This fact sheet is an overview of the UK transport system.
TRANSPORT SYSTEM IN THE UK
This information sheet summarises the UK transport system.
The factors covered are:
1. Overview of the UK transport system
6. Further information
1. OVERVIEW OF THE UK TRANSPORT SYSTEM
With an integrated system of airports, seaports, rail and road, businesses
located in the UK can select the optimal method of moving people and freight
between major cities and locations, both within the UK and internationally.
The main advantages of the UK transport system include:
? excellent air links to locations all over the world from world-class
international airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester,
Stansted, Birmingham and Glasgow,
? an advanced and comprehensive road system that links all locations
throughout the UK,
? a privatised rail network linking all locations across the UK and, through
the Channel Tunnel, all locations in mainland Europe, and
? over 100 seaports across the UK, handling the largest volume of
seaport traffic in Europe.
For detailed information on the UK transport system, please contact the
Department for Transport (DFT) on +44 (0)300 330 3000 or see
The UK has the largest air transport system in Europe, accounting for 217
million passengers (Source: Eurostat, 2009) and the top four busiest
international air routes.
Figure 1: Busiest international air routes in the European Union
Rank Inter-city pairs
1 London Heathrow Dublin 1,974
2 London Heathrow Amsterdam 1,799
3 London Heathrow Paris CDG 1,790
4 London Heathrow Frankfurt 1,446
5 Rome Paris CDG 1,345
Source: Eurostat, 2009 (based on the latest data from 2007)
The leading airports in the UK are:
? London Heathrow: the largest and busiest international airport in Europe
and the third largest globally, handling over 65 million passengers a
year. Ninety airlines fly to 179 destinations worldwide, operating an
average of 1,250 flights a day. For further information, please see:
? London Gatwick: the busiest single-runway airport in the world, with
over 32 million passengers handled each year. Ninety airlines fly to 213
different destinations, operating an average of over 700 flights a day.
For further information, please see:
? Manchester Airport: the third largest airport in the UK, handling 22
million passengers each year. Over 100 airlines fly to 225 different
destinations, operating an average of 600 flights a day. For further
information, please see: www.manairport.co.uk/
Other major international airports in the UK include Birmingham International,
London Stansted, London Luton, Nottingham East Midlands, Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Newcastle, Robin Hood Airport
(Sheffield), Cardiff and Belfast International.
Figure 2 shows the number of daily direct flights during the working week from
selected UK airports to key global business destinations.
Figure 2: Number of daily direct scheduled flights from selected UK
London London City Manchester Birmingham Glasgow
Paris 17 4 8 11 3
Amsterdam 16 9 5 6 2
Frankfurt 15 6 7 8 -
Brussels 10 5 6 3 1
Milan 13 5 2 2 1
Barcelona 7 1 1 1 -
New York 25 2 2 1 1
Los Angeles 12 - - - 1
Chicago 9 - 1 - -
Tokyo 5 - - - -
Delhi 6 - - - -
Shanghai 2 - - - -
Source: OAG, 2010
The UK has an advanced and comprehensive road transport system, with a
total of 394,000 kilometres of roads (Source: DFT, 2009). There are almost
3,600 kilometres of motorways, all of which are toll-free except for the M6 Toll
adjacent to the M6 in Birmingham.
Figure 3 gives examples of typical journey times by car from London to key
national and international destinations.
Figure 3: Typical journey times by car from London to key destinations
London to: Distance Duration by car
Birmingham 190km 2 hours 17 minutes
Manchester 320km 3 hours 44 minutes
Edinburgh 643km 7 hours 19 minutes
Brussels* 369km 4 hours 25 minutes
Paris* 460km 5 hours 24 minutes
Source: Bing, 2010
*excluding Channel Tunnel crossing time
The latest figures from the European Union (Source: Eurostat, 2010) show that
88.5 per cent of all UK freight is transported by road; indeed, in terms of
servicing the UK market, lorries that collect from a centrally-located depot can
deliver anywhere in the UK and return within 24 hours.
For specific quotations on individual freight consignments in the UK, mainland
Europe and globally, please contact members of the following trade
? Freight Transport Association: www.fta.co.uk
? British International Freight Association: www.bifa.org
? Road Haulage Association: www.rha.uk.net/home
The UK has a privatised rail network linking all locations across the country
and, through the Eurostar connection and the Channel Tunnel, key locations in
Europe (See Figure 4).
Figure 4: Typical journey times by rail from London to key destinations
London to: Duration by rail
Birmingham 1 hour 22 minutes
Manchester 2 hours 7 minutes
Edinburgh 4 hours 19 minutes
Brussels 1 hour 58 minutes
Paris 2 hours 15 minutes
Source: Eurostar/Qjump, 2010
For further information about specific passenger rail journeys in the UK, please
Privatisation of the rail network and the introduction of the Channel Tunnel rail
route have led to increasing volumes of freight being transported by rail in the
UK ? indeed, over 24 billion tonnes/km of freight are transported by rail each
year (Source: Eurostat, 2010). For more information about rail freight, please
The UK ports and harbours industry is one of the largest in Europe, with over
100 active ports operating across the UK. Major container ports are at
Felixstowe, Southampton, Thamesport, Tilbury and Liverpool; major estuary
ports include London, Tees, Hartlepool and Grimsby/Immingham.
UK ports handle over 560 million tonnes of freight each year, the largest
volume in the European Union (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Transport of goods by sea ? leading European Union nations
Country (million tonnes)
Source: Eurostat, 2010
Most UK ports have been privatised and the majority are able to take
containers. Same-day delivery is standard from most UK centres to locations in
Europe such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Hamburg. Next-day delivery is
routine to centres such as Marseilles, Frankfurt and Milan.
For further information concerning sea and waterway transport, please contact
the British Ports Association: www.britishports.org.uk
6. FURTHER INFORMATION
This information sheet was updated in March 2010.
As information changes from time to time, please contact the organisations
listed or UK Trade & Investment to confirm any item that you intend to rely on.
This information sheet was produced by the Marketing Group of:
UK Trade & Investment
66-74 Victoria Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7215 4957