Christian Wolmar is an award winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport and is the author of a series of books on railway history. He was the unsuccessful candidate for Labour in the December 2016 Richmond Park & North Kingston by-election.
In 2012 he launched a campaign to be the Labour candidate for the 2016 London mayoral election and after speaking at nearly 100 events, he reached the shortlist and eventually in September 2015 came 5th out of six candidates, with nearly 5,000 votes, 5.6 per cent of the total. His campaign website is still available at www.wolmarforlondon.co.uk . He is a frequent speaker at conferences and railway events, and regularly appears on TV and radio. In 2011 he was the captain of the Warwick team of graduates in Christmas University Challenge, which reached the final of the competition.
He has spent nearly all of his working life as a journalist, and his interest in transport began at The Independent when he was appointed transport correspondent in 1992. Although he mainly concentrates on transport matters, he has covered many other social policy issues and has written on a wide range of subjects, from cricket to the Private Finance Initiative.
After graduating from Warwick university in 1971, Christian worked on various publications including the Retail Newsagent, Marketing and the Hampstead and Highgate Express. He later moved to the New Statesman and the London Daily News and spent a year working for Camden council editing its magazine.
Christian now divides his time between journalism, media appearances and writing books although his main focus is now the mayoral campaign. He writes regularly for a wide variety of publications including newspapers such as The Times and The Guardian – he has written for every national newspaper except the Star – and numerous magazines, such as The Oldie and Public Finance. He has had a fortnightly column in Rail since 1994 and for a time had regular features in Surveyor, Transport Times and TSSA Journal. All his material since around 2000 – more than 1,200 articles – is available on the website.
Christian is acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading commentators on transport matters. He broadcasts frequently on radio and TV and is a regular pundit on the national news bulletins of terrestrial channels and Sky. Among his numerous feature TV appearances, he has been on Coast, Julia Bradbury’s Railway Walks and the railway programmes presented by Ian Hislop and Michael Portillo, and more recently the series on BBC4 about how the railways made modern Britain.
On radio, he has frequently appeared on Today as well as other news programmes such World at One and World Tonight and has the bizarre distinction of having being only person to have appeared as a guest twice on the same edition of the Radio 4 PM programme, first as part of a pre-recorded piece on the book he had written about abuse in children’s homes and later reporting live on a railway matter. He features regularly on Jeremy Vine, LBC and Talk Radio. He has also appeared on a wide range of feature programmes and has made several radio documentaries, including a Radio 4 special on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, 20 years after the riot.
“Our most eminent transport journalist,
Rod Liddle, Spectator, April 27 2007
Christian undertakes consultancy and advisory work for organisations seeking to understand the workings of the rail industry. Christian both speaks frequently at conferences and seminars, as well as chairing them. He frequently gives talks regularly to railway societies and is also available for after dinner speaking on his favourite topics, the London Underground and the railways. He has PowerPoint presentations on all his six history books. He speaks regularly at conferences in Europe and has twice travelled to Australia to address conferences. He was a board member of Cycling England and is currently on the London Cycling Campaign board. He uses his bicycle as his principal means of transport around London and covers around 2,500 miles a year.
“Christian Wolmar, the greatest expert on British trains”
Simon Hoggart, The Guardian, October 2008
His books include Stagecoach (1999), (out of print but available on Amazon) an account of the firm which rose from nothing to the FTSE 100 in 20 years, The Great British Railway Disaster (1997), a humorous series of anecdotes about rail privatisation, and On the Wrong Line, which is the definitive story of rail privatisation first published as Broken Rails in October 2001 and updated in 2005 – it is now available on Amazon.
The most extensive grassroots political campaign the capital has seen in recent times’
Dave Hill, The Guardian, February 9 2015 on Christian’s mayoral campaign
He has written two books on the London Underground, Down the Tube, an account of the Public Private Partnership, published in 2002 (and out of print, but available on Amazon here) and The Subterranean Railway, published in 2004 and recently republished in updated form with an extra chapter,which has been widely acclaimed by the critics (see the reviews elsewhere on this website). His history of Britain’s Railways, Fire and Steam, was also widely praised and in 2009 he published Blood, Iron and Gold, how railways transformed the world which has also been published in the US by Profile and in Italy. His book on the role of railways in war, Engines of War as published in September 2010 and his book, on the history of American railroads was published in May 2012. His latest history book is To the Edge of the World the history of the Transsiberian railway, published in 2013. He also wrote Are Trams Socialist, why Britain has never had a transport policy, published in May 2016. He is currently writing the history of Indian railways due to be published in September 2017.
He also wrote Forgotten Children, a groundbreaking study of children’s homes scandals of the 1970s and 1980s, which has been recently reissued on Kindle and other ebook platforms, and several books aimed at schoolchildren. (also available on Amazon)
He is a keen cricketer (see articles from The Oldie on this site), plays tennis regularly and has become an enthusiastic but slow runner, taking part in half marathons, 10k and 5k races. He is a great supporter of Parkrun and is hoping to achieve his 100th run in 2017. Christian recently celebrated half of a century of supporting Queens Park Rangers, now back in the Championship. Christian speaks French fluently and has conducted numerous interviews for French TV and radio.
Christian was on the board of trustees of the Railway Children from its creation in 1995 (visit their website at www.railwaychildren.org.uk) until 2013. It is a charity which helps homeless and destitute children at stations home and abroad. He is on the board of the London Cycling Campaign.
Christian has two children and three step children, and lives in Islington with his partner Deborah Maby.
Also see Christian’s Political Biography.