Contribution to International Economy

  • Transport

> The romance of travel: the
steam engine
Perhaps because they were the first • means of mass transportation, perhaps because they go through the heart of the countryside, there is an aura of romance attached to trains in Britain. Many thousands of people are enthusiastic 'train spotters' who spend an astonishing amount of time at stations and along the sides of railway lines trying to 'spot' as many different engines as possible. Steam trains, symbolizing the country's lost industrial power, have the greatest romance of all. Many-enthusiasts spend their free time keeping them in operation and finance this by offering rides to tourists. In 1993 more than 10 million journeys were taken on steam trains in Europe. More than 80% of those journeys were taken in Britain.
► The AA and the RAC
These are the initials of the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club. A driver who joins either of them (by paying a subscription) can get emergency help when his or her car breaks down. The fact that both organizations are very well-known is an indication of the importance of the car in modern British life.

The British are enthusiastic about mobility. They regard the opportunity to travel far and frequently as a right. Some commuters spend up to two or three hours each day getting to work in London or some other big city and back home to their suburban or country homes in the evening. Most people do not spend quite so long each day travelling, but it is taken for granted that few people live near enough to their work or secondary school to get there on foot.
As elsewdiere in Europe, transport in modern Britain is dominated by the motor car and there are the attendant problems of traffic congestion and pollution. These problems are, in fact, more acute than they are in many other countries both because Britain is densely populated and also because a very high proportion of goods are transported by road. There is an additional reason for congestion in Britain. While the British want the freedom to move around easily, they do not like living near big roads or railways. Any proposed new road or rail project leads to 'housing blight'. The value of houses along or near the proposed route goes down. Every such project is attended by an energetic campaign to stop construction. Partly for this reason, Britain has, in proportion to its population, fewer kilometres of main road and railway than any other country in northern Europe.
Transport policy is a matter of continual debate. During the 1980s the government's attitude was that public transport should pay for itself (and should not be given subsidies) and road building was given priority. However, the opposite point of view, which argues in favour of public transport, has become stronger during the 1990s, partly as a result of pressure from environmental groups. It is now generally accepted that transport policy should attempt to more than merely accommodate the predicted doubling in the number of cars in the next thirty years, but should consider wider issues.
On the road
Nearly three-quarters of households in Britain have regular use of a car and about a quarter have more than one car. The widespread enthusiasm for cars is, as elsewhere, partly a result of people using them to project an image of themselves. Apart from the obvious status indicators such as size and speed, the British system of vehicle regis-

Public transport in towns and cities

ration introduces another. Registration plates, known as 'number
[plates', give a clear indication of the age of cars. Up to 1999 there
'•as a different letter of the alphabet for each year and in summer
mere were a lot of advertisements for cars on television and in the
newspapers because the new registration 'year' began in August.
Another possible reason for the British being so attached to their cars is the opportunity which they provide to indulge the national passion for privacy. Being in a car is like taking your 'castle' with you wherever you go (see chapter 19). Perhaps this is why the occasional attempts to persuade people to 'car pool' (to share the use of a car to and from work) have met with little success.
The privacy factor may also be the reason why British drivers are less 'communicative' than the drivers of many other countries. They use their horns very little, are not in the habit of signalling their displeasure at the behaviour of other road users with their hands and are a little more tolerant of both other drivers and pedestrians. They are also a little more safety conscious. Britain has the best road safety record in Europe. The speed limit on motorways is a little lower than in most other countries (70 mph =112 kph) and people go over this limit to a somewhat lesser extent. In addition, there are frequent and costly government campaigns to encourage road safety. Before Christmas 1992, for instance, Ј2.3 million was spent on such a campaign.
Another indication that the car is perceived as a private space is :hat Britain was one of the last countries in western Europe to introduce the compulsory wearing of seat belts (in spite of British concern for safety). This measure was, and still is, considered by many to be a bit of an infringement of personal liberty.
The British are not very keen on mopeds or motorcycles. They exist, of course, but they are not private enough for British tastes. Every year twenty times as many new cars as two-wheeled motor vehicles are registered. Millions of bicycles are used, especially by younger people, but except in certain university towns such as Oxford and Cambridge, they are not as common as they are in other parts of north-western Europe. Britain has been rather slow to organize special cycle lanes. The comparative safety of the roads means that parents are not too worried about their children cycling on the road along with cars and lorries.
Public transport in towns and cities
Public transport services in urban areas, as elsewhere in Europe, suffer from the fact that there is so much private traffic on the roads that they are not as cheap, as frequent or as fast as they otherwise could be. They also stop running inconveniently early at night. Efforts have been made to speed up journey times by reserving certain lanes for buses, but so far there has been no widespread attempt to give priority to public transport vehicles at traffic lights.

The decline of the lollipop lady
A lollipop lady at a zebra crossing
In 1953 most schoolchildren walked to school. For this reason, school crossing patrols were introduced. A 'patrol' consists of an adult wearing a bright waterproof coat and carrying a red — and — white stick with a circular sign at the top which reads STOP. CHILDREN. Armed with this 'lollipop', the adult walks out into the middle of the road, stops the traffic and allows children to cross. 'Lollipop ladies ' (80% of them are women) are a familiar part of the British landscape. But since the 1980s, they have become a species in decline. So many children are now driven to school by car that local authorities are less willing to spend money on them. However, because there are more cars than there used to be, those children who are not driven to school need them more than ever. The modern lollipop lady has survived by going commercial! In 1993 Volkswagen signed a deal to dress London's 1,000 lollipop ladies in coats which bear the company's logo. Many other local authorities in the country-arranged similar deals.


Traffic cones on the Mi motorway
The road to hell
The M 25 is the motorway which circles London. Its history exemplifies the transport crisis in Britain. When the first section was opened in 1963 it was seen as the answer to the area's traffic problems. But by the early 1990s the congestion on it was so bad that traffic jams had become an everyday occurrence. A rock song of the lime called it 'the road to hell'. In an effort to relieve the congestion, the government announced plans to widen some parts of it to fourteen lanes — and thus to import from America what would have been Europe's first 'super highways'. This plan provoked widespread opposition.
What the British motorist hates most
Traffic wardens are not police officers, but they have the force of law behind them as they walk around leaving parking tickets on the windscreens of cars that are illegally parked. By convention, they are widely feared and disliked by British motorists. Every year there are nearly a hundred serious attacks on them. In 1993 government advisers decided that their image should change. They were officially renamed 'parking attendants' (although everyone still calls them traffic wardens).
Traffic cones are orange and white, about a metre tall and made of plastic. Their appearance signals that some part of the road ahead (the part marked out by the cones) is being repaired and therefore out of use, and that therefore there is probably going to be a long delay. Workers placing them in position have had eggs thrown at them and lorry drivers have been accused by police of holding competitions to run them down. On any one day at least 100,000 of them are in use on the country's roads.

An interesting modern development is that trams, which disappeared from the country's towns during the 1950s and 1960s, are now making a comeback. Research has shown that people seem to have more confidence in the reliability of a service which runs on tracks, and are therefore readier to use a tram than they would be to use an ordinary bus.
Britain is one of the few countries in Europe where double-decker buses (i.e. with two floors) are a common sight. Although single-deckers have also been in use since the 1960s, London still has more than 3,000 double-deckers in operation. In their original form they were 'hop-on, hop-off buses. That is, there were no doors, just an opening at the back to the outside. There was a conductor who walked around collecting fares while the bus was moving. However, most buses these days, including double-deckers, have separate doors for getting on and off and no conductor (fares are paid to the driver).
The famous London Underground, known as 'the tube', is feeling the effects of its age (it was first opened in 1863). It is now one of the dirtiest and least efficient of all such systems in European cities. However, it is still heavily used because it provides excellent connections with the main line train stations and with the suburbs surrounding the city.
Another symbol of London is the distinctive black taxi (in fact, they are not all black these days, nor are they confined to London).
A traffic warden giving a parking ticket to a motorist

Public transport between towns and cities

According to the traditional stereotype, the owner-drivers of London taxis, known as cabbies, are friendly Cockneys (see chapter 4) who never stop talking. While it may not be true that they are all like this, they all have to demonstrate, in a difficult examination, detailed familiarity with London's streets and buildings before they are given their licence. (This familiarity is known simply as 'the knowledge'.) Normally, these traditional taxis cannot be hired by phone. You simply have to find one on the street. But there are also many taxi companies who get most of their business over the phone. Their taxis are known as 'minicabs'. They tend to have a reputation, not always justified, for unreliability as well as for charging unsuspecting tourists outrageous prices (in common with taxis all over the world). However, taxis and minicabs are expensive and most British people rarely use them, except, perhaps, when going home late at night after public transport has stopped running, especially if they have been drinking alcohol.
Public transport between towns and cities
It is possible to travel on public transport between large towns or cities by road or rail. Coach services are generally slower than trains but are also much cheaper. In some parts of the country, particularly the south-east of England, there is a dense suburban rail network, but the most commercially successful trains are the Inter-City services that run between London and the thirty or so largest cities in the country.
The difference between certain trains is a fascinating reflection of British insularity. Elsewhere in Europe, the fastest and smartest trains are the international ones. But in Britain, they are the Inter-City trains. The international trains from London to the Channel ports of Newhaven, Dover and Ramsgate are often uncomfortable commuter trains stopping at several different stations.
The numbers of trains and train routes were slowly but continuously reduced over the last forty years of the twentieth century. In October 1993 the national train timetable scheduled 10,000 fewer trains than in the previous October. The changes led to many complaints. The people of Lincoln in eastern England, for example, were worried about their tourist trade. This town, which previously had fifteen trains arriving on a Sunday from four different directions, found that it had only four, all arriving from the same direction. The Ramblers' Association (for people who like to go walking in the countryside) were also furious because the ten trains on a Sunday from Derby to Matlock, near the highest mountains in England, had all been cancelled. At the time, however, the government wanted very much to privatize the railways. Therefore, it had to make them look financially attractive to investors, and the way to do this was to cancel as many unprofitable services as possible.

An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.
Waiting for buses allows the British to indulge their supposed passion for queueing. Whether this really signifies civilized patience is debatable (see chapter 5). But queueing is certainly taken seriously. When buses serving several different numbered routes stop at the same bus stop, instructions on it sometimes tell people to queue on one side for some of the buses and on the other side for others. And yes, people do get offended if anybody tries to 'jump the queue'.
The dominance of London
The arrangement of the country's transport network illustrates the dominance of London. London is at the centre of the network, with a 'web' of roads and railways coming from it. Britain's road-numbering system, (M for motorways, then A, B and C class roads) is based on the direction out of London that roads take.
It is notable that the names of the main London railway stations are known to almost everybody in the country, whereas the names of stations in other cities are only known to those who use them regularly or live nearby. The names of the London stations are: Charing Cross, Euston, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, Paddington, St Pancras, Victoria, Waterloo. Each runs trains only in a certain direction out of London. If your journey takes you through London, you have to use the Underground to get from one of these stations to another.


Le compromise
One small but remarkable success of the chunnel (the Channel tunnel) enterprise seems to be linguistic. You might think that there would have been some argument. Which language would be used to talk about the chunnel and things connected with it? English or French? No problem! A working compromise was soon established, in which English nouns are combined with French words of other grammatical classes. For example, the company that built the chunnel is called Trans-manche Link (la Manche is the French name for the Channel), and the train which carries vehicles through the tunnel is officially called Le Shuttle.
This linguistic mixing quickly became popular in Britain. On 12 February 1994, hundred of volunteers walked the 50 kilometres through the chunnel to raise money for charity. The Daily Mail, the British newspaper that organized the event, publicized it as 'Le walk', and the British media reported on the progress of 'Les walkers'.

The story of the chunnel
On Friday 6 May 1994, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and President Mitterand of France travelled ceremonially under the sea that separates their two countries and opened the Channel tunnel (often known as 'the chunnel') between Calais and Folkestone. For the first time ever, people were able to travel between Britain and the continent without taking their feet off solid ground.
The chunnel was by far the biggest building project in which Britain was involved in the twentieth century. The history of this project, however, was not a happy one. Several workers were killed during construction, the price of construction turned out to be more than double the Ј4-5 billion first estimated and the start of regular services was repeatedly postponed, the last time even after tickets had gone on sale. On top of all that, the public showed little enthusiasm. On the day that tickets went on sale, only 138 were sold in Britain (and in France, only 12!). On the next day, an informal telephone poll found that only 5% of those calling said that they would use the chunnel.
There were several reasons for this lack of enthusiasm. At first the chunnel was open only to those with private transport. For them, the small saving in travel time did not compensate for the comparative discomfort of travelling on a train with no windows and no facilities other than toilets on board, especially as the competing ferry companies had made their ships cleaner and more luxurious. In addition, some people felt it was unnatural and frightening to travel under all that water. There were also fears about terrorist attacks. However unrealistic such fears were, they certainly interested Hollywood. Every major studio was soon planning a chunnel disaster movie!
The public attitude is becoming more positive, although very slowly. The direct train services between Paris and London and Brussels and London seem to offer a significant reduction of travel time when compared to travel over the sea, and this enterprise has been more of a success. At the time of writing, however, the high-speed rail link to take passengers between the British end of the chunnel and London has not been completed.

Air and water
A very small minority, of mostly business people, travel within Britain by air. International air travel, however, is very important economically to Britain. Heathrow, on the western edge of London, is the world's busiest airport. Every year, its four separate terminals are used by more than 30 million passengers. In addition, Gatwick Airport, to the south of London, is the fourth busiest passenger airport in Europe. There are two other fairly large airports close to London (Stansted and Luton) which deal mainly with charter flights,

and there is also the small City Airport, which caters mainly for business travellers between London and north-western Europe.
There are plans for a fifth terminal at Heathrow, bigger than the other four combined. The aim is to double the capacity of Heathrow by the year 2015. However, while some British people may be proud at the prospect of Heathrow retaining its world number-one position, others are not so pleased. The problem is the noise (which British people tend to regard as an invasion of their privacy). Local farmers and the hundreds of thousands of people who live under Heathrow's flight path are objecting to the idea. The airport planners arc arguing that the next generation of planes will be much quieter than present-day ones. Nevertheless, the plan is going to have to win a tough fight before it goes ahead.
Modern Britain makes surprisingly little use of its many inland were busy thoroughfares, and the profession of 'waterman', the river equivalent of the London cabbie, was well-known. In the last hundred years transport by land has almost completely taken over. A few-barges still go up and down the Thames through London, but are used mostly by tourists. Several attempts have been made to set up a regular service for commuters, but none has been a success so far. There is no obvious practical reason for this failure. It just seems that British people have lost the habit of travelling this way.
The story of goods transport by water is the same. In the nineteenth century, the network of canals used for this purpose was vital to the country's economy and as extensive as the modern motorway network. The vast majority of these canals are no longer used in this way. Recently the leisure industry has found a use for the country's waterways with the increasing popularity of boating holidays.

> Monster jumbos
British Airways is one of the biggest airlines in the world. Its ambitious plans for the future include operating an enormous new kind of jumbo aircraft. This will not travel any faster than today's aircraft, but will be big enough for passengers to move around inside in rather the same way as they do on a ship. There will be no duty-free trolleys or meals coming round; instead, passengers will go to the bar, cafe or shop to get what they want. First class travellers will have sleeping cabins and a fully-equipped business area. But how many airports will be able to accomodate the new monsters of the sky?

Transport facilities in Britain are divided between the public and the private sectors of the national economy. Roads, railways, shipping and civil aviation account for most of the country's transport infrastructure.
Central and local government are responsible for the road network in Britain. Various types of public roads make up most of the highway system. The rest are motorways and trunk roads, which nevertheless carry most of the passenger traffic and heavy goods vehicles. Critics argue that Britain's roads are in bad condition and unable to handle the number of vehicles on them, leading to congestion and traffic jams. The planned expansion, repair and modernization of roads may be inadequate to meet the estimated future number of vehicles.
There are 25 million licensed vehicles, of which 21 million are private cars and light goods vehicles; 2.7 million commercial lorries; 688,000 motor cycles, scooters and mopeds; and 108,000 passenger vehicles (buses, coaches and taxis). Car transport is most popular and accounts for some 82 per cent of passenger mileage, while buses and coaches take 6 per cent. Britain has one of the highest densities of road traffic in the world, but also a relatively good safety record.
Private road haulage has a dominant position in the movement of inland freight. It accounts for some 80 per cent of the market, and lorries have become larger and more efficient. Critics have long campaigned for the transfer of road haulage to the railways and the publicly owned inland waterways (or canals), but to relatively little effect. At present the waterways are used for only a small amount of freight transportation because of the expense, although they are popular for recreational purposes and boating holidays.
Passenger services have declined in Britain because of increased private car usage. The Conservative government has deregulated bus operations, and most local bus companies have now been privatized, although some services are still operated by local government authorities. There has been a considerable expansion in private long-distance express coach services, which have

attracted increased numbers of passengers because they are cheaper than the railways.
6 The world's first public passenger steam railway was opened in 1825 between Stockton and Darlington in north-east England. After more than 100 years of private operation, the railways became a state concern in 1947. British Rail accounts for some 6 per cent of total passenger mileage, but is now being privatized through a complicated sale of routes, management structures and equipment. This is causing public concern about the quality and availability of future rail services.
7 Rail passenger structures consist of a fast intercity network, linking all the main British centres; local trains which supply regional needs; and commuter services in and around the large areas of population, particularly London and south-east England. Increased electrification of lines, and the introduction of fast diesel trains such as the Intercity 125s travelling at a maximum speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), have improved rail journeys considerably. But such speeds and facilities are still inferior to those in other countries.
8 Many railway lines and trains are old and need replacing, and more electrification is required. There is much criticism by passengers, particularly in south-east England, about fare increases, overcrowding, delays, cancellations, staffing problems and poor services. Similar complaints are also made about the London Underground system (the Tube), which covers 254 miles (408 km) of railway line in the capital.
9 Critics argue that the inadequate state of Britain's railways is due to lack of government investment; Conservative policy that the rail system should be run on commercial lines, rather than as a public service; cuts in government subsidies to British Rail; and a failure to realize that rail could be part of a modernized and properly funded integrated transport system catering for passengers and freight. This latter point would ease road congestion, satisfy demand and improve the environment.
10 The rail Channel Tunnel, privately operated by a French/ British company (Eurotunnel), opened for commercial use in 1994. It is meant to improve passenger and freight travel between Britain and mainland Europe, although there are doubts about

