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Finally people are starting to listen to us: start shouting

We should not overlook the significance of ICE Council being addressed this week by the government’s chief scientific advisor John Beddington.

He is after all the first chief scientific advisor to take the trouble to address a full Council meeting in living memory.

And given that his brief covers a huge spectrum of issues relating to the full gambit of science and technology-related policy, we should take this appearance as recognition that the Institution’s view matters politically. Not least because Beddington’s address comes in a week in which the prime minister added his personal weight behind the official launch of the Crossrail project.

OK, for Gordon Brown right now, a trip to east London to dig a hole and talk about the future success of this £15.9bn public project is probably welcome relief from life in Westminster.

Compared to the holes he and his elected colleagues have been digging for themselves, the Crossrail launch must have been a huge pleasure for him.

From the prime minister down through the Cabinet, all the way to the chief scientific advisor, there is now a clear realisation that civil engineers are actually worth talking to.

From the prime minister down through the Cabinet, all the way to the chief scientific advisor, there is now a clear realisation that civil engineers are actually worth talking to.

There is a growing understanding that with our tangible, practical and deliverable ideas about critical issues such as energy supply, transport planning, water management, carbon reduction and asset management, we could actually hold the key to hoisting the nation from the current mire.

As Brown pointed out last week: “Investment into important projects like Crossrail is vital… so that we can grow our way out of recession and ensure a strong future for London and the country as a whole.”

Which is a good start. We have a very long way to go before this aspiration can be fully delivered. Market confidence remains low and serious and continuous government support for major public infrastructure projects is still needed.

The good news is that, according to contractors, there are signs that civil engineering is bearing up well with a slowdown in the downward trend reported and much optimism for the coming 12 months.

And the long awaited financial closure this week for the £5.5bn M25 upgrade project − which follows hot on the heels of Greater Manchester’s waste deal − must surely be a sign that the financial markets now also believe the government is committed to supporting important infrastructure.

There are more projects in the pipeline and we must keep championing this cause and reminding politicians what we do. For the ICE to have Beddington as an ally and a champion can only be considered as good news for every civil engineer.

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