A very small minority, of mostly business people, travel within Britain by air. International air travel, however, is very important economically to Britain. One of the biggest airlines in the world is ‘British Airways’. 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 accommodate the new monsters of the sky?
One of them is sure to be Heathrow.
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 n011h-westem 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 are 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 inland water transport. 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 wasvital 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.