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British Rail: A New History

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This history lesson is complemented by two picture sections that show the evolution of logos, national marketing, and staff uniforms. I started to become aware of news events and politics around John Major's Tory government as the various franchises took over the running of the railway, so it was interesting to read the whole history that led to that decision. If anything, the book packs in so much detail that it may become overwhelming for casual readers, especially when it comes to the more complex wording.

Pivotal moments including the Amalgamation of 1923 when most railway companies became part of the GWR, LMSR, or LNER, nationalization and privatization are set in their historical context. But through its 50-year lifetime, British Rail transformed our transport system, and for a time provided one of the fastest regular rail services in the world. Managers had, after a number of years in the immediate postwar period and particularly after the 1965 modernization, learned to respond to political flak and efficiently defended the organisation.There is a fantastic introductory history to Britain’s nationalized railway here, one that is inclusive of managerial and technological detail, in particular as Wolmar regularly explains complex technical terminology for non-railway oriented readers, such as the railway “bogie” (160) and the “pantograph” (170), terms familiar to railway savvy readers but not necessarily to everyone else.

Although this did not eliminate all of the problems, managers grew wise to the shift to Thatcher economics rather than resisting it. By the mid 1990s BR was an efficient and integrated nation wide organisation which cost a lot less to run than its European counterparts. We are able to send untracked parcels to bona fide PO Box addresses, friends and family members and to work addresses.Having enjoyed reading Christian Wolmar's book about the London Underground (The Subterranean Railway), I had pretty high expectations for this book, and overall, I was not disappointed.

The advertising was definitely one of the success of the company, even the 'Let the train take the strain' slogan is commonly mentioned in conversations too!Furthermore, if those who decide the allocations of the real and unreal are cruel, mad or colossally wrong, what then? The pandemic decimated passenger numbers and revenue, while the one blue-riband project, High Speed Two, has become a political plaything, its route being sliced and diced according to the exigencies of Parliamentary arithmetic on any given day.

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