Oliver co-ordinates the Campaign to Bring Back British Rail with Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison. They are united in their passion for rail travel and an ambition to re-integrate Britain’s rail industry, split into one hundred separate companies as a result of the break-up and privatisation of British Rail by the Railways Act 1993. Oliver’s interest in the industry began after watching the Ken Loach film The Navigators, shortly before studying the OCR A Level Transport Economics paper at school. He explored the subject further under the teaching of Dr. Tim Leunig and Professor Terry Gourvish during his time at the London School of Economics, where he developed a special interest in business history. Dr. Terry Gourvish was official historian to the British Railways Board and published the seminal ‘British Rail: 1974-1997’ in 2001, which examines the tremendous progress made by the BRB from 1986 onwards, and the chaotic dismemberment of the industry, in some detail.
Established in 2009, support for the pressure group has been grown from nothing to over 150,000 supporters across Facebook, Twitter and by subscription within five years. It advocates a return to the operating model adopted by British Rail between 1982 and 1994 – ‘Sectorisation’ – where five principal operators (the two largest by revenue being INTERCITY for high speed travel, and Network SouthEast in London and the South-East) plan and invest for the future of rail transport across the United Kingdom. Financially this will reduce the tax-payer subsidy paid to the railways by stripping out costs, a subsidy which has been up to three times (annually, inflation-adjusted) the subsidy received by state-owned British Rail, while also making a significant contribution toward HM Treasury’s strategy for deficit-reduction.