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Transport in Britain

The easy movement of goods and people is an essential feature of a modern industrialized country, such as the United Kingdom Agricultural and industrial products must be moved to markets and ports, just as raw materials and labour must be transported to the factories. Within Britain, these functions are carried out by a complex transport system that has developed slowly over several centuries.

Before the 17th century there was little need for rapid communication, because most local areas were relatively self-sufficient in raw materials for industry. But regional specialization and increased industrial output that resulted from the Industrial Revolution demanded more suitable means of transport than had existed previously Economic interchange between different parts of the country became essential to the development of the country, and new models of transport evolved to meet these needs: the railway and the canal.

Today, as in the recent past emphasis is placed not only upon ease of communications, but also on speed of communications. This has been achieved not only by the use of freight aircraft, but the development of high speed motorways.

In the Middle Ages, river transport played a major role in the British internal transport system, because all the large towns of the time were situated on navigable rivers. Moreover, the quality of roads was so bad that attention was turned to river navigation. This emphasis on water transport was increased during the great period of canal construction during the latter part of the 18th century. By 1830 there were about 10,000 kilometers of canals and «improved" rivers in Britain. However river navigation suffered from a number of problems including silting1 summer drought and the fact that a number of industrial areas, including Birmingham, were not on navigable rivers. The construction of the railways after 1830 meant the gradual decline of waterways, many canals were no longer used for commercial traffic, but for pleasure boating

Coastal shipping has also changed within the last century. Once it was the most important form of transport to move coal from North-East England to London, but now most coastal shipping is passenger-carrying. Links are maintained with many of the offshore islands, particularly in Scotland, by regular passenger ferries which may also carry freight.

The impetus for the development of railway communications came from the expanding coal trade of the early 19th century. Railways were speedier, in many respects more flexible and also were a more convenient means of transporting goods to and from the ports in foreign trade, or exporting ports. Most of the early railways were all built to link coalfields with expanding industrial areas. The first public railway, between Stockton and Darlington, was opened in 1825, in northern England.

As industrialization continued the canals were found inadequate to cope with the volume of traffic and railways were built to cope with the problem. Gradually railways took the place of the canals, and towns grew up and developed at railway junctions and along the main lines. Railways were becoming efficient carriers of passengers, either those travelling on business or on holiday. By the middle of the 19th century through rail links had been established between the major cities and towns of Britain - London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, York, Leeds, Newcastle, Brighton, Southampton, Exeter, Bristol.

During the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century the railways were the principal carriers of both freight and passengers. But the invention of the internal combustion engine introduced a rival means of transport - an automobile.

As roads were improved, and motor vehicles became faster, more reliable and more numerous, with the advantage of door-to-door delivery, many railway lines lost traffic and became uneconomic to run. On the longer internal routes, the railways lost passengers to civil airlines. All through the present century they have faced increasing competition from road transport. This has resulted in a decline in the importance of the railways and the closure of many lines and stations..

The pattern of roads in Britain still bears traces of the Roman road network, although the modern network is really a product of the last two centuries. This road system was quite unplanned. Built, in the first place, to link settlements, such roads formed long distance links, which were not the most direct or the most efficient. The real importance of the road system did not emerge until the early 20th century, when the invention of the motor-car created a revolution in industrial transport.

Modern methods of evaluating road requirements for the future have been developed by government planners and a system of motorways linking many parts of Britain was begun in the late 1950s. The development of the fast roads together with the increasing use of large container lorries has meant a rapid rise in road freight transport.

However, many of Britain's roads are not suited to cope with the current volume of traffic. Most of them were designed to handle horse-drawn traffic and are inadequate for modern motor vehicles, especially modern lorries. The increased motor traffic has tended to produce congestion, particularly in towns and cities where several roads may converge, and where congestion has become a daily nightmare for drivers, pedestrians and inhabitants alike.

The majority of Britain's ports are situated in the mouths, wide estuaries of rivers. Of great importance for the port activity are tides, when the rising water reaches its maximum mark (high tide). For example, in the port of London during the high tide the water rises to the level of 6 m, in Liverpool - 8.5m, in Bristol - 30m. Due to the high tides many towns which are situated dozens of kilometres from the coast have become sea ports (London - 64km from the coast, Glasgow - 35, Hull -32, etc.). The introduction of container traffic has led to an enormous reduction in the amount of time spent loading and unloading ships.

Although the largest British ports serve a variety of purposes, many ports concentrate on one particular activity.

The largest ports handling ocean freight trade are London, Liverpool, Hull, Southampton, 1 Glasgow, Bristol.

The principal ocean-passenger ports are Southampton, London (Tilbury) and Liverpool.

The principal ferry-passenger ports for communications with Europe are Harwich, Dover, Folkestone, Newhaven and Southampton.

The most important fishing ports are Hull, Grimsby, Lowestoft, Fleetwood and Aberdeen. Specialized naval ports include Portsmouth and Plymouth.

The development of the North Sea oil has given rise to new ports, or oil ports, through which the main traffic of this product passes. Tees, Forth ports, Flotta in Orkney and Sullom Voe in Shetland.

The most striking development in the field of transport in recent years has been the growth of air traffic. It handles both freight and passengers to whom speed is more important than cost^ The number of people who travel by air has increased at a very fast rate. Practically all major cities and towns of Britain are served by regular daily flights.

London is served by two chief airports - Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow airport handles about seventy-five per cent of all passenger traffic and sixty-five per cent of all freight passing through British airports. It is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world for international travel. It covers an area of more than twenty square kilometres.

Of all airlines operating in the United Kingdom, British Airways is one of the world's leading airlines, and in terms of the passengers carried it is the largest in the world.

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