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Fleming breathes in the atmosphere in Switzerland

ICE PRESIDENT Professor George Fleming called on two groups of the Swiss Local Association during a recent visit to Switzerland .

This is the only Association to conduct business in four languages - English, French, Italian and German (Schwytzertutsch and High German). It also covers the Alpine region of France under an agreement with the French Local Association. The Association will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year when it will also host the European meeting.

There has been an upsurge in the number of British engineers - and consequently ICE members - in the area. CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) has a major programme for the upgrading of its particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider.

This work has been divided into three packages, each of which has a UK consultant involved in the design/supervision side and one contracting joint venture involves two British partners. In addition, several ICE members involved in other work are located in the Geneva area.

The association visited the site last month, following the President's attendance at the International Construction Institute where he delivered a lecture on skills development and capacity building internationally in construction.

At the LHC site offices of Brown & Root/ INTECSA in Geneva the President and Mrs Fleming were given a brief introduction to the Swiss Association by chairman Martin Smith and Keith Jones, the Geneva area representative.

'The group then moved on to a local restaurant where, over aperitifs, an animated and wide ranging discussion took place, ' reports Jones. 'Subjects included the ever-popular status of the civil engineer, although we work in countries where the engineer is perceived as having a much higher status (and is better paid) than in the UK.

'Other topics were the difficulties involved with becoming chartered while overseas, why the routes to membership keep changing, the IEng/MICE debate, relevance of the essay section of the Professional Review and methods by which we have and could increase public awareness of what civil engineering is really about.'

Next day the presidential party moved to Berne where the President attended a committee meeting of the local German-speaking Association. The party then went to the Lotschberg tunnel, part of Switzerland's massive AlpTransit rail project which involves driving a series of record-breaking tunnels through the Alps.

Balfour Beatty, hosting the very informal visit, is a partner in the MaTrans joint venture, which is carrying out £200M worth of tunnellinng work in two separate contracts. Other partners are Berne-based Marti, Walter Gruppe of Germany and Austria's Porr. After an explanation of the project at the Berne office, the party visited the portals at Steg and Raron, before leaving Switzerland for Paris.

Visits to the site are already scheduled as part of next year's European event. The 9.5m diameter Herrenknecht rock TBMs are due to start work on 21 September this year.

Plans for the 2001 meeting which will be held from 17-21 May, will be unveiled on the Swiss Branch web site.

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