Ministers should have had the courage to scrap HS2

I WAS invited onto Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer show yesterday to discuss the government’s abandonment of the eastern leg to Leeds of HS2, the new high -speed line to the north, as well as the scrapping of the Northern Powerhouse […]

November 19, 2021 Blog

The Salisbury train crash and a sad lack of expertise in the media about railways

I’VE been discussing the Salisbury train crash on Talk Radio and it’s very striking how much misinformation there is when covering stories like this. In their frenzy to establish a cause, the media  rush to judgement, so often getting things […]

November 2, 2021 Blog

The new Lumo is a no-no for style

I HAD the the thrill of seeing the much vaunted new “Lumo” low-fare but high-speed train on its way from King’s Cross to Edinburgh this week But the pleasure was somewhat muted by its livery. Very bland and ordinary. Why make […]

October 22, 2021 Blog

Britain’s railways at war – a ghostly trip underground in the footsteps of Winston Churchill

I’ve been really enjoying helping the French TV channel Canal Plus to make a documentary about the role of Britain’s railways in the Second World War. They interviewed me, based around my book “Steaming to Victory”, and we filmed in […]

September 21, 2021 Blog

Farewell, David Randall, one of the finest journalists of his generation

SAD TO say goodbye to my friend David  Randall who has died suddenly, aged 70. David, who rose from being  a trainee on the Croydon Advertiser to the editorship and subsequently to senior positions on the Observer and Independent on […]

August 16, 2021 Blog

Could this be one of of the best books ever about the railways?

I’VE just acquired one of the most extraordinary and original new books about the railways, among the myriad of titles pouring out from the presses every year. It is called “Railways: A history in drawings” – a bland enough title […]

July 13, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Why I’m glad railway speed record stands unbroken

SHAME that yesterday’s attempt by Avanti and Network Rail to beat the 36-year-old record for speed between Euston and Glasgow failed by just 21 seconds. The Pendolino, named Royal Scot, was slowed by a speed restriction in Lanarkshire. But secretly […]

June 18, 2021 Blog

Was the LNER the most glamorous railway? Breakfast with Michael Portillo for Great British Railway Journeys

WAS the London & North Eastern Railway the most glamorous of the Big Four railway companies that came into existence in 1923? I discuss this with Michael Portillo over breakfast at the Great Northern Hotel at King’s Cross for the […]

May 26, 2021 BBC, Blog

The BBC may have its troubles over Bashir, but rogue reporters have always been a curse on newsrooms

AN EXCELLENT piece by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, who reminds us that rogue reporters are endemic to newsrooms. I certainly had my share in 21 years as a Fleet Street news editor:   “THERE is no such […]

May 24, 2021 Blog

Advice to Great British Railways: Get up steam with a good marketing campaign for train travel

THERE have been predictable reactions to the creation by the government of the new supervisory body for the railways to be called Great British Railways (I must say  rather like the way they have pinched the name from my book […]

May 20, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Farewell to the High Speed Trains – the best trains ever built

BRITAIN’S celebrated High Speed Trains bowed out this week on the last stretch of railway on which they could show their paces – the Midland Main Line from St Pancras to Sheffield. Sleek, elegant and still modern-looking,  despite being 45 […]

May 16, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Stop the vandals of Highways England destroying our wonderful legacy of disused railway lines

  ONE OF the legacies of the Beeching closures in the 1960s has been a wonderful inheritance of old railway bridges, tunnels and trackbeds which have melded into the landscape and are often used by cyclists, walkers and other rural […]

May 5, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Why the end of the newsroom is a disaster for journalism

I share every sentiment of this excellent piece by my former colleague at the Independent and Sunday Times, Chris Blackhurst: “THIS may come across as a cliché but it’s true: I became a journalist because I watched a film about a couple […]

April 20, 2021 Blog

Beeching line that came back from the dead shows the way forward for the railways

  WONDERFUL news that daily rail services are to restart between Okehampton and Exeter in Devon for the first time in nearly 50 years. December has been pencilled in for the resumption of regular passenger services on the 14 mile […]

March 19, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Will HS2’s grand architectural features turn out to be a series of elegant white elephants?

It will be one of the grandest pieces of railway architecture since the Victorian age – a brand new bridge longer than the famous Forth Bridge, built in the heroic tradition of Stephenson and Brunel. The bridge, which will carry […]

March 16, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

A new station after 56 years – but why does it cost so much money to reverse Beeching closures?