its pricing policy and competitiveness. The system has two main tunnels and a smaller service tunnel. It provides a drive-on, drive-off shuttle service on specially designed trains for cars, coaches and freight vehicles as well as passenger trains. The two terminals, Folkestone and Coquelles, are 31 miles (50 km) apart. Improved rail services from Folkestone to London should have been provided, but there have been delays and confusion over cost and policy. A high-speed connection has yet to be constructed, and there are no adequate facilities which would allow freight from the rest of Britain to cross London to the Tunnel.
11 Although there are over 300 ports in Britain, most are small concerns which do not handle much cargo or passenger traffic. However, the bigger ports such as Clyde, Dover, Tees, London, Southampton, Grimsby, Hull, Felixstowe, Liverpool, Cardiff and Swansea service most of the country's trade and travel requirements. But there has been a big decline in work and labour since the great days of the ports in the past.
12 The British shipping fleet has been greatly reduced from its peak year in 1975, owing to increased competition and a world shipping recession. The cargo market is now dominated by a small number of large private sector groups. But 77 per cent of Britain's overseas trade is still carried by sea, although passenger mileage has been much reduced. Both may decline further because of competition with the Channel Tunnel.
13 Britain's civil aviation system accounts for some 1 per cent of passenger mileage, and is in the private sector following the privatization of the former state airline, British Airways, in 1987. But there are other carriers, such as British Midland, Britannia Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which run scheduled and charter passenger services on domestic and international routes. All are controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an independent body which regulates the industry, including air traffic control, and which the government may privatize. The airlines also provide air cargo and freight services.
14 There are 137 licensed civil aerodromes in Britain, varying considerably in size. Heathrow and Gatwick Airports outside London are the largest. These airports, together with Stansted in south-east England, and Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen

in Scotland, are owned and managed by the private sector British Airports Authority (BAA). They handle about 73 per cent of air passengers and 84 per cent of air cargo in Britain. Most of the other larger regional airports, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Luton, Belfast, Newcastle and East Midlands, are controlled by local authorities, and cater for the country's remaining passenger and cargo requirements.
15 Expansion of existing airports (particularly regional facilities), and the provision of new ones, will be necessary if Britain is to cope with increased consumer demand and competition from Europe. But such projects are very expensive and controversial because of environmental problems, such as construction work, noise and traffic. Some disquiet also exists about plane congestion in the skies over Britain, the efficiency of the air traffic system, and safety generally.
16 There is much public concern about the adequacy of Britain's transport systems and the lack of an integrated infrastructure of roads, railways and airlines. Improvements and expansion involve considerable expense, and Britain invests less in transport than any other European country. Government initiatives and investment are ideally needed to remedy the existing problems, not only domestically but also in terms of European trade and competition. Otherwise Britain could lose its important transport role, particularly in the air. But the Conservatives are reluctant to spend public money on transport, and are considering more private ownership and charges for road usage in order to cut costs.
17 Communications systems in Britain are also divided between the public and the private sectors. The main suppliers are the private British Telecom (BT) and the public Post Office.
British Telecom was privatized in 1984, and provides telephone and telecommunications systems domestically and internationally. There are 20 million domestic and 6 million business telephone subscribers. British Telecom is responsible for these as well as public payphones, telephone exchanges, telex connections and a range of other telecommunications services. Following privatization, there was considerable disquiet about British Telecom's performance. But most of the initial problems have now been solved and it is operating efficiently and

profitably. The private company, Mercury, competes fiercely with British Telecom in the provision of telecommunications facilities, and the Conservative government plans to allow other competitors, such as cable networks.
18 The Post Office, founded in 1635, is still a state industry, following the failure of plans to privatize it in late 1994. It is responsible for collecting, handling and delivering some 61 million letters and parcels every day. It has sorting offices throughout the country with handling equipment, based on the postcodes which every address in Britain has. Local post offices throughout the country provide postal and other services, but there are fears that possible future privatization will reduce rural facilities and increase costs.

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