Christian Tage Forter Wolmar (born 3 August 1949) is a British journalist, author, railway historian and Labour Party politician.[1] He is known for his commentary on transport, especially as a pundit on Britain's railway industry, and was named Transport Journalist of the Year in the National Transport Awards in 2007. He is also an advocate for cycling.

Wolmar ran to be the Labour candidate for the 2016 London mayoral election but finished second-from-bottom in the voting. He was Labour's unsuccessful candidate in the Richmond Park by-election, 2016, coming third.

Early life and education

Wolmar is the son of Boris Forter, who was born in Moscow. His mother was Swedish.[2]

Wolmar was educated at Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, an independent school in South Kensington, followed by the University of Warwick.[1]

Life and career

Following his graduation from university in 1971, Wolmar worked for Marketing, Retail Newsagent, the New Statesman, and the London Daily News. He was on the staff of The Independent (1989–97)[1] and their transport correspondent for four years from 1992, covering the privatisation of British Rail by the Major government. He also contributed to The Observer.[citation needed] He continues to produce regular columns for RAIL magazine and several other magazines.[3]

Wolmar's books and columns mainly analyse the current state of the British railway industry. He is a critic of rail privatisation, on grounds which include the upheaval following the Hatfield train crash, the current structure of the industry, and the cost to taxpayers.[citation needed] He is opposed to the construction of HS2, the planned high-speed railway linking London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.[4][5][6]


Wolmar's railway history books include The Subterranean Railway: a history of the London Underground, published in 2005, and Fire and Steam, the first major new history of the railways in Britain for 30 years. More recently, Blood, Iron and Gold, a history of how the railways changed the world, was published in October 2009, Engines Of War, on how the railways transformed modern warfare was published in late 2010. In 2012, he published The Great Railway Revolution on the history of the US railroads, and also in 2012 an ebook On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways, an updated version of the earlier Broken Rails. In 2013, he published To the Edge of the World, a history of the Transsiberian railway.

He has also written a book on the abuse scandals in children's homes, Forgotten Children, published in 2000, and has written extensively about housing issues and local government.


London Mayoral election, 2016

In September 2012, Wolmar announced his intention to seek nomination for the Labour candidacy at the 2016 Mayor of London elections.[7] The WolmarforLondon campaign launched in Brighton in 2013 with Wolmar chairing a panel on "One London" with Nick Raynsford, then MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, Vidhya Alakeson, Deputy Director of the Resolution foundation and Cllr Lise Thorsen, Lead Cllr on Sustainability on Copenhagen City Council.[citation needed] He held a second conference in June 2014, at The Exchange. Speakers included Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass and Professor Tony Travers LSE. Later he took part in the Labour Party Mayoral hustings at Manchester in September 2014 and unveiled plans to pedestrianise Oxford St with boosts to business and the environment.[citation needed]

Described by The Guardian as "the most extensive grass roots campaign",[8] one poll put Wolmar in second place,[9] with policies called Lifeblood for London, Putting a Roof over our Heads, Caring for the Capital's Well-Being and Hungry for Change.[citation needed]

In June 2015, after cycling over 2,000 miles and speaking at over 100 events, Wolmar won six Constituency Labour Party nominations, and went through to the final shortlist of the London Labour Party mayoral selection process. Described by The Londonist as "the non-politician who wants to be mayor",[10] Wolmar spoke at the five official hustings about his campaign vision for a more affordable, liveable and sustainable London.[11]

He received just over 5% of the total votes and was defeated by Sadiq Khan. Following Khan's successful election as Mayor of London in May 2016, Wolmar announced his intention to run for the Labour candidacy in Khan's vacated parliamentary seat of Tooting in the subsequent by-election; however, he was not shortlisted to the selection meeting to decide the candidate.[12]

Wolmar supported Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 Labour leadership election, saying that he was aiming to avoid a parliament in which Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper are "basically trying to appease the Tories".[13] Wolmar worked as part of Corbyn's policy team, but concluded that he was an ineffective leader and had no strategy to win an election. In the 2016 Labour leadership election, Wolmar supported Corbyn's challenger Owen Smith.[14][15]

Richmond Park by-election, 2016

Wolmar was selected as the Labour candidate to contest the Richmond Park constituency in the 2016 by-election.[16]

