Transport in the United Kingdom
Transport in the United Kingdom is facilitated with road, air, rail, and water networks. A radial road network totals 29,145 miles (46,904 km) of main roads, 2,173 miles (3,497 km) of motorways and 213,750 miles (344,000 km) of paved roads. The National Rail network of 10,072 route miles (16,116 km) in Great Britain and 189 route miles (303 route km) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks exist in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Leeds and Liverpool. There are many regional and international airports, with Heathrow Airport in London being one of the busiest in the world. The UK also has a network of ports which received over 558 million tons of goods in 2003–2004.
- 1 Transport trends
- 2 Air transport
- 3 Railways
- 4 Roads
- 5 Road passenger transport
- 6 Water transport
- 7 Education and professional development
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Since 1952 (the earliest date for which comparable figures are available), the United Kingdom has seen a growth of car use, increasing its modal share, while the use of buses has declined, and railway use has grown more slowly.
In 1952 27% of distance travelled was by car or taxi; with 42% being by bus or coach and 18% by rail. A further 11% was by bicycle and 3% by motorcycle. The distance travelled by air was negligible.
By 2003 85% of distance travelled was by car or taxi; with 6% being by bus and 6% by rail. Air, pedal cycle and motorcycle accounted for roughly 1% each. In terms of journeys, slightly over 1 billion are made per annum by main line rail, 1 billion by light rail, 4.5 billion by bus, and 21 million on domestic air flights.
Passenger transport has grown in recent years. Figures from the DTI show that total passenger travel inside the United Kingdom has risen from 403 billion passenger kilometres in 1970 to 797 billion in 2004.
Freight transport has undergone similar changes, increasing in volume and shifting from railways onto the road. In 1953 89 billion tonne kilometres of goods were moved, with rail accounting for 42%, road 36% and water 22%. By 2002 the volume of freight moved had almost trebled to 254 billion tonne kilometres, of which 7.5% was moved by rail, 26% by water, 4% by pipeline and 62% by road. Despite the growth in tonne kilometres, the environmental external costs of trucks and lorries in the UK have reportedly decreased. Between 1990 and 2000, there has been a move to heavier goods vehicles due to major changes in the haulage industry including a shift in sales to larger articulated vehicles. A larger than average fleet turnover has ensured a swift introduction of new and cleaner vehicles in the UK.
Although the decline in railway use led to a reduction in the length of the rail network, the length of the road network has not increased in proportion to the increase in road use. Whereas the rail network has halved from 19,471 mi (31,336 km) in 1950 to 10,014 mi (16,116 km) today, the major road network only increased from 44,710 mi (71,950 km) in 1951 to 50,893 mi (81,904 km) in 1990, and reduced slightly to 50,265 mi (80,894 km) by 2010. In 2008, the Department for Transport stated that traffic congestion is one of the most serious transport problems facing the United Kingdom. According to the government-sponsored Eddington report of 2006, bottleneck roads are in serious danger of becoming so congested that it may damage the economy.
BAA is the United Kingdom's largest airport operator, its flagship being London Heathrow Airport, the largest traffic volume international airport in the world and is the world's busiest airports. Gatwick Airport, the second largest, is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners and was previously owned by BAA. The third largest is Manchester Airport, in Manchester, which is run by Manchester Airport Group, which also owns various other airports.
- Main articles: Rail transport in Great Britain, Rail transport in Ireland, Rapid transit in the United Kingdom
The rail network in the United Kingdom consists of two independent parts, that of Northern Ireland and that of Great Britain. Since 1994, the latter has been connected to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel. The network of Northern Ireland is connected to that of the Republic of Ireland. The National Rail network of 10,072 miles (16,209 km) in Great Britain and 189 route miles (303 route km) in Northern Ireland carries over 18,000 passenger trains and 1,000 freight trains daily. Urban rail networks are also well developed in London and several other cities. There were once over 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of rail network in the U.K., however most of this was reduced over a time period from 1955 to 1975, much of it after a report by a government advisor Richard Beeching in the mid-1960s (known as the Beeching Axe).