YOU may think of it as the place where London’s police force first originated in 1749 or the famous orange location on the Monopoly board. But the new Bow Street station which opened this week is nowhere near the bright […]

February 15, 2021 Blog, Uncategorized

Goodbye to the Pacer trains – unlike many, I’m sad to see them go

Nicknamed the Nodding Donkeys, because of their rough riding on the track, the last Pacer trains in northern England made their final journey last Friday November 27, on a service from Kirkby in Lancashire to Manchester Victoria. Built as stopgap […]

November 30, 2020 Blog

The golden age of the train – filming with Michael Portillo for new series of the BBC’s Great British Railway Journeys

ENJOYED breakfast with Michael Portillo at the Great Northern Hotel at King’s Cross filming an episode for the new series of Great British Railway Journeys for the BBC. We were talking about the Golden Age of rail travel in the […]

October 20, 2020 BBC, Blog, Uncategorized

Rail franchise system runs out of steam – but will the alternative be better?

  A QUARTER of a century after rail privatisation began, the UK’s system of train operating franchises has run out of steam – with the government making “the first step in bringing Britain’s fragmented network back together.” The move, announced […]

September 21, 2020 Blog

Coronavirus risk from travelling by train is lower than thought

TWO studies into the spread of COVID-19 on railways have found that the chance of contracting the disease by travelling on a train is extremely low, according to a report in Rail magazine The RSSB (formerly the Rail Safety and […]

August 7, 2020 Blog, Uncategorized

Will Covid-19 shunt HS2 into a siding?

    Travelling along London’s Hampstead Road towards Euston today and looking at the devastation brought about by the demolition of surrounding buildings for HS2 prompts once again the thought: Will it ever be needed? Coronavirus has changed the way […]

July 1, 2020 Blog

Newspapers in peril as coronavirus kills circulations

The public are being urged by ministers to buy a newspaper to help save an industry that is being strangled by the coronavirus epidemic. The lockdown means circulations have been dramatically cut with a huge loss of advertising as businesses […]

April 18, 2020 Blog

All aboard the most luxurious train journeys in the world

ONCE, on a luxury train journey from Venice to London, I sat in the dining car alongside a couple who looked very grumpy indeed. She was pouting. He was in a sulk. It couldn’t have been the menu – which […]

February 28, 2020 Blog, The Times

Welcome to HS2 and the new heroic age of the railway

  TODAY is the dawn of a new age of the railway as Boris Johnson gives the go-ahead for HS2 as well as new tracks across the Pennines. At last we have a vision in the spirit of Stephenson and […]

February 11, 2020 Blog, Uncategorized

The island where it’s always nostalgia time

CAN there be a time warp like this anywhere on the British railway system? Elderly Tube trains dating from 1938 trundle between Ryde and Shanklin in the Isle of Wight as they have done for the past 30 years. It […]

September 25, 2019 Blog, Uncategorized

Is this the best sleeping car train in the world?

WHEN I’m asked about the greatest train journeys in the world I always recommend the Caledonian Sleeper, the train that runs from London’s Euston to the West Highlands of Scotland. Like all the best journeys, this is totally transformative, taking […]

April 30, 2019 Blog

Welcome to the new steam age (well, kind of…)

Here’s a quiz question. What type of train emits steam and water but is not a steam engine? Answer: it’s a hydrogen train – the first generation of which are planned for Britain’s railways, using converted former commuter trains from […]

January 22, 2019 Blog

It’s 50 years since steam ended – let’s be thankful it never went away

  IT’S 50 years ago this month that steam locomotives last ran in regular service on the main lines of  British Railways. For me these were days filled with nostalgia as I spent my gap year of 1967-68 travelling the […]

August 23, 2018 Blog

How ‘Northern Fail’ is undermining the idea of rail travel

‘Northern Fail’, ‘Network Fail’ – and everyone else seems to be failing in this latest debacle on the railways where the new May timetables have led to thousands of cancellations across the country, mostly on Northern Rail and Govia Thameslink. […]

June 1, 2018 Blog, Uncategorized

Echoes of the glory days as locomotive-hauled trains return to the railway

Once upon a time, one of the most romantic sights on the railways was a glamorous locomotive at the head of a  train, waiting to whisk its passengers off to some far-off destination. Gleaming paintwork, polished brass, often an evocative […]

April 26, 2018 Blog

The next train at Platform 1 could be run by British Railways

I hardly thought I would ever say this, but Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell may be onto something when they say they want to bring the railways back into national ownership. There’s certainly a public appetite after the long-running guards’ […]

February 23, 2018 Blog

Enjoy this ‘Little Train’ on its journey around a small island

I’VE  just read quite the most charming and delightful book about trains that’s crossed my desk for ages. It’s a celebration of Britain’s narrow gauge railways along whose tracks author Chris Arnot has taken a highly entertaining national odyssey. These […]

June 2, 2017 Blog

‘Barely able to put it down’ – a lovely reader review of The Trains now Departed

A NICE review sent by email today from a reader Malcolm Margerison: Quite by chance, I recently picked up your book “The Trains Now Departed” in the local library. I say “by chance”, because I happened to catch sight of it […]

