Thanksgiving service celebrates the life of industry great John Walker

A thanksgiving service has been held to remember one of the Intelligent Transport Systems Industry’s greatest thinkers and most-liked elder statesmen, John Walker.

Dr Walker died on 10 January, and his memorial took place in Reading after a small family funeral on 23 February.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Dr Walker was seen as one of the go-to people when it came to expertise in ITS.

After graduating in Physics from Oxford University in 1966, Dr Walker also earned an MSc in Applied Solid State Physics and a PhD in physics of diamonds and diamond research at the University of Paris VII. He joined Racal (now Thales) as Technical Manager in 1980 and managed collaborative projects in Artificial Intelligence, software engineering, Intelligent Transport Systems, traffic information broadcasting, and road pricing, funded by UK DTI, Technology Strategy Board, DfT and European Commission.

He led the security work of the DfT-funded DIRECTS Road Pricing demonstrator and was Chief Technical Consultant in Thales covering business development and project management in road-pricing and ITS. He was also an Expert Adviser to Transport for London in its congestion charging technology trials.

After he retired in February 2010, Dr Walker hardly slowed down. He sat on the Executive Team of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Automotive and Road Transport Technical and Professional Network, and its Berkshire Network and organised and chaired international seminars on road pricing and managed motorways for the IET.

He edited the books “Mobile Information Systems” (1990) and “Advances in Mobile Information Systems” (1998), published by Artech House, and was the Editor-in-Chief of the IET book series on “Transportation”. He spent his later years as an independent consultant, Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Transportation Research Group at Southampton University, and was Honorary Secretary of the Road User Charging Interest Group of ITS UK. Although professional interests included solid state physics, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and mobile communications, they really centred on Intelligent Transport Systems, especially road pricing, including technology, deployment, and public acceptability.

“Over many years I gained much from John’s generous sharing of wisdom and experience,” commented fellow ITS expert, Professor Eric Sampson CBE. “He always seemed to have time to help, so when volunteers were called for, or some extra curricular homework was needed, he was quick to step forward. He was always a member of a small group – those whose “homework” you didn’t have to check as he was careful and reliable. Although he had been a pioneer in many areas he was also forward-looking – a powerful combination of talents. May the earth rest lightly on this engineer’s bones.”

“He was always a generous contributor to professional associations, very active in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a proud founder member of Intelligent Transport Systems UK,” commented former ITS (UK) Secretary General Jennie Martin MBE. “Many of us will remember John for his personal kindness and professional support.”

Other ITS colleagues have also paid tribute. Paul Grayston talked about how supportive he always was, while John Cheese called him “thoughtful, helpful and enthusiastic” about transport policy and road pricing in particular. Richard Gibson paid tribute to his “extensive knowledge” and Tim Gammons added how Dr Walker was “a real gentleman”, as did Hartley Saunders. “John brought huge experience and expertise to the work of the IET Transport Policy Panel and was always kind and generous,” added the DfT’s ITS Policy Lead Darren Capes. “It was a pleasure to have known him.”

Highways News co-owner Paul Hutton commented: “When I got to know John through my work with ITS (UK), it became clear to me what an immense knowledge he had. However he treated a simple jobbing scribbler like me as an equal – which I clearly wasn’t – and never, ever talked down to me as some others might have done. I echo everyone else’s comments that he was a lovely man and a real gentleman, and someone who will genuinely be missed. Everyone sends their deepest condolences to his family.”

(Picture – LinkedIn)


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