The rail network in Great Britain is the oldest such network in the world. The system consists of five high-speed main lines (the West Coast, East Coast, Midland, Great Western and Great Eastern), which radiate from London to the rest of the country, augmented by regional rail lines and dense commuter networks within the major cities. High Speed 1 is operationally separate from the rest of the network, and is built to the same standard as the TGV system in France.
The world's first intercity railway was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, designed by George Stephenson and opened by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington on 15 September 1830. The network grew rapidly as a patchwork of literally hundreds of separate companies during the Victorian era, which eventually was consolidated into just four by 1922, as the boom in railways ended and they began to lose money. Eventually the entire system came under state control in 1948, under the British Transport Commission's Railway Executive. After 1962 it came under the control of the British Railways Board; then British Railways (later British Rail), and the network was reduced to less than half of its original size by the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s when many unprofitable branch lines were closed. Several stations have been reopened in Wales. British Rail during 1986 electrified the Hastings Line.
In 1994 and 1995, British Rail was split into infrastructure, maintenance, rolling stock, passenger and freight companies, which were privatised from 1996 to 1997. The privatisation has delivered very mixed results with healthy passenger growth, mass refurbishment of infrastructure, investment in new rolling stock, and safety improvements being offset by concerns over network capacity and the overall cost to the taxpayer. It has also led to some confusion as to who looks after different aspects of the rail service among the general public. This is because for example, different companies run the tracks to those that run the trains and locomotives.
In Britain, the infrastructure (track, stations, depots and signalling chiefly) is owned and maintained by Network Rail, a not-for-profit company. Network Rail replaced Railtrack, which became bankrupt in 2002 following the Hatfield rail crash in 2000. Passenger services are operated by train operating companies (TOCs), which are franchises awarded by the United Kingdom Government or the Scottish Government. Examples include First Group, East Coast and Virgin Trains. Freight trains are operated by Freight Operating Companies, such as DB Schenker Rail (UK), which are commercial operations unsupported by government. Most Train Operating Companies do not own the locomotives and coaches that they use to operate passenger services. Instead, they are required to lease these from the three Rolling Stock Operating Companies (ROSCOs), with train maintenance carried out by companies such as Bombardier and Alstom.
In Great Britain there is 10,274 miles (16,534 km) of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) gauge track. 3,062 miles (4,928 km) of track is electrified and 7,823 miles (12,590 km) is double or multiple tracks. The maximum scheduled speed on the regular network has historically been around 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) on the InterCity lines. On High Speed 1, trains are now able to reach the speeds of French TGVs. A High Speed 2 line has been proposed.
There was once over 30,000 route mile of rail network in the UK; however, this was reduced by two-thirds (to 10,072 miles (16,209 km) now) during successive administrations.
A Maglev line was proposed in the United Kingdom from London to Glasgow with several route options through the Midlands, Northwest and Northeast of England and was reported to be under favourable consideration by the government. The technology was rejected for future planning in the Government White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway published on 24 July 2007. Another high speed link is being planned between Glasgow and Edinburgh but there is no settled technology for it.
In Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) both owns the infrastructure and operates passenger rail services. The Northern Ireland rail network is one of the few networks in Europe that carry no freight. It is publicly owned. NIR was united in 1996 with Northern Ireland's two publicly owned bus operators — Ulsterbus and Metro (formally Citybus) — under the brand Translink.
International rail services
Three cities in the United Kingdom have rapid transit systems. Most well known is the London Underground (commonly known as the Tube), the oldest and longest rapid transit system in the world. Another in London is the separate Docklands Light Railway (though this is integrated with the Underground in many ways). Outside of London there is the Glasgow Subway and the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Urban commuter rail networks are focused on many of the country's major cities:
- Belfast - Belfast Suburban Rail
- Birmingham - London Midland City
- Bristol - Greater Bristol Metro and First Great Western
- Cardiff - Valley Lines
- Edinburgh - First ScotRail
- Glasgow - First ScotRail
- Leeds - MetroTrain
- Liverpool - Merseyrail
- London - London Underground and London Overground (with Crossrail under construction)
- Manchester - Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express
They consist of several railway lines connecting city centre stations of major cities to suburbs and surrounding towns. Train services and ticketing are fully integrated with the national rail network and are not considered separate.