Before being chosen as Labour's candidate, he said that he would vote against Article 50 in Parliament, adding that the EU referendum in June 2016 "was conducted on such dishonest terms that Parliament – or the electorate – needs to vote on the issue before a decision is made whether to leave the EU."[17] Later in November 2016, he said that his "view is that we [Labour] ought to be the party of Remain, we ought to be the party of the 48% and build on that".[18] He also said that he opposes the expansion of Heathrow Airport.[17]

Wolmar came third in the by-election, polling 1,515 votes, fewer than the number of paid-up Labour members in the constituency, which is over 1,600 members,[19] with just 4% of the total vote and losing his deposit.[20]

Personal life

Wolmar lives in Holloway, London.[2] He is a keen cricketer and distance runner, and plays tennis. He is a diehard football fan, having supported Queens Park Rangers for over 50 years.[1][better source needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Biography page, Christian Wolmar's website.
  2. ^ a b Gerald, Isaaman (14 November 2013). "To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Railway by Christian Wolmar". Camden Review. 
  3. ^ "Christian Wolmar's website – Titles A-Z". Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Wolmar, Christian (28 January 2013). "The HS2 line is one big punt". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Wolmar, Christian (February 2013). "Rail 715: HS2 is still a big Y". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2017/08/why-i-remain-opposed-to-hs2-response-to-ian-walmsley/
  7. ^ Holdsworth, Rachel. "Christian Wolmar Throws His Hat Into The 2016 Mayoral Ring". The Londonist. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Hill, David [1]
  9. ^ LabourList [2]
  10. ^ Holdsworth, Rachel [3] TheLondonist
  11. ^ WolmarforLondon [4]
  12. ^ Pope, Conor (12 May 2016). "Shortlist for Tooting selection announced". LabourList. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  13. ^ Stone, Jon (25 August 2016). "Only Jeremy Corbyn will properly oppose the Tories, London Mayor hopeful Christian Wolmar says". The Independent. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  14. ^ Couvée, Koos (12 August 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn's former aide: I'm backing Owen Smith in Labour leadership contest". Islington Tribune. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  15. ^ Schofield, Kevin (6 November 2016). "Excl. Labour by-election candidate Christian Wolmar called on Jeremy Corbyn to quit". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  16. ^ "Christian Wolmar to stand for Labour in Richmond Park by-election". BBC News. 5 November 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Christian.Wolmar (4 November 2016). "Richmond Park prospective candidate: I would vote against article 50 in Parliament". LabourList. Retrieved 5 November 2016. 
  18. ^ Silvera, Ian (21 November 2016). "Labour should be 'party of the 48%' says pro-EU Richmond Park candidate". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  19. ^ Bean, Emma (2 December 2016). "Lib Dems oust Goldsmith in Richmond Park as Labour lose deposit". LabourList. Retrieved 4 December 2016. 
  20. ^ Craig, Jon. "Lib Dem Sarah Olney beats Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park by-election". Sky News. News Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 


  • Stagecoach: A Classic Rags-to-Riches Tale from the Frontiers of Capitalism (rev. ed., 1999), ISBN 0-7528-3088-0
  • Forgotten Children: The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children's Homes (2000), ISBN 978-1901250473
  • Broken Rails: How Privatisation Wrecked Britain's Railways (2001), ISBN 1-85410-857-3
  • Down the Tube: The Battle for London's Underground (2002), ISBN 1-85410-872-7
  • The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City Forever (2004), ISBN 1-84354-022-3
  • On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (rev. ed. 2005), ISBN 1-85410-998-7 (previously published as Broken Rails)
  • Fire And Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain (2007), ISBN 0753156849
  • Blood, Iron and Gold: How The Railway Changed The World Forever (2009), ISBN 1848871708
  • Engines Of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost On The Railways (2010), ISBN 978-1-84887-172-4
  • The Great Railway Revolution: The Epic Story of the American Railroad (2012), ISBN 978-0857890351
  • On the Wrong Line: How Ideology and Incompetence Wrecked Britain's Railways (ebook, rev. ed. 2012), ASIN B008GFWHAC
  • To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express (2013), ISBN 978-0857890375
  • The Iron Road: The Illustrated History of Railways (2014), ISBN 978-1409347996
  • Are Trams Socialist?: Why Britain Has No Transport Policy (2016), ISBN 978-1907994562

External links