Transport in London
Learn more about Transport in London
London forms the hub of the road, rail and air transport networks in the United Kingdom. It has its own dense and extensive internal private and public transport networks, as well as providing a focal point for the national road and railway networks. London also has a number of airports including the UK's busiest, Heathrow, and a sea port.
London's internal transport is one of four policy areas administered by the Mayor of London through his executive agency Transport for London (TfL). TfL controls the majority of public transport in the area (including the Underground, local buses, trams and the Docklands Light Railway, but it currently has virtually no control over National Rail services within Greater London, which are administered by the national Department for Transport (DfT). TfL also controls most major roads in the area, but not minor roads (see below).
 Metro and light rail
Transport for London operates two railway systems distinct from the conventional surface railway network. The most important is the London Underground, which is supplemented by the automated and segregated Docklands Light Railway operating in East and South-East London. TfL also operates one tramway system, Tramlink centred on Croydon with lines to Wimbledon, New Addington and Beckenham.
 London Underground
Colloquially known as the Tube, London Underground is the oldest metro system in the world, having begun operations in 1863. More than 3 million passengers travel on the Underground every day, amounting to nearly 1 billion per year.<ref>Transport - facts and figures www.london.gov.uk</ref> The Underground is operated as a network of twelve lines, most of which connect the suburbs to Central London and provide a distribution role around the city centre, particularly from major railway terminals.
The Underground serves London north of the river much more extensively than the south. This is the result of a combination of unfavourable geology, historical competition from surface railways and the historical geography of London which was focused to the north of the Thames. South London is served primarily by surface railways (although it should be noted that the majority of London Underground's route length is actually on the surface rather than in tunnel).
The Underground suffers from an image of poor reliability and overcrowding, which a large programme of investment by TfL is attempting to address. The age of the network is a key issue - with the exception of the Victoria line and Jubilee line, its lines were opened in the 19th century or early 20th century.
 Docklands Light Railway
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is an automated light rail system serving the Docklands area of East London. It complements the Underground, largely sharing its fares system and having a number of interchanges with it. It is focused on the Canary Wharf business district, although this was not its initial objective upon its opening in 1987.
Partly thanks to the success of Canary Wharf, the system has expanded several times and now has five main "arms" connecting the Isle of Dogs and Royal Docks to each other and to the City of London, Stratford and Lewisham south of the river. It also serves London City Airport. A number of further extensions are in the works, including another cross-river link, to Woolwich.
Although all trams disappeared from the streets of London by the mid-20th century, a new tram system was opened in 2000 to serve the large employment centre of Croydon on the southern edge of London. Named Tramlink, it connects Croydon and its surface railway stations to surrounding suburbs and to the town centre of Wimbledon to the north-west. An extension to Crystal Palace is being planned. Two other tram schemes in London are also being planned: the West London Tram along the busy Uxbridge Road bus corridor in West London (although construction is looking unlikely due to much local protest), and the Cross River Tram through central London between Camden in the north and Brixton and Peckham in the south.
 Heavy rail
- See also: Rail transport in Great Britain
London is the focal point of the British railway network, with some fourteen terminal stations around the city centre providing a combination of commuter, intercity, airport and international services. Most areas of the city not served by the Underground or DLR are served by commuter heavy rail services into one of these terminal stations.
The termini are Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, King's Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Moorgate, Marylebone, Paddington, St. Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo.
 Commuter rail
London is the centre of an extensive radial commuter railway network serving both the city itself and the surrounding metropolitan area. Each terminal station is associated with commuter services from a particular segment of this area. The majority of commuters to central London (about 80% of 1.1 million) arrive by either the Underground (400,000 daily) or by surface railway into these terminal stations (860,000 daily).<ref>The Mayor's Transport Strategy - Figure 2.20 and Paragraph 2.76.</ref>
Although the majority of services reach the end of the line at terminal stations, there are a few notable exceptions. London Bridge provides several through lines which allow certain services to continue to more central terminals at Cannon Street and Charing Cross, and services running through to the latter also call at Waterloo East which is linked to Waterloo by a footbridge. London Bridge's through platforms are also used by the Thameslink services of First Capital Connect, which cross the city centre, calling at Blackfriars (another terminal with through platforms), City Thameslink, Farringdon and King's Cross Thameslink. These services run between the northern and southern suburbs, and between the more distant towns of Brighton on the south coast and Bedford in the north.