In London, a route for Crossrail 2 has been safeguarded.
Trams and light rail
Tram systems were popular in the United Kingdom in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, with the rise of the car they began to be widely dismantled in the 1950s. By 1962 only the Blackpool tramway and the Glasgow Corporation Tramways remained; the final Glasgow service was withdrawn on 2 September 1962.
Recent years have seen a revival the United Kingdom, as in other countries, of trams together with light rail systems. Examples of these second generation of tram and light rail systems include:
- Docklands Light Railway in east London
- Tyne and Wear Metro in Tyne and Wear
- Manchester Metrolink in Greater Manchester
- Sheffield Supertram in Sheffield
- Midland Metro in the West Midlands
- Tramlink in Croydon
- NET in Nottingham
- Edinburgh Trams (currently under construction)
The road network in Great Britain, in 2006, consists of 7,596 miles (12,225 km) of trunk roads (including 2,176 miles (3,502 km) of motorway), 23,658 miles (38,074 km) of principal roads (including 34 miles (55 km) of motorway), 71,244 miles (114,656 km) of "B" and "C" roads, and 145,017 miles (233,382 km) of unclassified roads (mainly local streets and access roads) — totalling 247,523 miles (398,350 km).
Road is the most popular method of transportation in the United Kingdom, carrying over 90% of motorised passenger travel and 65% of domestic freight. The major motorways and trunk roads, many of which are dual carriageway, form the trunk network which links all cities and major towns, these carry about one third of the nation's traffic, and occupy about 0.16% of its land area.
The motorway system, which was constructed from the 1950s onwards, is stated by the British Chambers of Commerce to be, by virtually every measurement of motorway capacity, well below the capacity of other leading European nations. They give comparative figures for a selection of nations of (units = km/million population): Luxembourg 280, Spain 225, Austria 200, France 185, Belgium 165, Denmark 165, Sweden 165, Netherlands 140, Germany 140, Italy 115, Finland 100, Portugal 80, United Kingdom 60, Greece 45 and Ireland 30.
The Highways Agency (an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport) is responsible for maintaining motorways and trunk roads in England. Other English roads are maintained by local authorities. In Scotland and Wales roads are the responsibility of Transport Scotland, an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Assembly Government respectively. Northern Ireland's roads are overseen by the Roads Service Northern Ireland, a section of the Department for Regional Development. In London, Transport for London is responsible for all trunk roads and other major roads, which are part of the Transport for London Road Network.
Toll roads are rare in the United Kingdom, though there are many toll bridges such as the Severn crossing. Road traffic congestion has been identified as a key concern for the future prosperity of the United Kingdom, and policies and measures are being investigated and developed by the government to ameliorate its effects. In 2003, the United Kingdom's first toll motorway, the M6 Toll, opened in the West Midlands area to relieve the congested M6 motorway. Rod Eddington, in his 2006 Transport’s role in sustaining the UK’s productivity and competitiveness report, recommended that the congestion problem should be tackled with a "sophisticated policy mix" of congestion-targeted road pricing and improving the capacity and performance of the transport network through infrastructure investment and better use of the existing network. Congestion charging systems do operate in the cities of London and Durham and on the Dartford Crossing. In 2005, the Government published proposals for a United Kingdom-wide road pricing scheme. This was designed to be revenue neutral with other motoring taxes to be reduced to compensate. The plans have been extremely controversial with 1.8 million people signing a petition against them.
Road passenger transport
Local bus services cover the whole country. Since deregulation the majority (80% by the late 1990s) of these local bus companies have been taken over by one of the "Big Five" private transport companies: Arriva (part of Deutsche Bahn AG), First Group, Go-Ahead Group, National Express Group (owners of National Express) and Stagecoach Group. In Northern Ireland coach, bus (and rail) services remain state-owned and are provided by Translink.
