United Kingdom - Transportation

In Great Britain, railways, railway-owned steamships, docks, hotels, road transport, canals, and the entire London passenger transport system—the largest urban transport system in the world—were nationalized on 1 January 1948 under the control of the British Transport Commission (BTC). In 1962, the BTC was replaced by the British Railways Board, the London Transport Board, the British Transport Docks Board, and the British Waterways Board. Under the 1968 Transport Act, national transport operations were reorganized, with the creation of the National Freight Corp., the Freight Integration Council, and the National Bus Co. Organization of public transport in Northern Ireland is autonomous.

In 2002, Great Britain had 371,603 km (230,914 mi) of paved highways, including 3,303 km (2,052 mi) of express motorways. Licensed motor vehicles in Great Britain as of 2000 numbered 25.5 million, including 22.3 million passenger cars. The Humber Bridge, the world's longest single-span suspension bridge, with a center span of 1,410 m (4,626 ft), links the city of Hull with a less developed region to the south. Eurotunnel, a British-French consortium, recently built two high-speed 50-km (31-mi) rail tunnels beneath the seabed of the English Channel. The project, referred to as the "Chunnel," links points near Folkestone, Eh2gland (near Dover), and Calais, France. The Channel Tunnel is the largest privately financed construction project to date, with an estimated cost (in 1991) of $15 billion; it also has the longest tunnel system (38 km/24 mi) ever built under water. In November 1996, a truck aboard a freighter entering the tunnel caught fire, causing serious damage to the tunnel but no loss of life. Partial operations were resumed within a few weeks, and all repairs were completed by May 1997.

There were 16,878 route km (10,488 mi) of railway in Great Britain in 2002, including 4,928 km (3,062 mi) of electrified track. Underground railway systems operate in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool. In London, the Underground consists of some 3,875 cars that operate over about 408 km (254 mi) of track, 167 km (104 mi) of which is underground. The Underground, the oldest part of which dates to 1863, operates 20 hours per day and is comprised of 248 stations on 11 lines that provide 2.7 million rides per day. In early 1997 the government proposed privatizing London's subway system because of lack of funds needed to restore the aging network. Capital investment has been diminished since the 1960s, resulting in increasing failures of signals and rolling stock and the deterioration of stations and track.

Great Britain has about 3,200 km (1,988 mi) of navigable inland waterways, mainly canals dating back to the prerailroad age. Great Britain has some 300 ports, including the Port of London, one of the largest in the world. Other major ports are Liverpool, Southampton, Hull, Clydeport (near Glasgow), the inland port of Manchester, and Bristol. The British merchant fleet of 212 ships, privately owned and operated, totaled 4,308,232 GRT in 2002, a decline from 14.3 million GRT in 1985, a result of a world recession in shipping and international competition. In an effort to curb the flagging of British merchant ships to less regulatory foreign nations, a British offshore registry program was initiated in the late 1980s. Under this program, merchant ships registered to the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands are entitled to fly the Red Ensign as if under the administration of the United Kingdom.

The Civil Aviation Authority was created in 1971 as an independent body responsible for national airline operations, traffic control, and air safety. In 2001, there were 470 airports, 334 with paved runways. International flights operate from London's Heathrow; Gatwick, London's second airport; Glasgow, in Scotland; Ringway (for Manchester); Aldergrove (for Belfast); and Elmdon (for Birmingham). The two governmentowned airlines, British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corp., were amalgamated in 1974 to form British Airways (BA). In 1984, BA was reestablished as British Airways PLC, a public limited company under government ownership, soon thereafter to be sold wholly to the public. There are a number of privately operated airlines, some of which operate air taxi services. British Caledonian, which maintained scheduled flights on both domestic and international routes, merged with British Airways in 1988. The Concorde, a supersonic jetliner developed jointly in the 1960s by the United Kingdom and France at a cost exceeding £1 billion, entered service between Heathrow and the US in 1976. In 2001, the United Kingdom's airlines performed 4,549 billion freight ton-km (2,826 billion freight tonmi) of service, and carried 72,772,400 passengers on domestic and international flights.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: