix the bus service, which he says is sorely neglected. That's welcome news to Jaqi Cohen, who works for a commuter-advocacy group called the Straphangers Campaign.

"We were very happy to see him call attention not just to subway service, which is in dire need of repair and modernisation, but to these other sometimes lesser-prioritised transit concerns," she says.

Another idea was less well received. Byford has suggested ending 24/7 service on some lines during certain hours to help speed repairs. It has caused quite a stir in the city that never sleeps.

"I think New York is a 24-hour city," Cohen says. "I don't think riders will like that."

Along with the scale and scope of NYC transport, he faces an archaic bureaucratic culture which he intends to reform. One of the organisation's oldest quirks is that everybody – from the janitor to senior management – is expected to clock in.

After coming and going freely for a few weeks, he realised that his secretary was discreetly keeping track of his hours.

"It's ridiculous, I'm the president of the company," he says. "I said, 'Don't bother doing that, I've more than worked my hours'."

His grandest schemes for reorganising the company are hidden away in his "war room" – a spare office turned into a three-dimensional flow chart, with four walls covered in white boards so that Byford can sketch out his ideas.

At its centre is the word "customer" encircled by the directives "plan, focus, do, review".

This mantra, he says, will help reorganise the ranks of the transport authority around customer service, although he is keeping mum for now on his ultimate designs.

It's those customers – the millions of harried New Yorkers who rely on public transit – who will decide if Byford is up to the job.

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Dallas officer fired for killing innocent man in his own apartment

Image copyright Kaufman County Jail/ Botham Shem Jean/Facebook

A Dallas police officer who fatally shot a black man inside his own flat, saying she confused it for her own home, has been fired.

Amber Guyger "engaged in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter", police said in a press release on Monday.

Botham Shem Jean died on 6 September, after Ms Guyger entered his home in the building where they both lived.

Ms Guyger, 30, is currently out on bail, pending a criminal trial.

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Dallas Police Chief U Renee Hall terminated her employment during a hearing on Monday, police said, adding that she has the right to appeal.

She had been on administrative leave, as activists called for her immediate firing.

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— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) September 24, 2018


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Court records show Ms Guyger had just finished a 15-hour shift when she parked in the wrong garage before making what was apparently a tragic error.

Ms Guyger entered the apartment after finding the door ajar, and saw Mr Jean, 26, in the darkness as a "large silhouette", according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

She said she gave verbal commands that he ignored, so she fired her weapon.

The arrest warrant affidavit, written by the Texas Rangers, differs slightly from the search warrant affidavit by Dallas police, local media report.

The search warrant statement says Mr Jean "confronted the officer at the door".

Neither document specifically states how close Ms Guyger was to Mr Jean when she shot him.

Police have been criticised for not immediately identifying the officer that killed Mr Jean, whom the mayor called a "model citizen".

After revealing that they had found marijuana at his home, a lawyer for his family accused the police force of trying to "smear" his reputation.

Mr Jean grew up on the Caribbean island of St Lucia and went on to work for the professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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Meghan and Harry go head-to-head in netball shootout

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Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex laughed their way through the netball shootout

Dancer Ginger Rogers famously did everything her partner Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

And the Duchess of Sussex seemed to have taken the example to heart when she took on her husband Prince Harry in a netball shootout.

Meghan arrived in towering stiletto heels for an awards ceremony at Loughborough University – but still got stuck into a sports masterclass.

The royal couple were snapped laughing their way through the on-court contest.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Duke and Duchess clearly enjoyed their sporting face-off
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Meghan's blue Oscar de la Renta top and Altuzarra trousers made for an unconventional netball ensemble, as did Harry's shirt and suit
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince Harry was also unusually dressed for the netball court

Meghan was joined by a roster of sports stars including tennis player Laura Robson, gymnastics coach Scott Hann, and England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers – an obvious advantage, you might think.

Not to be outdone, Harry's team got a boost from ex-US basketball star David Robinson, as well as marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, former England cricketer (and Strictly Come Dancing champion) Mark Ramprakash, and ex-England rugby player Ugo Monye.

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The Sussexes are clearly enjoying the masterclass with England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers!

— Omid Scobie (@scobie) September 24, 2018


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Harry and Meghan were at the university to present awards to graduates of Coach Core, an apprenticeship programme that trains unemployed young people to be sports coaches and mentors.

It was founded through the Royal Foundation following the 2012 London Olympics. The Foundation was set up as a vehicle for Prince William and Prince Harry's charitable work in 2009.

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The Coach Core programme is set to double its reach over the next three years, adding 10 new sites thanks to a £995,500 National Lottery grant.

Harry's team ultimately won the netball skill test – but if Meghan wants a rematch, she needn't look far for a willing teammate.