Coaches provide long-distance links throughout the United Kingdom: in England and Wales the majority of coach services are provided by National Express. Megabus run no-frills coach services in competition with National Express and services in Scotland in co-operation with Scottish Citylink.
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Due to the United Kingdom's island nature, before the Channel Tunnel and the advent of air travel the only way to enter or leave the country was on water, except at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Ports and harbours
Approximately 95% of freight enters the United Kingdom by sea (75% by value). Three major ports handle most freight traffic:
- Grimsby & Immingham on the east coast.
- Port of London, on the River Thames.
- Milford Haven, in south-west Wales.
There are many other ports and harbours around the United Kingdom, including the following towns and cities:
Aberdeen, Avonmouth, Barrow, Barry, Belfast, Boston, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Edinburgh/Leith, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Fishguard, Glasgow, Gloucester, Grangemouth, Grimsby, Harwich, Heysham, Holyhead, Hull, Kirkwall, Larne, Liverpool, Londonderry, Manchester, Oban, Peterhead, Plymouth, Poole, Port Talbot, Portishead, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Stornoway, Stranraer, Sullom Voe, Swansea, Tees, Tyne.
For long periods of the last millennium Britain had the largest merchant fleet in the world, but it has slipped down the rankings as the use of Flags of convenience has grown. There are 429 ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over, making a total of 9,181,284 GRT (9,566,275 metric tons deadweight (DWT)). These are split into the following types: bulk carrier 18, cargo ship 55, chemical tanker 48, container ship 134, liquefied gas 11, passenger ship 12, passenger/cargo ship 64, petroleum tanker 40, refrigerated cargo ship 19, roll-on/roll-off 25, vehicle carrier 3. There are also 446 ships registered in other countries, and 202 foreign-owned ships registered in the United Kingdom. (2005 CIA estimate)
Ferries, both passenger only and passengers and vehicles, operate within the United Kingdom across rivers and stretches of water. In London the Woolwich Ferry links the North and South circular roads. Gosport and Portsmouth are linked by the Gosport Ferry; Southampton and Isle of Wight are linked by ferry and fast Catamaran ferries; North Shields and South Shields on Tyneside are linked by the Shields Ferry; and the Mersey has the Mersey Ferry.
In Scotland, Caledonian MacBrayne provides passenger and RO-RO ferry services in the Firth of Clyde, to various islands from Oban and within the inner and outer Hebrides. Orkney Ferries provides services within the Orkney Isles; and NorthLink Ferries provides services from the Scottish mainland to Orkney and Shetland, mainly from Aberdeen although other ports are also used. Ferries operate to Northern Ireland from Stranraer and Cairnryan to Larne and Belfast.
Passenger ferries operate internationally to nearby countries such as France, the Republic of Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain.
Cruise ships depart from the United Kingdom for destinations worldwide, many heading for ports around the Mediterranean and Caribbean. The Cunard Line still offer a scheduled transatlantic service between Southampton and New York with RMS Queen Mary 2. The Solent is a world centre for yachting and home to largest number of private yachts in the world.
Major canal building began in the United Kingdom after the onset of the Industrial revolution in the 18th century. A large canal network was built and it became the primary method of transporting goods throughout the country; however, by the 1830s with the development of the railways, the canal network began to go into decline.
There are currently 1,988 miles (3,199 km) of waterways in the United Kingdom and the primary use is recreational. 385 miles (620 km) is used for commerce. (2004 CIA estimate)
Education and professional development
The United Kingdom also has a well-developed network of organisations offering education and professional development in the transport and logistics sectors.
A number of Universities offer degree programmes in transport, usually covering transportation planning, engineering of transport infrastructure, and management of transport and logistics services. The Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds is one such organisation.
Professional development for those working in the transport and logistics sectors is provided by a number of Professional Institutes representing specific sectors. These include:
- Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT(UK))
- Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT)
- Institution of Railway Operators
- Transport Planning Society (TPS)
Through these professional bodies, transport planners and engineers can train for a number of professional qualifications, including:
- Air transport of the Royal Family and government of the United Kingdom
- Royal Train
- Transport Direct
- Metrication of British Transport
- Transport in the Republic of Ireland
- United Kingdom
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