Tributes paid to ITS legend Richard Harris

The long-serving Intelligent Transport Systems expert Richard Harris has died of cancer, as his friends and former colleagues describe him as “larger than life”, “the perfect conference delegate” and “a very nice man.”

A post on LinkedIn by his family states: “With profound sadness, we announce the passing of Richard Harris on Friday, May 31, 2024, following his battle with oesophagus cancer. He spent his final days surrounded by family and loved ones, and he was at peace.

“The funeral will take place at Aberystwyth Cemetery and Crematorium. Once arrangements are finalised, we will share the exact date and time. We have set up a Just Giving page in Richard’s name to collect money for Bronglais Hospital, Marie Curie, and Hospice at Home in recognition of the excellent support and care they provided for Richard.”

The ITS Hall of Famer was internationally recognised as a leading authority on Intelligent Transport Systems and a respected thought leader on transport and mobility policies and trends.

He started his career in 1974 as a Network Co-ordinator at the AA before working in a variety of roles at the Ian Catling Consultancy, Faber Maunsell, WSP, Logica, Xerox/Conduent and HMI Technologies.

Richard Harris was inducted into the ITS Hall of Fame in 2015 and was a leading member of ITS UK, serving as International Director from 2007 to 2019. He was also a Member of the Board of Directors at the ITS World Congress, a Member of the Technical Committee at the World Road Association and served at the International Road Federation, Mobility as a Service Alliance and IBEC.

He was an accomplished and in-demand conference chairman and public speaker with a special ability to communicate complex issues to a wide range of audiences in an understandable way without over-simplifying or trivialising the issues. He was the author of more than 500 papers, blogs, presentations, publications, articles, videos and CD-ROMs published and presented at conferences around the World.

His friend and fellow ITS expert John Miles wrote: “He was one of the pioneering advocates for Intelligent Transport Systems and his death is a huge loss. I for one will miss him greatly.”

Richard Harris’s last boss, the Chief Executive of HMI Technologies Dean Zabrieszach told Highways News: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Richard Harris, our inaugural HMI/Ohmio Director for Europe. Richard was a larger than life personality with such quick wit and enormous intelligence. I will fondly remember the laughs and the many drinks we shared together at many a conference we attended. Richard will be sorely missed by all of his friends and colleagues around the world. On behalf of the HMI/Ohmio, may I offer my sincerest condolences to Jane and the entire Harris family. RIP Richard.”

ITS leader Eric Sampson told us: “Richard Harris was one of those rare people who caused the ‘buzz’ of a room to change when he was in it.  I think I first met him over 30 years ago when I was at DfT and we invited a number of organisations concerned with transport research to join what became known as the Waterloo Conference which led to the formation of ITS UK.  He was in many ways the perfect conference delegate: he listened to what others had to say and built on it; but was not afraid to speak his mind and be critical.

“I am sad to see him go and in such a painful way.  My sympathies to his family in their much bigger loss; but also my thanks for the loan of such an entertaining and helpful colleague.  I started to miss him when he retired “to spend more time grooming horses’ feet”.  He was truly a man of principles.”

“I am shocked and genuinely saddened to read of Richard’s passing,” wrote Andrew Barriball, the Managing Director of Route One Publishing which publishes the respected ITS International Magazine.
“I knew him for many years and liked him enormously. We shared joke, risqué stories and glasses of wine in all corners of the world and he spoke quite brilliantly and honestly at the two MaaS events we hosted. I send my deepest and most sincere condolences to Jane and the rest of Richard’s family. RIP, mate.”

Leading ITS Consultant and owner of White Willow Consulting, Andy Graham added: “Very sad to hear this news. All my best wishes to his family. We need to think of a way to remember his outstanding contribution to international ITS.”

Highways News co-owner Paul Hutton commented: “I liked Richard very much, he was always very friendly and had time to chat, and a man who cracked jokes almost as bad as mine. He was a tough negotiator when it came to getting advertising or sponsorship money out of him, but he’d always do his very best to manage to find some, and he was always ready to support ITS UK, where I was lucky to work with him in the last years of his involvement. Above all, he was a very nice man.”

ITS journalist and Highways News contributor Kevin Borras remembers Richard’s unique sense of humour as much as his contribution to the industry. “I met Richard on my first day in the ITS media world in 1998. I thought he was one of the decorators and it was only after he had told me I must be mad to give up a job writing about shipping and logistics that I realised he was the ITS expert I had been told to welcome to the office. Richard contributed thought-provoking articles to all of the publications I have been involved with and was never afraid to poke the bear – in fact he often set out to do just that. His razor sharp wit and instant comebacks were always entertaining. I remember him telling me that the hospital he was taken to after falling in China was better than the hotel he’d been staying in. I’ll miss our chats about Leicester City – I can’t repeat what how he described how he was feeling after they won the Premier League in 2016, but suffice it to say he was ‘rather pleased’. RIP Richard.”

“Richard had a remarkable ability to contextualise technology,” said Jason Barnes of Occam’s Envoy, and a former colleague of Richard’s at Faber Maunsell.

“His presentations would regularly feature an arcane image – an Apollo rocket or some such – and he would then pose a question to the audience as to the relevance to ITS. He would then go on to explain precisely what it was and why. They were always entertaining, delivered with humour, and to be enjoyed. I’m sad that he has passed.”

If you have memories of Richard or would like to pay tribute please email [email protected].

(Picture – Xerox)


Related Stories


All the latest highways news direct to your inbox every week day

Subscribe now