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Ken Livingstone endeared himself to his audience at the Institution of Highways & Transportation's (IHT) annual lunch with some candid reflections on congestion charge first-day nerves. 'We were standing there, looking out of the window down on to Tower Bridge, expecting gridlock, and there was not a single vehicle in sight and I was thinking, 'oh shit, we've overdone it'. It's the only thing I have ever done that worked better than I expected.'

Also on the congestion charge, Livingstone noted that the idea is not new - it has been around for over 50 years. 'It's remarkable it took so long to take forward. I believe it was a matter of evolution. We had to evolve a politician with a spine.'

Meanwhile, the post IHT event festivities were enlivened by an unwittingly generous Atkins whose after-lunch private bar was mistaken as the paying public kind by more than one or two contractors who came away gleefully with a generous amount of unexpectedly free refreshment.

For those of you less interested in the free bar and more attracted to the esoteric end of engineering, I note a forthcoming lecture at the West London Architectural Society/Royal Society of British Sculptors. One time Arup luminary and now TV star Chris Wise will be discussing 'responsiveness - is responsive natural design an engineer's wet dream?' He clearly has a portrait tucked away in the attic because the schpiel says: 'After centuries working in a field occupied by rational right angles and constipated circles Wise will try to explore the challenges involved as we feeble humans try to design things which respond naturally to the forces upon them.

Are our approximations awful or are our omnipotent computers orgiastic?' Yes is, I think, the answer. Anyone up for this should email Charles Dorin/Angela Kelly at mail@adparchitects. net

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