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About Christian Wolmar
Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster, principally on transport matters. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including the Independent, Evening Standard and Rail magazine, and appears frequently on TV and radio as a commentator. His previous books include the widely-acclaimed The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London underground and Fire and Steam, a history of how the railways transformed Britain.
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Books By Christian Wolmar
The authoritative and fascinating history of the rise and fall of the state-owned British Rail
'Wolmar's book is impeccably organized and makes a fast, enjoyable read' THE TIMES Literary Supplement
You think you know British Rail. But you don't know the whole story.
From its creation after the Second World War, through its fifty-year lifetime, British Rail was an innovative powerhouse that transformed our transport system. Uniting disparate lines into a highly competent organisation - heralding 'The Age of the Train' - and, for a time, providing one of the fastest regular rail services in the world.
Born into post-war austerity, traumatised, impoverished and exploited by a hostile press, the state-owned railway was dismissed as a dinosaur unable to evolve, and swept away by a government hellbent on selling it off.
Now, award-winning writer Christian Wolmar provides a new perspective on national loss in a time of privatisation.
British Rail is ripe for a new history.
Praise for Christian Wolmar
'Wolmar is the high priest of railway studies' Literary Review
'The greatest expert on British trains' Guardian
'Our most eminent transport journalist' Spectator
'If the world's railways have a laureate, it is surely Christian Wolmar' Boston Globe
'Christian Wolmar is in love with the railways. He writes constantly and passionately about them. He is their wisest, most detailed historian and a constant prophet of their rebirth . . . if you love the hum of the wheels and of history, then Christian Wolmar is your man' Observer
The story of an engineering marvel of the twenty-first century, from Britain's bestselling railway writer.
Crossrail, first conceived just after the Second World War in the era of Attlee and Churchill, has cost more than £15bn and is expected to serve 200 million passengers annually. From Reading and Heathrow in the west, the Elizabeth line will extend to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, including 42 kilometres of new tunnels dug under central London.
The author sets out the complex and highly political reasons for Crossrail's lengthy gestation, tracing the troubled progress of the concept from the rejection of the first Crossrail bill in the 1990s through the tortuous parliamentary processes that led to the passing of the Crossrail Act of 2008. He also recounts in detail the construction of this astonishing new railway, describing how immense tunnel-boring machines cut through a subterranean world of rock and mud with unparalleled accuracy that ensured none of the buildings overhead were affected.
A shrewdly incisive observer of postwar transport policy, Wolmar pays due credit to the remarkable achievement of Crossrail, while analysing in clear-eyed fashion the many setbacks it encountered en route to completion.
With a new afterword to mark the opening of Crossrail in 2022.
Since the Victorian era, London's Underground has had played a vital role in the daily life of generations of Londoners. In The Subterranean Railway, Christian Wolmar celebrates the vision and determination of the nineteenth-century pioneers who made the world's first, and still the largest, underground passenger railway: one of the most impressive engineering achievements in history.
From the early days of steam to electrification, via the Underground's contribution to twentieth-century industrial design and its role during two world wars, the story comes right up to the present with its sleek, driverless trains and the wrangles over the future of the system. The Subterranean Railway reveals London's hidden wonder in all its glory and shows how the railway beneath the streets helped create the city we know today.
The opening of the pioneering Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 marked the beginning of the railways' vital role in changing the face of Britain. Fire and Steam celebrates the vision and determination of the ambitious Victorian pioneers who developed this revolutionary transport system and the navvies who cut through the land to enable a country-wide network to emerge.
From the early days of steam to electrification, via the railways' magnificent contribution in two world wars, the chequered history of British Rail, and the buoyant future of the train, Fire and Steam examines the social and economical importance of the railway and how it helped to form the Britain of today.
'Fascinating' 'Books of the Year', Financial Times
'London's twelve great rail termini are the epic survivors of the Victorian age... Wolmar brings them to life with the knowledge of an expert and the panache of a connoisseur.' Simon Jenkins
'A wonderful tour, full of vivid incident and surprising detail.' Simon Bradley
London hosts twelve major railway stations, more than any other city in the world. They range from the grand and palatial, such as King's Cross and Paddington, to the modest and lesser known, such as Fenchurch Street and Cannon Street. These monuments to the age of the train are the hub of London's transport system and their development, decline and recent renewal have determined the history of the capital in many ways.
Built between 1836 and 1899 by competing private train companies seeking to outdo one another, the construction of these terminuses caused tremendous upheaval and had a widespread impact on their local surroundings. What were once called 'slums' were demolished, green spaces and cemeteries were concreted over, and vast marshalling yards, engine sheds and carriage depots sprung up in their place.
In a compelling and dramatic narrative, Christian Wolmar traces the development of these magnificent cathedrals of steam, provides unique insights into their history, with many entertaining anecdotes, and celebrates the recent transformation of several of these stations into wonderful blends of the old and the new.
