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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 05:03 GMT
Huge crowds in London see in 2008
Fireworks by the London Eye
The firework display lit up the sky for 11 minutes
Revellers have been celebrating the arrival of 2008 with New year festivities across England.

The largest celebrations saw an estimated 700,000 people take to the streets in the centre of London.

Many were gathered on the banks of the Thames to see the firework display at the London Eye and to hear Big Ben chime at midnight.

Elsewhere there were more fireworks in Birmingham, a free concert in Liverpool and a New Year's Gala in Bristol.

The firework display in London lasted 11 minutes and as it ended, the crowds, who had braved the drizzle to watch, cheered and sang Auld Lang Syne.

Thousands of people also gathered in nearby Trafalgar Square, where a shaft of light was beamed on to Nelson's Column.

'Very beautiful'

Londoner James O'Shea, 32, said: "It's amazing to be in one of the world's most vibrant cities on a night like this, when the whole of London is out having fun."

Keira Lai, 26, from Malaysia, said she had come to London for the first time, attracted by its famous landmarks.

"Big Ben, the London Eye, the River Thames - it's very beautiful here at night-time," she said.

"This is my first time in London and I hope it will be the best year I've ever had."

Crowds watch the fireworks by the River Thames
Crowds gathered alongside the Thames to enjoy the fireworks

To cope with the crowds gathering in the city, the Metropolitan Police had 3,600 officers on duty.

Supt Andy Tarrant said: "The crowds have doubled in the last three years, but this year the number of police officers is commensurate with that.

"We have been planning for this event for almost 12 months."

Officers had to prevent some revellers from entering Trafalgar Square from the Strand, in an attempt to avoid overcrowding.

As of 0400 GMT, police said there had been more than 50 arrests in London, the majority for public order offences or for being drunk and disorderly, but some for violent offences.

Supt Tarrant said: "The atmosphere of the event meant that in the main the crowds were good humoured and there were no major issues reported to police."

A further 22 arrests were made by British Transport Police.

Roads in central London had begun to close to traffic from about 1800 GMT to deal with the influx of visitors.

Busy stations

The Tube and Docklands Light Railway ran all night, in addition to London's normal 24-hour bus service. All public transport in the city was free from 1145 to 0430 GMT to help people find their way home.

But Supt Tarrant warned that people who did not plan their journeys in advance could encounter problems.

He said: "People who usually get a bus or taxi from a certain street may well find the street is shut.

"Some of the major train stations are busy up to 2am.

"We advise that people plan their evening as they would for a big concert or a football match."

Bristol's New Year's Eve Gala at Colston Hall, featured a performance from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, while the free event at the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool saw the Love and Joy Gospel Choir sing.

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