In addition to its radial lines, there are also several orbital lines connecting parts of the inner city to each other. The West London Line crosses inner West London and allows services to run from the northwest suburbs to Croydon, Brighton and Gatwick Airport. The North London Line arcs across North London from Richmond in the west to Stratford in the east, and the Gospel Oak to Barking line links inner North London to the northeastern suburbs. Work is also underway for extensions of the Underground's East London Line, converting it into a heavy rail commuter line linking inner north-east London to south London and eventually creating a full circle through the inner suburbs. From November 2007, TfL will take over control of these orbital routes from the DfT as well as the inner-suburban Watford DC Line services out of Euston and rebrand them as the London Overground.
Constantly increasing pressure on the commuter rail systems and on the Underground to disperse passengers from the busy terminals has led to the multi-billion pound Crossrail scheme. Superficially similar to the RER lines of Paris, Crossrail would link commuter services into Paddington in the west with Docklands and services out of Liverpool Street in the east, by constructing twin 16km tunnels underneath the city centre. New stations would be provided at key city centre locations, linking to the Underground.
The growing overcrowding on commuter rail services has led to new ticket restrictions on leisure travellers using cheaper tickets. Although morning peak restrictions for these travellers have been commonplace for many years, evening peak restrictions are also now coming into place. For example, First Capital Connect no longer allow cheaper tickets to be used on services departing London for destinations to the north outside London in the evening peak (4.30pm - 7.30pm), and holders of cheaper tickets are barred from some express First Great Western services from Paddington in the evening.
 Intercity rail
Long-distance intercity services do not depart from all terminals, but as with commuter services, each terminal provides trains to a particular part of the country. The key intercity terminals are Paddington (for the west of England and Wales), Euston (for the West Midlands, the north west of England and Glasgow), St. Pancras (for the East Midlands), King's Cross (for the north east of England and Edinburgh) and Liverpool Street (for East Anglia). Some intercity services carry significant volumes of daily commuters between their stops nearest to London and their city terminals. For example, long-distance daily commuting has been evident from Swindon to Paddington since the introduction of High Speed Trains.<ref>Nash, 1991, "The case from high speed rail"; Investigaciones económicas (segunda época), 15 (2), pp337-354</ref>
 Airport services
Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports are served by dedicated train services (although the latter two are also served by standard commuter services). The Heathrow Express service from Paddington is provided by the airport operator, BAA plc, whilst the other services (Gatwick Express from Victoria and Stansted Express from Liverpool Street) are provided by standard train operating companies. However, the Gatwick Express service may be discontinued in favour of more commuter trains on the same route.
 International services
International services are provided by Eurostar from Waterloo International to Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. Eurostar services share tracks with commuter railways until they reach the high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link outside London. This high-speed rail link is currently being extended through tunnel to St. Pancras, with an intermediate stop in Stratford in East London. This final link will see all Eurostar services move to St. Pancras and a reduction in journey times of some 20 minutes, putting Paris 2 hours 15 minutes from London.<ref>Eurostar welcomes development of landmark hotel at St. Pancras station, www.eurostar.com. Accessed 16 June 2006.</ref> Some high-speed commuter services to Kent will also be operated over the new line, which represents one of Britain's biggest engineering projects.
London's bus network is extensive, with over 6,800 scheduled services every weekday carrying about six million passengers on over 700 different routes.<ref>About London Buses, Transport for London. Accessed 16 June 2005.</ref> Catering mainly for local journeys, it carries more passengers than the Underground. In addition to this extensive daytime system, a 100-route night bus service is also operated, providing a 24-hour service.