Britain's rail privatisation was one of the greatest political failures of recent history. A well-functioning industry was torn apart to satisfy political dogma and privatised in a way that not only compromised safety and wrecked performance but also resulted in financial melt-down.
In this acclaimed book, an update to his earlier work Broken Rails, Christian Wolmar revealed the causes of the collapse of the railway system, following the Hatfield accident, barely five years after John Major's ill-thought-out privatisation.
On the Wrong Line goes on to expose the failure of New Labour to get to grips with the legacy it inherited from the Tories and raised wider issues about the competence of the Blair government and the Department for Transport.
Wolmar argues that only a new approach will create the railway Britain needs. He makes a persuasive case for a return to a rational railway in which the disparate pieces created by the Tories’ privatisation are reassembled into a functioning network.
This book, with a new preface for the Kindle edition, serves as a valuable reminder of the risks of privatising a single, state-owned service and splitting it into many competing entities, each linked by contracts rather than a shared service ethos.
Unfortunately, this lesson does not appear to have been learned by the Coalition Government, which first let the West Coast Main Line franchise process collapse into farce and now seems dedicated to destroying first the National Health Service the way the Tories wrecked the railways, and then doing the same to education.
Finally, in a new appendix, this edition contains a never-before-published three page statement written by Sir John Major on the privatisation of the railways; a subject he never mentions once in his autobiography.
On The Wong line is the book to read if you've ever wondered:
- Why the UK rail network has become the most expensive in Europe
- Why the privatised railway costs the taxpayer more now than before it was sold off
- Why we have so many rail franchises, and what they're actually for
- Why Railtrack failed - was it suicide or lynching?
- How a few bankers and former BR managers made hundreds of millions from rail privatisation, at the taxpayer's expense
- How the Major government botched privatisation, putting ideology ahead of practicality, and New Labour failed to get to grips with the problem
"This book can be recommended to anyone who wishes to understand the bewildering and often scurrilous way in which critical national transport policy is developed. You will not be disappointed" - Trevor Whelan, CILT
The birth of the railways and their rapid spread across the world triggered economic growth and social change on an unprecedented scale.
From Panama to the Punjab, Tasmania to Turin, Blood, Iron and Gold describes the vision and determination of the pioneers who developed railways that would link cities that had hitherto been isolated, and would one day span continents. Christian Wolmar reveals how the rise of the train stimulated daring feats of engineering, architectural innovation and the rapid movement of people and goods around the world. He shows how cultures were enriched - and destroyed - by the unrelenting construction and how the railways played a vital role in civil conflict, as well as in two world wars. Blood, Iron and Gold tells the dramatic story of how the railways changed the world.
A fascinating journey through the history of railways
From the early steam trains to the high-speed bullet trains of today, The Iron Road tells the hidden stories of railway history- the inspired engineering, blood, sweat and tears that went into the construction of the railways.
Uncover the compelling tales of bold vision, invention and error, and social change behind the history of trains and railways, with famous railways such as the Transsiberian fully explored. Learn how the great railway pioneers such as George Stephenson produced the ideas and feats of engineering that created the railways and changed the world. Each exciting moment of railway history is captured, contextualised and enhanced by superb illustrations. Trains and railways of the past like the romantic Orient Express are brought to life through amazing eyewitness accounts, allowing you to see the railways through the eyes of people who were there at the time.
Written by Christian Wolmar, an award-winning writer and broadcaster, The Iron Road is an exciting trip through the history of trains for any railway enthusiast.
“Why are the doors of trains being shut in the faces of passengers arriving slightly late from a connecting train? Why are some people paying more for the same journey because they bought their ticket from a machine rather than a ticket office? Why is it no longer possible to find complete timetable information at stations? Why have the residents of Bradford got a brand new train line but 30-year-old trains? Why have toilets at Bolton not been rebuilt? Why are residents living near the Kent coast line being woken up by trains all night? And why is there now a barrier down the middle of Southport station?
It is all, believe it or not, down to rail privatisation and the answers to all these questions, big and small, are in this book. For the past three years, the Government has been busy breaking up British Rail into over 100 parts and selling them off. The public has been confronted with a bewildering array of new logos, liveries and uniforms. New companies such as Railtrack have been created. Stations have become littered with new logos and staff have been split up between the various companies which means they can’t give information about their rivals. Competition rather than co-operation has become the prevailing ethos of the industry.
One of the Government’s own MPs, the late Robert Adley, called rail privatisation a ‘poll tax on wheels’. He was right. The process has been a catalogue of mishaps and gaffes. Since January 1995, the Independent on Sunday has published a weekly column on the trials and tribulations passengers have faced because of the changes on the railway. Its author, the paper’s transport correspondent, Christian Wolmar, is one of the leading commentators on transport. This collection of more than 60 items from the weekly column, updated and expanded, takes the reader through the whole story of rail privatisation in an entertaining and amusing way. The Government tells us that rail privatisation is supposed to make life better for the passenger. This book tells you otherwise.”