Her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, is never one to dodge a sporting challenge – no matter how unorthodox her attire.

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Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge is handy with a hockey stick – even in heels

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Brexit: Flights ‘at risk’ under no-deal, government warns

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A no-deal Brexit could cause disruption to air travel between the UK and European Union countries, the government warned on Monday.

This worst-case scenario is set out in the latest batch of documents outlining what what would happen to key industries if no agreement is reached.

Bus and coach services to EU countries could also be suspended in the event of no deal.

The government wants the EU and UK to accept each other's aviation standards.

However, the EU has not yet done so and will stop recognising UK safety standards if there is a hard Brexit.

"If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission," the government said.

Disruption 'not in EU's interests'

The UK "would envisage" allowing EU airlines to continue flying and "we would expect EU countries to reciprocate in turn", according to the document.

It added: "It would not be in the interest of any EU country or the UK to restrict the choice of destinations that could be served, though if such permissions are not granted, there could be disruption to some flights."

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The warning does not necessarily mean that flights would be grounded the day after Brexit.

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Image caption The UK government says it is 'confident' that there will be no disruption to air travel after Brexit

According to Airlines UK, which represents 13 UK-registered carriers, the European Commission has said it would put in place a "bare bones" aviation agreement with the UK to keep planes flying and to cover safety issues.

Tim Alderslade, the trade body's chief executive, said airlines expected the EU and UK to reach a new agreement on aviation.

"Whilst we don't support a no-deal Brexit, we welcome that both the UK and the EU are proposing in this event a minimum agreement that would cover flight and safety requirements for the benefit of both passenger and cargo services," he said.

ADS Group, which represents the UK's aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, has called for Britain to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

It said talks should be held between the Civil Aviation Authority and the EASA to address the complex issues involved and ensure flights are not disrupted.

Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC Reality Check correspondent

The no deal notices the government published this afternoon will make uncomfortable reading for many businesses and consumers, but also for the government.

In dry, technical language they make clear that many aspects of day-to-day life could be affected significantly if the UK leaves the EU with no deal at all, including air and coach travel (which could in theory come to a temporary halt) food labelling, driving in Europe for business or pleasure, and taking your pet across the Channel.

The government argues that these warnings represent contingency planning for a worst case scenario, but until they can guarantee that a deal will be done, preparations will have to be made.

And with time running out, people will have to start acting on some of the advice as soon as November. The prospect of a no deal Brexit is beginning to loom large.

Flights between the UK and 17 non-EU countries, such as the US, Canada, Switzerland and Iceland, operate due to the UK being an EU member.

The guidance states that "replacement arrangements will be in place before exit day".

The UK has already reached agreements with some of these countries and is "confident the remaining agreements will be agreed well in advance of the UK leaving the EU", the government said.

A separate government document warned that UK passengers may have to undergo extra security screening when changing flights in the EU after Brexit.

Neither passengers nor their luggage are usually rescanned when connecting at other EU airports after flying from the UK.

However, new advice states that could change if the EU failed to recognise the UK's aviation security standards after Brexit.

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Oil prices surge to near four-year high

Oil prices have jumped to the highest level for nearly four years after Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any immediate increase in production.

The decision on Sunday was effectively a rebuff to US President Donald Trump, who has called for immediate action to raise global supply.

Brent crude rose more than 3% to more than $81 a barrel on Monday, its highest level since November 2014.

Saudi Arabia dominates the OPEC group of oil-producing nations and Russia is its biggest oil-producer ally outside the group.

They have reportedly been discussing raising output by half a million barrels a day to counter falling supply from Iran.

But a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers in Algiers ended without any formal recommendation for a supply boost.

Mr Trump said last week that OPEC "must get prices down".

Experts estimate that once US sanctions on Iran are fully implemented from November it could result in the loss of as many as two million barrels a day from global supply.

Commodity traders Trafigura and Mercuria said they expected Brent crude to climb above $90 by Christmas and to pass $100 early in 2019.

BNP Paribas oil strategist Harry Tchilinguirian told Reuters Global Oil Forum: "It is now increasingly evident, that in the face of producers reluctant to raise output, the market will be confronted with supply gaps in the next three to six months that it will need to resolve through higher oil prices."

Higher prices tend to mean higher petrol costs.

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However the AA has said other factors, including the strengthening pound over recent weeks, means that wholesale prices have fallen, and that this should help keep the lid on costs.

Meanwhile, higher oil prices tend to benefit UK-listed companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell, which employ thousands of people in the North Sea and whose shares are staples in many UK pension funds.

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Trump news: US Deputy Attorney Rosenstein heads to White House ‘to resign’ amid Russia row

US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, is on his way to the White House amid reports he will resign in anticipation of being fired by President Donald Trump.

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