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United Kingdom Transportations


The transport systems in the United Kingdom are the responsibility of each individual country: The UK Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network (as well as transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are not devolved.) In Scotland, the Scottish Government's Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department is responsible for the Scottish transport network with Transport Scotland being the Executive Agency that is accountable to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth.

Overall, UK transport systems are well developed. A radial road network of 29,145 miles (46,632 km) of main roads is centred on London, Edinburgh and Belfast, whilst, in Great Britain, a motorway network of 2,173 miles (3,477 km) is centred on Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and London. There are a further 213,750 miles (342,000 km) of paved roads. The National Rail network of 10,295 route miles (16,567 route 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 are also well developed in London and several other cities.

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.

Approximately 95% of freight enters the UK by sea (75% by value). Three major ports handle most freight traffic:

• Port of Felixstowe on the east coast – the fourth largest seaport in Europe;
• Tilbury, near London;
• Southampton on the south coast.

There are many other ports and harbours around the UK, including Aberdeen, Avonmouth, Barry, Belfast, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Glasgow, Gloucester, Grangemouth, Harwich, Holyhead, Hull, Kirkwall, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milford Haven, Peterhead, Plymouth, Poole, Port Talbot, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Sullom Voe, Swansea, Tees and Tyne.

For long periods of the last millennium Britain had the largest merchant fleet in the world, but it has slipped down the rankings. Currently (2007), there are 474 ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over, making a total of 11,723,618 GRT (12,315,588 metric tons of deadweight (DWT)). These are split into the following types: bulk carrier 26, cargo ship 60, chemical tanker 56, container ship 134, liquefied gas 18, passenger ship 10, passenger/cargo ship 62, petroleum tanker 27, refrigerated cargo ship 17, roll-on/roll-off 24, vehicle carrier 14. There are also 412 ships registered in other countries, and 242 foreign-owned ships registered in the UK.

Major canal building began in the UK 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 (3200 km) of waterways in the United Kingdom, and the primary use is recreational. 385 miles (620 km) is used for commerce.

There are 449 airports in the UK, of which 310 are paved. There are also 11 heliports. BAA is the UK's largest airport operator, its flagship being London Heathrow Airport, the largest traffic volume international airport in Europe and one of the world's busiest airports, and London Gatwick Airport, the second largest. The third largest is Manchester Airport, in Manchester, which is run by Manchester Airport Group, which also owns various other airports.

Other major airports include London Stansted Airport in Essex, about thirty miles (50 km) north of London and Birmingham International Airport, in Birmingham.

Outside of England, Cardiff International Airport, Edinburgh Airport and Belfast International Airport, are the busiest airports serving Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

The largest airline in the UK is British Airways, who operate long-distance flights from the UK to all over the globe. Others include bmi, bmibaby, easyJet, Flybe and Virgin Atlantic.

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