May 8, 2017 Blog

Scoop! The glory days of the regional press are celebrated in a new book

A WONDERFUL day at a reunion of old colleagues from the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, where I started my career in journalism back in 1971 before I went on to The Times in London and spent many ensuing years […]

May 4, 2017 Blog

Read all about it – why the regional press is better than ever

IT MAY seem grim for the regional print press at the moment – the latest audited circulation figures show a drop of more than 11 per cent in a year. And the plight of local papers even features in the […]

March 20, 2017 Blog

Chuffed as steam returns to scheduled services after half a century

WONDERFUL to see steam on  timetabled services on the Settle and Carlisle line this week. For the first time in half a century it’s been possible to buy a ticket on National Rail and travel behind a steam locomotive on […]

February 14, 2017 Blog, Uncategorized

Are we being ripped off with plan to end ‘rip-off’ rail fares?

  UNDER the heading “Rip-off rail fares scrapped” The Times reports that “thousands of expensive long-distance fares” are to be axed from the National Rail database to ensure travellers get a cheaper deal”. But will  they? The train companies’ are […]

February 1, 2017 Blog

The book now ready to depart on that New Year rail journey…

  SPOTTED in W. H. Smith’s new bookshop at Euston station (handily next to Paul Theroux!) the paperback edition of The Trains Now Departed…all ready to while away a New Year train journey. so if you’re stuck on the Southern […]

December 20, 2016 Blog

All fired up, steaming through Yorkshire!

  JUST returned from a trip sampling some of the finest heritage steam in Yorkshire – aboard the magical trains of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It’s half-term and the services are packed […]

November 1, 2016 Blog, Uncategorized

Is this the finest steam train ride in the world?

  My article on Germany’s Harz Railway, from Telegraph Travel, September 3 2016: IMAGINE you could create your ultimate fantasy train set. For me (and I suspect possibly you) it would be a network of quaint branch lines passing through […]

September 5, 2016 Blog

Great fun filming for the BBC’s new series Trainspotting Live…

  HERE’s me filming for BBC TV’s  new series Trainspotting Live, beginning next week (July 11). I’m with the presenter Tim Dunn after we travelled along the New North line out of Paddington to West Ruislip. And here’s a splendid […]

July 8, 2016 Blog

A spooky ride on Britain’s ghost trains. My article in the Daily Express

  I BEGAN to feel spooked when the booking clerk was reluctant to sell me a ticket. “A day return to Goole on the direct line, please?” I ask at Leeds station, the second busiest on the network outside London. […]

June 28, 2016 Blog

The Trains Now Departed in World Travel Guide’s top ten holiday reads for this summer

Here’s what it says: Wonderfully evocative … You cannot fail to be swept up in the romance of it all as the men and women who created, operated and travelled on theses since departed trains are brought back to life […]

June 15, 2016 Blog

The pleasures and joys of trainspotting

 My article on the joys of transpottinging fro the latest edition of Steam Tube; I HAVE a confession to make. It’s shaming, embarrassing and something no grown man wants the world to know about him. In the galaxy of public […]

June 1, 2016 Blog, Steam Tube

My enduring romance with the fabulous Flying Scotsman…

A WONDERFUL canter through the Surrey Hills last night behind the Flying Scotsman, nattering over a five course dinner in the Pullman car with Steam Dreams owner Marcus Robertson. Even though I have travelled scores of times behind this locomotive, […]

May 26, 2016 Blog

The top 25 rail journeys in the world – chosen by me for the Daily Telegraph

  “I HAVE seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it,” said the travel writer Paul Theroux famously, and it seems that more of us than ever concur with him. Trains are the most agreeable, […]

May 5, 2016 Blog

Honoured to have been invited to give talk at Institution of Civil Engineers with shades of Brunel and Stephenson looking on

HONOURED, as a mere scribe, to have been invited to give a talk tonight in the hallowed Institution of Civil Engineers at Westminster, with the shades of Stephenson, Brunel and Telford looking on. Think the audience enjoyed it – I […]

April 28, 2016 Blog

My day out in memory of eminent Victorian who designed my local station Camden Road

DELIGHTED to have been invited today by the great, great, great niece of Edwin Horne – architect of the charming Camden Road station on the North London Railway –to the unveiling of a plaque in his honour. (I had written […]

April 15, 2016 Blog

So sad! After 30 great years, the very last issue of The Independent today…

IT WAS at the heart of my professional life. The closure of The Independent print edition today does not just leave an aching gap for me – I worked there as a senior editor for nearly 14 years. But it […]

March 26, 2016 Blog

Pleased to be appointed a judge for the the UK Regional Press Awards

I’m delighted to have been appointed a judge for this year’s Regional Press Awards. At a time when the press is under pressure as never before, it’s always a delight to read the entries for these awards – always full […]

March 16, 2016 Blog

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