Christian Wolmar

Christian Wolmar is the author of British Rail, a new history published by Penguin, and writes a column for Rail magazine.

Why is HS2 costing so much?

The members of the Denham Waterski Club are among the few people in the Chilterns who are grateful for HS2. They have a superb new clubhouse overlooking the tiny lake where their motorboats whizz round in ever tighter circles, thanks to the fact that their old one was in the way of the massive viaduct

The wonders of the Paris Metro

Andrew Martin is in love. Head over heels in love, quite unable to control himself in his appreciation of the object of his affection, which is, believe it or not, an underground railway network. While this may seem an irrational attachment, it becomes easier to understand as his account of the origins, history and, most

The new age of sleeper trains

It’s a fabulous combination: travelling by train and sleeping. And the good news is that the concept of sleeper trains is being revived. The bad news is that, like trams and trolleybuses, a wonderful form of travel was allowed to decline in the first place. The first sleeper carriages – as opposed to trains you

The Queen’s final journey should have been by train

The Queen loved the royal train. The Royal yacht was a luxury that was more for show than convenience but the train was a unique way for her to travel in comfort and without the hassle of flying. Modestly fitted out in a seventies vinyl panelled style with little extra decor, the Royal Train suited

What the UK can learn from the demise of British Rail

British Railways lives again. Well sort of. The Queen’s Speech is expected to contain plans for a Transport Bill, the centrepiece of which is the creation of Great British Railways which will take over many aspects of the nation’s rail system. However, before the nostalgics start dusting off their Ian Allan Locospotters’ annual, this new

Biden’s Burden: can he save the free world?

42 min listen

Joe Biden wants his administration to be a departure from the days of Donald Trump, but will a change in foreign policy harm American interests? (01:00) Why is it taking so long to reach a Brexit deal? (17:10) And finally, should cyclists be given priority on London’s roads? (29:35) With The Spectator’s deputy US editor

Box clever: the surprising history of signal boxes

Petersfield signal box is in the wrong place. Or at least it is now. When it was built in the 1880s, it was in precisely the right place, near the tracks and next to the level crossing that the signalman controlled. It had to be. Signal boxes had a series of big levers which controlled

League of nations: guessing our way out of lockdown

38 min listen

European countries all seem to be doing something different, so what are the lessons from the continent (00:45)? Plus, how the West’s lockdown impacts the developing world in a very real way (13:05). And last, rediscovering the joy of driving on the country’s empty roads (24:55). With economist Fredrik Erixon, the Economist’s Anne McElvoy, Stanford

Nothing can beat the romance of luxury train travel between the wars

There may never have been a murder on the real Orient Express, but otherwise Agatha Christie’s depiction of luxury train travel was pretty accurate. Cordon Bleu cooking, accompanied by fine vintage wines and served by immaculately turned out waiters, was offered to the first class passengers, who often included members of the aristocracy and senior

A great track record

Monisha Rajesh wrote lovingly about the Indian railways in her previous book, Around India in 80 Trains; but her new one set her wondering whether the train journey had lost its allure elsewhere — for which there is a strong case to be made in Britain, at least. The constant outpouring of anger in the

The great British train wreck

A couple of weeks ago I met David Grime and Alan Noble, members of the Lakes Line Rail User Group, over a very good dinner in the Brown Horse pub in Winster in the heart of the Lake District. They had contacted me in despair at the collapse of services on their beloved ten-mile Windermere

False start | 5 July 2018

I was worried that going to the autonomous vehicle exhibition in Stuttgart would be tantamount to an atheist walking into St Peter’s while the Pope was conducting a mass. There is something religious about the fervour with which adherents to the driverless credo practise their faith and promise us a new kingdom. Their proselytising has

Are driverless cars the future?

  Philip Hammond’s last Budget focused on driverless cars as an example of the brave new technological world. But should we believe the hype? The Spectator arranged for Christian Wolmar, author of a new book on the subject, to meet Rory Sutherland, vice-chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and The Spectator’s Wiki Man columnist, to talk about

Going places

Stations, according to Simon Jenkins, are the forgotten part of the railway experience. People love the trains, the journey, the passing countryside, the leisurely pace and the locomotives, especially steam ones. The stations, however, have been rather ignored. Sure, the ubiquity of Prêt, Upper Crust and all those coffee chains on station concourses has made

Let me take you through the night

As a child, I used to travel with my mother from London to Cannes, a journey that took slightly under 24 hours. The strangest part of the trip was the three or four hours in Paris, where the train trundled between the Gare du Nord and the Gare de Lyon along the Petite Ceinture, giving

A new track record

Simon Bradley dates the demise of the on-board meal service to 1962, when Pullman services no longer offered croutons with the soup course. That may be a touch fanciful— there were other reasons for the decline, such as faster trains, cost cutting and the growth of fast food. Nevertheless, it is the type of anecdote