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Stuart Ross and the new Boris bus

Stuart Ross at the launch of the new Boris bus

Boris  Johnson today led tributes to a key transport aide who helped mastermind London’s preparations for the 2012 Olympics and the capital’s recovery from the 7/7 terror attack.

The Mayor said Stuart Ross, who has died aged 42 after a 20-month battle with cancer, had made an “immense” contribution to London in his 15 years at Transport for London.

Mr Johnson said: “Stuart’s contribution to London and Londoners through his work at TfL was immense. He played a pivotal role in the transformation of TfL’s reputation in the press and amongst the public in recent years.

“Above all Stuart was a generous and thoughtful man who faced death as he approached life – with a mix of calmness, courage, good humour, and fight.”

Mr Ross, who was married to Becky and had a three-year-old daughter, Rowan, was director of news at TfL, one of the most demanding public relations jobs in the country.

He was at the forefront of TfL’s communications during the launch of the congestion charge in 2003, the 2005 terror attacks, and the unprecedented demands from the world’s media before and during the 2012 Games.

He used the death two weeks ago of David Bowie, one of his musical heroes, to announce to friends his own “farewell tour”. He said: “Cancer may get me in the end, but it never beat me.”

His team won numerous industry awards, including for crisis communications in the wake of 7/7 crisis, and for London’s successful hosting of the 2007 Tour de France Grand Depart.

Click here to read this fantastic piece by Dan Hodges on his time as TfL director of communications, in which he recalls how Stuart saved him from PR disaster on many occasions.

See also another tribute to Stuart on the London Reconnections website.

He worked closely with three TfL commissioners, serving under Bob Kiley, Sir Peter Hendy and Mike Brown, and played a key role in briefing Ken Livingstone and Mr Johnson during their mayoral terms. He was renowned for his combative but fair approach with journalists, in-depth knowledge of the vast TfL empire and pride in the organisation.

Mr Ross, an avid Arsenal and Hibernian fan, died last Friday, January 22. A memorial service is being planned. [Update: It will be held at City Hall at 11am on Saturday February 20.]

Sir Peter, now chairman of Network Rail, said: “Stuart Ross was a straight, honest, passionate man. That he was a press officer for a public institution makes those qualities rare; that he was a real friend even rarer.

“London’s transport, and Londoners, if they knew it, had a defender of deep integrity. His tragically early death robs us of what he might have achieved, but makes us all thankful of what he did do.

“I salute his memory, and my heart goes out to his wife, child and family. Stuart, RIP.”

Stuart Ross at the London Olympics

Stuart Ross at the London Olympics in 2012

TfL commissioner Mike Brown said: “Stuart will be hugely missed, both as a highly distinguished public servant, and as an inspirational and warm-hearted colleague.

“He played a vital role in key moments in TfL’s history, from the aftermath of 7/7 to the huge success of the 2012 Games. He led by example – continually seeking to make our organisation reflective of the city we serve.”

Vernon Everitt, managing director of customer experience, marketing and communications at TfL, said: “It is impossible to overstate Stuart’s enormous contribution to London. He joined TfL in 2000 and has been instrumental in making us the organisation we are today.

“He always put the needs of others first and has given a start in life to so many young people in the communications industry, including through a ground-breaking internship scheme.

“Stuart will always be an inspiration and hero to us and we will all miss him terribly as a colleague and friend. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends.”