Part 1 of the Transport Act which established a British Transport Commission with the 'general duty to provide an efficient, adequate economic and properly integrated system of public inland transport and port facilities and to cover costs taking one year with another' were soon lost sight of as the powerful road lobby succeeded in having that sector 'privatized' following the return of the Conservatives to power in 1952. The railway politics of the period make interesting reading. Machinations within the Cabinet are revealed and the supporters and opponents of the railways identified. The background to the Transport Act of 1953 which privatised British Road Services is traced in detail. As a railway enthusiast, one cannot help sensing and sharing the author's obvious disappointment at the way the railways suffered at the hands of the road interests. In fact, the picture presented of the early years of nationalization is one of confusion, lack of realism and financial ineptitude which prepared the way for the gradual decline of the British railway system, culminating in the axe-wielding activities of Dr. Beeching in the 1960s. From 1954 until 1973 the railways' share of the passenger and freight market steadily declined. Passenger mileage declined from 19.9 per cent of the total in 1954 to 7.8 per cent in 1973. Freight mileage fell to an even greater extent. In 1954, 42 per cent of freight mileage was covered by rail. By 1973 this had fallen to 18.1 per cent. Dr. Gourvish's assessment of the Beeching era is of an inevitability, as far as line closures and other rationalizations were concerned. He criticises some aspects of Beeching's approach which were flawed and 'widened the gap in favour of the road haulier'. He also examines the relationship between the railways' fortunes and the quality of management. The extent and the nature of government interference were also a factor in this complex equation. He comments in his conclusion that 'The market for rail transport would have been equally depressing for a private railway system although private owners might have benefited from more autonomous control, might have exhibited a swifter response in commercial terms and would surely have been allowed to diversify into road and air transport as the main-line companies did in the inter-war years.' This remarkable work of reference has been compiled from sources not previously available. Dr. Gourvish and his team have been given access to the records of the British Railways Board, the Cabinet and the B.T.C. He emphasises in his preface that, although the work is commissioned, it is not an official history in the sense that it seeks to transmit the views of the British Railways Board. Although not perhaps a book for the general reader, British Railways 1948-1973 provides a valuable work of reference for the serious railway historian of the period and for the business historian. It has been attractively produced with a number of interesting photographs, graphs and diagrams as well as a number of fascinating cartoons of the period. R. V. BARNES Swansea