London, England has long been regarded as a cosmopolitan metropolis with international appeal at the cutting edge of culture and technology, as well as its ancient and innovative transportation options. London’s location next to a major tributary “in the middle stretch of the Thames valley” , its basin rim terraced with materials formed from sedimentary sand and clay, has played an integral part in its transportation history(a full geographical representation of the city is shown in Appendix A).
It was water-borne trade which allowed it to grow and prosper after the Romans, renowned for their road-building systems, built the city they named Londinium. No longer relying just on watercraft as a lifeline to the rest of the world, London today provides a wealth of sophisticated transportation options to its citizens with the vast entirety of its public motor thoroughfares redesigned after World War II. A modern visitor to London can now board a train or bus, descend underground and take a tube (subway), hop on a light rail or take a ride from one of many express terminals.
It has taken decades for London to achieve, and then regain, its status as a great city for transportation, however. The second world war nearly devastated the city. During the following two decades, “London’s status as the hub of the British Empire” declined along with a reduction in public transport options . By 1986, the Greater London Development Council, which had dealt with issues of reconstruction, was abolished and for the first time in 97 years, “there was no unified representative government” for the city .
London was now forced to address its post-war problems including the challenge of providing additional transportation options for the growing populace and creating a federal transport authority. Today, the United Kingdom has a population of 60,776,238, with the majority of this based in London and Great Britain. The country enjoys a strong economy and low unemployment while the government is focusing on “the improvement of education, transport, and health services, at a cost in higher taxes and a widening public deficit” .
The numerous transitions in London’s transportation are examined here in chronological order beginning with its ancient history, its revival post-war, continuing into the 1960’s, a look back at the era of the 1980’s and finally, an overview of mass, affordable transportation options in today’s London society with a forecast for the future. History The Romans were the first recorded populace to recognize the importance of the Thames River. After their invasion of the area in AD 43, the Romans built a permanent bridge over the river as well as a network of roadways .
The course of many of these roads is still the basis of modern thoroughfares today. In the 1st century, Londinium’s port was active with commerce. The River Thames was used by invaders as a waterway to storm the city during Viking times and new streets laid out after the takeover by the Saxons, some of which even used lanes much like we would expect today to subdivide them . The famed London Bridge was rebuilt in the late 12th century and during this time many of the streets were named with monikers still in use today.
The Great Fire of 1666 prompted the construction of two new streets to intersect city as well as the widening of many of London’s streets and lane. Six new bridges were added to cross the River Thames between 1750 and 1835 and toll roadways were created to pay for repairs to existing thoroughfares. Hansom cabs were first introduced as another form of transportation in 1834 while the first passenger railway appeared just two years later.
Deep water basins were added to the river at this time to reduce congestion from shipping. The Thames Tunnel was opened in 1843 to provide another avenue of transport over the river. Victorian London witnessed a revolution in transportation with the arrival of omnibuses, the extension of the railways for passenger trains to completely traverse the city, trams (first horse-drawn, then electrified by the turn of the century) and tube railways.
The first underground railroad was opened in London in 1884. It was the very first of its kind and a model for other metropolitan areas in the ensuring decades. Appendix B contains a map of London’s current underground system with its extensive labyrinth of passageways. The growth of the commuting labor force living in the suburbs prompted the construction of new trunk roads and the expansion of the underground system to accommodate them in the years prior to World War II.
Subsequent bombings of the city during the war in the 1940’s would escalate redevelopment of its ancient roadways. World War II In the midst of the second World War in September, 1940, Germany instituted the Blitz, a sustained six-month bombardment of London which killed 20,000 residents. After the bombing ended in May, 1941, London became a “major centre of wartime production” before Hitler renewed his assault on the city in summer of 1944 resulting in 29,890 Londoners killed and 50,507 injured.
Underground rail stations were even used as shelters and the tunnels pressed into use for weapons storage. While the negative effects of these bombings included reduction of the population and significant damage caused throughout parts of the city, the end of the war became the impetus for England to start replanning the layout of London and surrounding towns, roadways and public transport and urge relocation from overpopulated areas to the suburbs (see Appendix C for a map of areas affected by bombing).
Without a federal transport authority to draw up plans for redevelopment of roadways, much of the work was undertaken by landowners and commercial developers whose interests it would best serve. Construction of an airport began in 1946. In 1947, the legislature passed the Town and Country Planning Act to redevelop the slums of the East End, which had long been largely ignored since the majority of wealthy citizens resided in the West End. Narrow and impassable roads in the area were replaced for a nearly complete revitalization.
After years of austerity in the war, it was with great acclaim that Britain crowned their new queen, Elizabeth II, in 1952. Her coronation ceremony, complete with a drive through London in the ancient Gold State Coach, prompted a renewed interest in horse and carriages. The British Driving Society was formed soon thereafter to honor the ancient sport of driving various horse-drawn vehicles . Royalty used the Long Walk at Windsor to display their horsemanship skills while the general public was confined to the pathways of parks in the West End.
While Queen Elizabeth began her reign, the last of the famous London trams was officially retired. The decade of the 50’s was one rife with innovation, however. 1953 saw the opening of the newly completed Heathrow Airport in London. The first commercial air service between London and Moscow was launched in 1957 and the city received its first parking meters in 1958. The initial section of the London-Birmingham Motorway opened in 1959, closing out the decade with a loud roar.
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