TfL manages the bus system by tendering out routes to private companies. This means that TfL set the routes, frequencies, fares and even the type of vehicle used, and companies bid to run these services for a fixed price for several years, with incentives and penalties in place to encourage good performance against certain criteria.
Many services are operated with the iconic red double decker buses, although virtually all now use modern low-floor accessible vehicles rather than the traditional open-platform Routemaster vehicles, which are now limited to two city centre "heritage routes".
The bus system has been the subject of much investment since TfL's inception in 2000, with consequent improvements in the number of routes (particularly night services), their frequency, reliability and the standard of the vehicles used.
London has a hierarchy of roads ranging from major radial and orbital trunk roads down to minor "side streets". At the top level are motorways and grade-separated dual carriageways, supplemented by non-grade-separated urban dual carriageways, major single carriageway roads, local distributor roads and small local streets.
Most of the streets of central London were laid out before cars were invented and London's road network is often congested. Attempts to tackle this go back at least to the 1740s, when the New Road was built through the fields north of the city; it is now just another congested central London thoroughfare. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, new wide roads such as Victoria Embankment, Shaftesbury Avenue and Kingsway were created. In the 1920s and 1930s a series of new radial roads, such as the Western Avenue and Eastern Avenue, were constructed in the new suburban outskirts of London but little was done in the congested central area.
A 1937 report, The Highway Development Survey, by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Charles Bressey for the Ministry of Transport and the 1943 County of London Plan and 1944 Greater London Plan by Sir Patrick Abercrombie all recommended the construction of many miles of new roads and the improvement of existing routes and junctions but little was done to implement the recommendations. In the 1960s the Greater London Council prepared a drastic plan for a network of London Ringways including the construction of the London Motorway Box which would have involved massive demolition and huge cost to bring motorways into the heart of the city. Resistance from Central Government over the costs and campaigns of objection from local residents caused the cancellation of most of the plans in 1973. By the end of the 20th century policy swung towards a preference for public transport improvements, although the 118 mile (190 km) M25 orbital motorway was constructed between 1973 and 1986 to provide a route for traffic to bypass the entire London urban area.
 Major routes
Due to the opposition to the Ringway plan and earlier proposals there are few grade-separated routes penetrating to the city centre. Only the western A40 and A4 and the eastern A12 and A13 are grade separated for most of the way into central London.
There is a technical distinction between the motorways, operated by the Highways Agency, and all other major routes, operated by Transport for London as the Transport for London Route Network (TLRN). Many of London's major radial routes continue far beyond the city as part of the national motorway and trunk road network.
From the north, clockwise (and noting a key commuter location served by each rather than the final destination), the major radial routes are the A10 (north to Hertford), the M11 (north to Cambridge), the A12 (northeast to Chelmsford), the A127 (east to Southend), the A13 (also east to Southend), the A2/M2 (east to Chatham), the A20/M20 (southeast to Maidstone), the A23/M23 (south to Gatwick Airport and Brighton), the A3 (southwest to Guildford), A316/M3 (southwest to Basingstoke), the A4/M4 (west to Heathrow Airport and Reading), the A40/M40 (west to Oxford), the M1 (northwest to Luton) and the A1 (north to Stevenage).
There are also three ring roads linking these routes orbitally. The innermost, the Inner Ring Road, circumnavigates the congestion charging zone in the city centre. The generally grade-separated North Circular (the A406 from Gunnersbury to West Ham) and the non-separated South Circular (the A205) form a suburban ring of roughly 10km radius. Finally, the M25 encircles most of the urban area with roughly a 25km radius. The western section of the M25 past Heathrow Airport is one of Europe's busiest, carrying around 200,000 vehicles per day.
 Distributor and minor routes
The major roads mentioned above are supplemented by a host of standard single-carriageway main roads, operated as part of the afore-mentioned TLRN. These roads generally link suburbs with each other, or deliver traffic from the ends of the major routes into the city centre.
