4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great account of one of the worst political scandals ever.,
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.