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Letters: Balance in the boardroom is still a long way off

Balance in the boardroom is still a long way off


Boardroom diversity: Aspiration lacks commitment

I see NCE is picking up the baton with Arup to explore the issues around balancing boardrooms, starting yet another initiative to look at the same old issues where a robust business case exists (NCE 15 September).

Many organisations proclaim to support gender diversity programmes, yet they fail to communicate these programmes internally, indicating a lack of real commitment.

Lord Davies reported very clearly back in February that organisations need to foster the leadership development of women in middle management to create a cultural change.

The lack of progress in the cultural changes required, means women are still struggling and are frequently challenged by confidence issues. These confidence issues arise from many reasons, usually stemming from the way women think differently and historical society and work environment expectations.

Until boards and management teams are more balanced, the culture will not change and confidence issues will fester.

Without real investment in the leadership development of its talented women, organisations will struggle to make a difference and reap the benefits of a balanced board.

I wait with baited breath to see the outcomes of this initiative, sincerely hoping it isn’t another one where the right things are being said, followed again by no effective action.

  • Dr Arpinder Kaur Bansi (M), Kaur Values Associates, Leadership Development, 27 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 2EW

Is this a sign?

Can anyone tell me why councils have problems reinstating road markings following resurfacing works, but seem to have a plentiful supply of ‘No road markings’ signs?

  • Ian Kitching(F),

Long lags with locals’ opinions

Seeing the article on the upgrades to the Chiltern Line (NCE 15 September) reminded me of a long standing question in my mind.

Why doesn’t HS2 take a parallel route through the Chilterns thus avoiding local objections and confining the disruption to an existing transport corridor?

Local residents and environmental bodies such as the Woodland Trust are objecting to the effects of the proposed route on pristine countryside and ancient woodland, particularly through the Chiltern Hills.

As a northerner I have no axe to grind except the hope to use the line when it finally reaches north of Birmingham, but having worked on HS1 in Kent I saw the strength of local opinion on the route finally chosen, and the delaying effect of local opinion.

  • Donald Holliday (M),

Look to old plans for HS2

I have been reading the exchange of views in NCE on the subject of HS2 over the past few weeks with interest and increasing frustration.

Attempting to build a brand-new transport corridor across England is bound to generate a great deal of heat and not much light.

Ten or so years ago, a perfectly sensible and much more affordable proposal was made to improve the capacity of the transport links between Europe and the north of England. This was the Central Railways proposal to build a railway from the Channel Tunnel terminal at Cheriton to Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.

It largely followed existing railway and motorway alignments through Kent and around London, then made use of a great part of the former Great Central Railway route between London and Leicester. It then followed the Midland Main Line to Sheffield and cut across to Manchester and Liverpool.

This railway would have been built for freight, thus freeing up capacity on both the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and the Midland Main Line for increased passenger traffic and for a fraction of the cost of the proposed HS2 and a fraction of the disruption.

It might also pave the way to improving the line speed on many parts of the WCML to 225km/h, which was, lest we forget, one of the key objectives of the ill-fated PUG2 for Virgin West Coast originally planned for completion in 2005.

For the avoidance of doubt, I would not be affected either way by any of these proposals, since I live in rural Lincolnshire.

  • Judi Rastall (M, Ret),

Containing Chernobyl

Within the recent article on Vinci (NCE 30 June) in the section on Chernobyl’s new safe containment structure much is made of their concern for safety against radiation.

This is a major shift in concept as the Vinci and Bouygues proposal in the 1993 international competition was for a reinforced concrete box built in-situ over the damaged reactor.

Conversely, the essence of the British submission was to minimise the risk by building an arch off-site and sliding it across the reactor.

What is puzzling is that the competition judges did not recognise this and placed France ahead of Britain. One wonders why given that the sliding arch is now the accepted solution.

  • D Haslewood, 21 Curzon Park South, Chester, CH4 8AA

A question of experience

I note the recent letter on the Edinburgh Trams debacle in NCE and I would like to add my comments to this saga. (NCE 15 September).

In early 1990 I was appointed as contracts adviser by the Scottish Office Roads Directorate (SORD), the equivalent of the present day Transport Scotland department.

Part of my duties was to advise SORD, in its role as the employer under construction contracts.

During the first term of my contract, I undertook an overview of SORD’s tendering processes for taking account of and systematically rationalising the tenderers’ appetite for offering “better value for money” ideas.

This resulted in my creating “The Alternative Tendering Initiative” (ATI) − a guide whereby tenderers could submit an “Alternative Tender” along with their conforming bid for the scheme as already designed.

ATI was a great success when launched. I subsequently delivered a paper on it to an audience of engineers and contractors in Glasgow in February 1994.

It is still in use and many huge projects have been undertaken using its principles including recently completed motorway schemes such as the M74 completion contract.

I contacted TIE some time ago to offer my offer of help at no cost.

I sent them a copy of the ATI documents which they found of sufficient interest to make a photocopy and return the original so they were aware of my background of knowledge of the design and construction processes, its contracts and disputes.

However, they declined my offer on the grounds of confidentiality.

As a result, rightly or wrongly, I am left with the impression that the project is not in good hands, and that personnel involved in decision-making on the employer’s side had not had sufficient length, breadth and depth of relevant and robust on-site construction, contractual and management experience to fully understand and deal with the issues successfully.

  • Ian McEwan (F), Granary Cottage, Vogrie Grange, Gorebridge, Midlothian EH23 4NT

Let’s keep our energy plans focused and UK-based


Energy: Demand is likely to peak across Europe at the same time, putting all unused capacity under pressure

Regarding your article “MPs claim European Super Grid would bring reliable energy and jobs” (NCE 22 September), where are the experienced professional engineer MP’s who can sit on these committees and feed in some real life inputs and value for money engineering?

Studies have already shown that winter periods of maximum power demand too often coincide with extended periods of no/low wind across the whole Western European Area, i.e. the area of the super-grid in Western Europe. That means everyone will want what unused capacity is available.

This identifies that each country needs to provide installed capacity of 100% available base load power generation systems to meet its own local maximum power demand.

Africa being part of a safe and secure power generation system for the UK is scary!

Overall the cost of this pipe dream will be astronomic. The UK’s contribution would be far better invested now on emergency research and development programmes to discover and develop alternative power generation systems providing electricity under our full control, much cheaper, 100% available, and far more local to areas of maximum power demand.

Then we’ll be back in the fore front of power generation with cheaper costs, more meaningful jobs and massive export capability.

  • Peter Wilson (M),


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