Simon Norton 1952-2019

Dr Simon Norton: passionate campaigner for public transport

“Mathematical prodigy,” “genius in the basement,” “eccentric,” “passionate campaigner for public transport,” “wise and dedicated grass-roots campaigner” – there is no simple way of summing up the late Dr Simon Norton who has died just days short of his 67th birthday.

The British team for the 1967 International Mathematical Olympiad with Simon Norton second from the right on the front row Credit:Daily Mail

We, at Cambridge Area Bus Users, were delighted when Simon agreed to be a member of our Executive Committee. His encyclopædic knowledge of public transport, particularly of bus routes past and present, brought a depth of expertise available nowhere else in any one individual.

Simon’s “grief at the Transport Act 1985” (under which bus services outside of London were deregulated) was only partly assuaged by the passing of the Bus Services Act 2017 under which regional mayors – including Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s James Palmer have enhanced powers to co-ordinate and improve local bus services.

Author and screenwriter Alexander Masters (left) sits with his downstairs neighbor, mathematical prodigy Simon Norton.
Alexander Masters/Courtesy of Delacorte

As well as Cambridge Area Bus Users, Simon had a longstanding involvement in the  Campaign for Better Transport, locally and nationally, supported the Association of British Commuters from its early days, attended many meetings of AirportWatch and generously donated about £3 million the grant-making charity Foundation for Integrated Transport, of which he was chair of trustees.

In Memoriam Simon Norton
Posted on Feb 15, 2019 in Foundation News
With great sadness we announce that Simon Norton, founder and chair of the Foundation for Integrated Transport, died suddenly on 12th February 2019.
Simon campaigned passionately for equitable, safe, logical and environmentally friendly transport networks, with a particular passion for buses.
The Foundation sends condolences to Simon’s family at this sad time.
All media enquiries: 07511 054259

News of Simon’s passing comes as a great shock and loss to Cambridge Area Bus Users. Simon gave such valuable input to our Executive Committee. He will be irreplaceable.

Readers may also appreciate this appreciation of Simon, from Smarter Cambridge Transport‘s Edward Leigh:
Obituary: Dr Simon P Norton, 1952 – 2019
And and this Guardian obituary of Simon, by Alexander Masters, author of The Genius In My Basement.
Simon Norton obituary
Mathematical prodigy who was a brilliant problem solver with an infectious sense of humour

Simon Norton’s funeral was held on Sunday 24th February at Golders Green Crematorium, Hoop Lane at 11.00am.

Susan Jourdain reports:
Simon’s funeral was well attended with such lovely words of the Jewish service. Afterwards the family had hired a Routemaster to take attendees round the north London places where Simon lived, which was much appreciated by the several transport people who got there by public transport.

Eulogies were given by the Campaign for Better Transport‘s Stephen Joseph and Alexander Masters, author of The Genius In My Basement.

Simon also featured on BBC Radio 4’s Last Word programme on Friday 8th March 2019.
Click to hear the clip. (7min 05sec) Click to hear the full programme. ©BBC MMXIX

Just a sample of the outpouring of tributes on Twitter

And a lovely tribute from Suzy Scott on the Anglia & Thames Valley Bus Forum.

I was really surprised and shocked to hear the news of Simon’s passing. I knew he had missed the last BABUS committee meeting because of cold weather, because of his knees, but I simply put this down to partially getting older, and partially other ongoing life-long health conditions. I genuinely had no idea he had a heart condition, but this may have been a sudden/undiagnosed thing.

I first heard of Simon via his Campaign for Better Transport/Transport 2000 Cambs and Suffolk branch I think it was, and when I joined BABUS in 2009, he’d heard of my work on the Forum now known as ATVBF. It had been mentioned that they were looking for a website person, having been left the lurch by their previous person. Subsequently I expanded my role with BABUS, and have currently done ten years this month IIRC. 

It’s clear that we didn’t always see eye to eye, but we did 9 times out of 10 – but he still respected and supported everyone around him. Just like most local councillors or trade unions, I kind of supported most of his thoughts, even if there were a few that might seem to be more unsuitable.

Following the launching of his biography of sorts (The Genius In My Basement), I kinda liked and respected him even more. Without trying to make this all about me, I see certain aspects of his personality are like me (early start late finish, distributing information in person) – and some of his other aspects (hygiene etc.) might be more like the old me than the new me. But I’m sad to say, no matter how many bumps in the road over the years we’ve known each other, that I have truly lost a friend.

Suzy Scott

And from Eileen Collier – Brampton A14 Campaign Group

So sorry to hear of Simon’s death which comes as something of a shock as he was still so young. He was a strong supporter of Brampton A14 Campaign Group (BCG) for many years and we mourn his loss and remember Simon’s selfless dedication to the cause of Better Transport.

BCG are still fighting the grotesque Highways England A14 ‘improvement’ scheme and there is considerable support from the European Parliament for our petition 0899/2018 seeking an investigation into the A14 scheme’s compliance with UN sustainable development principles and EU/UK transport, environment and health policy and law (including EIA/SEA assessments) and consideration of compliant alternatives (such as the BCG alternative scheme).

Simon was a keen supporter of our aims and will be sadly missed.

I have learned so much more about Simon from the tributes by others and the comprehensive obituary by Alexander Masters in the Guardian. Simon was a lovely, hugely intelligent man who gave generously of his time and talent to causes he believed in. Reading the tributes makes our loss seem more poignant and our sadness more profound.

Please accept our deepest condolences. RIP Simon.
Eileen Collier – Brampton A14 Campaign Group (BCG)

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