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Accept the risks

NCE received an avalanche of letters following its extensive coverage of the Heathrow Express trial last week. Here is a selection.

In the Heathrow Express trial, management of the project was criticised, and Sir Alan Muir Wood lays the blame, in part, on the New Engineering Contract.

Professional engineers will agree with Sir Alan that it is desirable for the works to be supervised by the designer - it is imperative when the design of the works depends on its behaviour during construction. I understand the client was so advised on HEX.

The trial also exposed the risks of empowering the constructor to supervise his own work and the limitations of an audit process to assure such self certification. Clients must accept the risks of the management systems they use, particularly if they are contrary to professional advice.

I am less certain that the exposed deficiencies in the management of the project can be laid at the door of NEC. True they may not have happened with a traditional form of contract but the benefits of a non adversarial, co-operative procurement system by which a difficult event was managed to a successful conclusion would have been lost.

The fact that it may not have occurred if the NEC flexibility was used to ensure the supervision of the works by a designer independent of the constructor should not prevent the future and continued use of the NEC for all engineering work including tunnelling.

Robin Wilson (F), Chairman of NEC Working Group, The Grove House, Little Bognor, Pulborough, W. Sussex, RH20 1JT

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