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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars informative and impossible to put down
This really an excellent book. It in detail examines the results of British Rail privatization in a way that anyone can grasp (even me who before I picked up this book wouldn't have know what a ROSCO was even if it ran over me). It avoids the fat cat cliches. He goes into to detail to explain how privatization was at the root of the big post-privatization disasters but...
Published on 23 July 2006 by Dejvid

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Northern Line is faster on a bad day
Boring
Published 3 months ago by ron golledge


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars informative and impossible to put down, 23 July 2006
By 
This review is from: On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (Paperback)
This really an excellent book. It in detail examines the results of British Rail privatization in a way that anyone can grasp (even me who before I picked up this book wouldn't have know what a ROSCO was even if it ran over me). It avoids the fat cat cliches. He goes into to detail to explain how privatization was at the root of the big post-privatization disasters but explains that the root cause was not greed but the confusion wrought by splitting the system up into small fragments. An he stresses that rail which has in any case been vastly safer way to travel than say car has been getting safer still despite the headline hitting crashes that have bucked the trend.

He then focuses on what he sees as the real problem. The current system is so expensive that fares are high despite huge subsidies. And having explained why this is so he then gives a pointer to what could be done to put things right. If you are interested in what happens to rail travel in Britain then get this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How not to run a railway, 11 Nov 2012
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A terribly depressing book. No fault of Mr Woolmar, as it is written in his usual straight to the point style, with in depth examination and explanation.

No; the fault lies with the Thatcher's, Major's, Blair's and Brown's of this world and of course the greed of those members of the British public who thought they could make a quick buck or two from the shares - and maybe they did, but at what a cost to this once proud country? Read the book and you'll find out.

How ironic that these Westminster crooks give far more of British Taxpayers money to the railways of today than they ever did to British Railways. And where does a lot of this money go? To the State run railways of Europe, whose bosses were canny enough to buy into this un-missable Sale of the Century. What a stitch-up!

Focusing as it does on four recent major rail accidents, the book shows how more than 150 years of experience and learning from past mistakes counted, apparently, for nothing. The main agenda of Privatisation was profit.
Probably the only good to come out Privatisation was the breaking down of the power and isolation of the Regions, but that could surely have been dealt with in some other way.

Despite CWs brilliant writing, I doubt that I'll ever understand how New Labour allowed this farce to continue and indeed expand through their whole thirteen year tenure.

A thoroughly good read but if you know, and love railways, be prepared to feel your blood boiling at the turn of every page.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth look at a subject close to many hearts, 22 Oct 2012
By 
L. Briner (Weymouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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Rail Privatisation understandably annoyed and upset many people in the UK, it was perceived as somewhere between an unworkable ideology and downright corruption. Christian Wolmar in his usual inimitable style presents a very insightful look into the background and process of privatisation including dispelling some of the myths that were put forward to justify it such as the 'wastefulness of British Rail'. It then goes into some of the post-privatisation events regarding both Railtrack and its successor Network Rail and describes how the structure that had been chosen for the railways, unique as it is in the world, led to some extent to these disasters but also did not help in the way that they could have been or were managed.
The book does not simply say, "privatisation is wrong", which would be easy, although perhaps unbalanced, but rather describes the way it was done in the UK as not correct, was believed by many beforehand as not being correct but still happened anyway.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great account of one of the worst political scandals ever., 24 May 2010
By 
K. Steele "RapidAssistant" (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (Paperback)
Although 5 years old now, OTWL is still the definitive bible on the privatisation of British Rail - or if you subscribe to Christian Wolmar's view - its vindictive and cack-handed destruction and fragmentation at the hands of a Tory government (ironically the policy would probably not happened under a Thatcher premiership), and the failure of New Labour to fix the mess that resulted.

Rather than being a rose tinted look back at British Rail - the book begins by acknowledging that many of the railways' problems were built in by the Victorian pioneers of the mid 1800s, for which privatisation can do little to address, but he goes on to make a convincing case that much maligned BR managed to make do with not a lot of resources to provide a decent enough service, compared to what was to follow.

There is lots of really in-depth analysis of the madness of the economics upon which privatisation was based. Some of it might be too in depth, but you can quite easily skim over this and get gripped by the excellent narratives on the fatal errors that led to Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield - and the latter's key role in causing Railtrack's implosion and replacement by Network Rail. He goes on to explain the madness of why we, taxpayers and farepayers alike - are paying millions of pounds leasing rolling stock which was written off in accountancy terms by British Rail decades ago and highlights this, and Network Rail's massive debts and costs as reasons why the privatised railway's bubble will inevitably burst.

Some rail fans may feel that Wolmar's views are a bit too much doom and gloom (5 years on, some of his predictions haven't come to pass as, although others have) and the author isn't without his critics within the rail industry. As with many Wolmar books the final pages get a bit opinionated (he hopes that the lessons learned from privatisation, as he so eloquently puts it - "stops the bastards next time") - but perhaps the biggest vindication of the text is that you will be hard pushed to find a volume that celebrates the last 15 years on the world's oldest railway system.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the Rails!, 9 April 2013
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This book is a follow-on from the author's earlier books on British Railways, bringing the history more or less up-to-date.
I don't think it's quite as good as the earlier ones, maybe because it is much more difficult to write comprehensively about recent events.
Nevertheless, for those interested in the history of British railways, it's essential reading. Mr. Wolmar is a real expert in his subject, and discusses not only the history of the railways itself in considerable detail, but also attempts the difficult task of showing it in context of UK transport as a whole and its effects on the social and economic life of the country as well.
It's a great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, 21 Mar 2013
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There can't be many writers who know this territory better than Christian Wolmar, and he spares nothing in examining the problems we face with our railways. Interesting historical perspectives too, and obviously well sourced.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Railman, 8 Jun 2011
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cairns (Haddington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (Paperback)
Another excellent and thought provoking book from Christian Wolmar. It starts off with an updated account of a previous work "Broken Rails" and takes us through more expensive mistakes, missed opportunities to put us on the right way back, and into the Network Rail era in great detail. Each chapter had me shaking my head in total disbelief forlornly hoping that the politicians would hold their hands up and make a determined effort to finally sort it all out. The public in general should read this book and not rely on politicians, sycophantic press and biased businesses to provide their only account of what has happened to our once great world leading Railways.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The inside track, 6 Nov 2012
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Did you ever wonder what were the effects of Britain's fudged rail privatisation? Get the inside track on this shocking story. Wolmar pulls no punches in showing how 'privatisation' by 'fragmentation' gave Britain the most expensive railway in Europe and for a time the most dangerous one as well. If you are interested in railways a 'must read'. Get it!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 15 July 2014
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Excellent book with some political insight
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5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing, 18 Oct 2013
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This review is from: On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (Paperback)
So our railways cost us 4-6 times as much as they would have if they hadn't been privatised and that's in real terms - shocking.
Where's the same analysis for energy companies? And Royal Mail is next - ok so high share price, but I reckon it'll be in the ditch within 3 years.
Good book excellent authoring, not so sure about the safety analysis though.
As an ex Railwayman from BR days its astonishing to think that the current outfits are so inefficient.
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