Bonavia, Michael 1909 - 1999

Dr Michael Robert Bonavia was born in May 1909 and was educated at St Paul’s School Corpus Christi, Cambridge where he took degrees in economics. In 1931 he joined merchant bankers N.M. Rothschild & Sons., and in 1935 went on to join the Court Department of the University of London at the Imperial Institute in South Kensington. In 1945 he joined the London and North Eastern Railway as the Assistant to Chief General Manager in Public Liaisons. This marked the beginning of a long career in the transport industry.

In 1947, Bonavia lectured on inland transport, which formed part of a series of lectures produced by the University of London on the topic of Britain’s industrial future. In 1948 he began working as the Assistant Secretary (works and Development) for the British Transport Commission, taking on the role of Principal Works and Development Officer in 1950. In 1953, began working as the Chief Officer (New Works) as part of the Railway Executive before taking the same role as Chief Officer (New Works) for the entire of the British Transport commission in the same year.

In 1956 Bonavia moved to British Rail to work as the Pricipal Officer (Modernisation) in the Eastern Region. He continued in this role until 1959, when he became the Director of Studies at the British Transport Staff college. In 1962, Bonavia was appointed Director of Training and Education for the British Railways Board and went on to become the Chief Officer (Special Duties) in 1967 and then the Director of Planning in 1969. In 1972, Bonavia became the Director of the Channel Tunnel and in 1974 he became the Special Projects Adviser before retiring in 1974.

Whilst in his twenties Bonavia wrote a textbook on the Economics of Transport, which became a best-selling textbook widely used by students for over thirty years. In 1971 The Organisation of British Railways was published, based on a University of London PhD thesis, which he had completed in 1968. Other publications of particular note include The Four Great Railways, 1980 and the Nationalisation of British Transport: the early history of the British Transport Commission, 1948-53, written in 1987. During his lifetime, Bonavia had written over twenty books and continued lecturing to University students, even during his retirement. He died in 1999.