Christian Wolmar, Writer and Broadcaster on Transport, London
Crossrail is a long-term project that is, at last, coming to fruition. It was first conceived in the 1940s and has been through numerous iterations including a failed attempt to pass a bill in the mid-1990s. Revived in the early 2000s which resulted in the passage of the Crossrail Act in 2008, work started in 2010 with the expectation it would be completed in 2018. Originally assessed at £7bn, the ultimate cost will now be £19bn.
In this lecture, Christian Wolmar traces the origins of the project as a way of relieving congestion in the E-W corridor north of the Thames and highlights some of the successes in the early stages of construction. He outlines the breadth of the project and the thinking behind it and then looks at the reasons for the three-year delay in opening. He interviewed many of the project leaders in 2018 and returned to speak to them three years later for the second edition of his book. He uses these interviews to try to understand precisely what went wrong and why sticking to the opening date of December 2018 proved to be the project’s undoing, leading to extra cost and delay. Nevertheless, he argues that this is a transformational megaproject which is already bringing benefits to the capital and will be a cause for celebration when it opens.
About the Seminar Presenter
Christian Wolmar is Britain’s foremost writer and broadcaster on transport matters. He has written on a regular basis for a wide variety of publications including The Times, The Independent (for which he was its transport correspondent for five years in the 1990s), The Evening Standard and Railway Magazine (for which contributes a fortnightly column). He appears frequently in the UK media as a commentator on transport issues and is a prolific author.
He has written 20 books, principally about transport. His book publications include The Great Railway Revolution: The Epic Story of the American Railroad, Atlantic Books, London (2012); Railways and The Raj: How the Age of Steam Transformed India, Atlantic Books, London (2017); The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground was Built and How it Changed the City Forever, Atlantic Books, London (2020) and most recently British Rail: A New History, Michael and London (2022); and Crossrail: The Whole Story Apollo Books, London (2022). Christian has frequently lectured on transport issues both in the UK and internationally.
In addition to his writing, Christian has had a political career. He first came to prominence in the Labour party when he campaigned for selection as the Labour candidate for the London mayoral election in 2015. He spent three years creating theWolmarforLondon campaign, speaking at innumerable meetings across the capital and developed a range of innovative policies that have since proved very influential, including the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, which Christian had first suggested in an article in the Evening Standard in 1998 and was picked up by Sadiq Khan and is now being implemented.
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