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Come on ICE, take the lead on the rail issue

Letters

In many years of association with the Institution, I can never remember having found its response to events so inadequate as at the present time.

We are currently reaping the whirlwind for the crass scheme of railway privatisation - patently crass at the time to other than politicians, whether in Westminster of Brussels. At another time, with the current bungling and panic reaction, the ICE would be providing a lead in public or to Government, setting out the essential features to reform the management of so vital a system.

Instead there is silence from the President and an anodyne letter from the Secretary (NCE last week), pleading for more funding, only notable for its inconsequence.

As an ex-railwayman myself, it may seem all the more obvious that, as with management of construction projects, the operation of a railway demands attention to the system with engineering and management melded into a single purposeful function.

Of course, the present dismal physical state was to some extent inevitable following the years of deliberate starvation of investment - revealing in itself an extraordinary ignorance of basic economics. It will be remembered that both main political parties share responsibility for the debacle of privatisation, one for ineptitude, the other for unreal threats of renationalisation which contributed to the meagre sale price and subsequent fortunes made by selling on.

The voice of the Institution at this time could surely be better applied in such constructive ways rather than in introducing utter confusion between Chartered and Incorporated engineers.

Sir Alan Muir Wood, Past President, Franklands, Bere Court Road, Pangbourne, Berks RG8 8JY

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