The TLRN is supplemented by local distributor roads operated by the local authorities, the London boroughs. These non-strategic roads only carry local traffic.
 Congestion charge
In February 2003, Transport for London (TfL) introduced a radical scheme to charge motorists £5 per day for driving vehicles within a designated area of central London during peak hours: the congestion charge. The politicians behind the scheme claim that it has significantly reduced traffic congestion and hence improved reliability of bus and taxi services, but this is strongly contested by the scheme's critics, mainly found in various businesses. The charge was increased to £8 per day on 4 July 2005.
The famous London black cab remains a common sight. All London taxis are overseen by TfL's Public Carriage Office (PCO), including both black cabs and minicabs, and the PCO sets taxi fares along with minimum vehicle emissions standards.
Heathrow and Gatwick serve long-haul, European and domestic flights; Stansted and Luton cater primarily for low-cost European and domestic services, whilst London City caters for business passengers to short-haul and domestic destinations.
The closest airport to the city centre is London City, approximately 10km east of the City of London financial district in the Docklands area. A branch of the Docklands Light Railway links the airport to the City in under 25 minutes.<ref>London City Airport train timetable, www.tfl.gov.uk. Accessed 16 June 2005.</ref>
Two other airports are at the edge of the city but within the Greater London boundary: Biggin Hill, around 23km southeast of the city centre, and London's principle airport, Heathrow, 20-25km from central London.
Heathrow handles nearly 70 million passengers per annum, making it Europe's busiest airport. Located on the western edge of the city in the London Borough of Hillingdon, it has two runways and four passenger terminals, with a £4bn fifth terminal opening in 2008. It is connected to central London by the dedicated Heathrow Express rail service, the Heathrow Connect local rail service and London Underground's Piccadilly line, and is connected to the M4 and M25 motorways.
Gatwick is located just under 40km south of central London and in Sussex, some distance outside London's boundary. Having a single runway and two terminals, it handles approximately 30 million passengers per year from domestic, short-haul and long-haul flights, and is linked to London by the Gatwick Express and Southern rail services, and by the M23.
Stansted is London's most distant airport, approximately 50km north of the centre, in Essex. With a single runway and terminal, it handles approximately 20 million passengers annually, mostly from low-cost short-haul and domestic leisure flights. It is connected to London by the Stansted Express rail service and the M11 motorway.
Luton Airport is about 45km northwest of London, connected to it by the M1 and First Capital Connect train services from nearby Luton Airport Parkway station. It has a single terminal and fairly short runway, and like Stansted it caters mainly for low-cost short-haul leisure flights.
 Water transport
The River Thames is navigable to ocean going vessels as far as London Bridge, and to substantial craft well past Greater London. Historically, the river was one of London's main transport arteries. This is no longer the case, but there are still small scale passenger services, and a large number of leisure cruises operating on the river. Additionally some bulk cargoes are carried on the river, and the Mayor of London wishes to increase this use.
London also has several canals, including the Regent's Canal which links the Thames to the Grand Union Canal and thus to the waterway network across much of England. These canals are no longer used to transport goods, but they are popular with leisure cruisers.
London's port used to be the country's busiest when it was located in East London's Docklands, but containerisation led to its decline and abandonment of Docklands in favour of a purpose-built port at Tilbury in Essex, around ten kilometres outside the Greater London boundary. Tilbury is operated by the Port of London Authority, which is responsible for most port activities in the Thames estuary, and is the third-busiest of Britain's ports.
 See also
 External links
- Transport for London, executive agency in charge of most transport operations
- Department for Transport, central government department overseeing the national railway network
- Transport enthusiast's site with details of current projects
- London Cycle Network
 Notes and references
Silverlink • South West Trains • Southeastern • Southern • Virgin Trains
|Other Rail|| |
Liverpool Street • London Bridge • Marylebone • Moorgate • Paddington • St Pancras • Victoria • Waterloo