The main point:
All other species live in fear of humans. We are the energetic, intelligent, creative, but not too wise, types at the top of the food chain. Our numbers are growing rapidly. Our activities continue to destroy the natural world. We are the driving force for our own ultimate destruction.
Politicians and engineers debate the need for faster trains, more motorways, and more runways. Perhaps these are yesterday’s issues. Today’s issue is to engineer a lasting future.
That means adapting our thinking and going in new, less flashy and fashionable directions. For example, why invest huge sums for construction and maintenance of high speed railways, for strictly limited journey time savings? In this case, changes to business, and where we live, would provide greater time savings.
To have a future, we need to change our engineering game. Along with respecting our planet and limiting our numbers, we need to balance what we want with what we can have and be very satisfied with a job well done. It is time for us to change, and leave the climate as it is.
- Norman Pasley (M), normanh3usw @talktalk.net
It’s good to see the voices of reason represented in NCE’s letters pages. Paulo Sacramento’s “Is it time to slow down?” is a good example of this (NCE 12 November).
It is an indisputable fact that the economic model that drives development in the West is based on a continuous supply of cheap energy which is no longer available, and cheap labour which is morally indefensible. The whole concept of “growth” must be replaced with an alternative, which might appropriately be termed “survive”.
A fundamental part of this has to be a sustainable global population. Paulo dares to mention birth control as part of the solution, and he is absolutely right − no one can seriously believe that a population careering towards ten billion is “sustainable”.
Yet population management continues to be ignored by those who have the greatest chance of promoting it − namely religious and political leaders. They will have to wake up to reality sooner or later.
I don’t suppose that anyone was actually engaged in rearranging deck chairs as the Titanic sank, but it seems to me that this futile activity epitomises our continued blind faith in global economic growth as a means of survival. I believe that it is time for a complete change of direction so that we have at least a small chance of avoiding the looming iceberg of population overload.
- Charlie Rickard (F), independent consulting engineer, 4 Millards Lane, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9ES
What do the neighbours say about Dublin’s new stadium?
In your article on the Aviva Stadium, Dublin (NCE 8 October) you highlight a statement made by the project director, who says: “We are pretty much surrounded by residential development, but we have a stadium which perfectly fits the site”.
The photo alongside shows what could be described as a giant flying saucer about to destroy Dublin. The front cover of NCE shows a building at least five times higher than the adjacent houses.
Perhaps the reporter ought to have had a word with the residents to find out their thoughts − it would have brought balance to the article.
- Malcolm Dawes (M), 52 Rugby Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 6EB
Slabtrack can help rail efficiency
With reference to Richard Brown’s letter (NCE 5 November), we have never said that slabtrack is a universal solution. We, however, do advocate its use, where appropriate, as an excellent way of reducing maintenance requirements and so minimising rail network disruption.
Countries that have invested in and widely adopted the slabtrack solution soon reap the benefits. Indeed, Japan has been using slabtrack for over 40 years and its railways, rather than dying from being entombed in concrete as Brown suggests, are envied for their performance, low maintenance needs, safety, comfort and punctuality.
We agree that flexibility is required to enable the network to adapt to meet new needs, however, the reality is that track layouts are changed infrequently and the use of modern machinery enables any required changes to be carried out rapidly with minimum disruption.
Concrete slabtrack offers a wide range of proven benefits, and while not being a universal solution, it is one that should be more used in the UK than is currently the case.
- Alan Bromage (F), The Concrete Centre, Riverside House, 4 Meadows Business Park, Station Approach, Camberley, Surrey, GU17 9AB
Detrimental or adverse?
Your article on the Wing project (NCE last week) asserted that the Habitats Directive required Anglian Water to “prove there would be no detriment to the existing habitat”. This might mislead some readers.
Under the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994 (which transposed the European Habitats Directive into UK law), planning permission has to be refused unless the proposed development will not adversely affect the integrity of a European site.
However, the courts have determined that it is appropriate to understand “adversely” as requiring something which has a significant effect on a European site’s integrity; minor adverse effects do not therefore prevent a development from proceeding (ADT Auctions v Secretary of State and others ).
Moreover, and just as importantly, the assessment on site integrity must be strictly limited to the conservation objectives for the site.
These objectives should be written by Natural England, although there are sites where this important work has not been completed, despite the fact that the regulations were introduced 15 years ago.
- Richard Cram (M), Rcramjp@aol.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t rip it up and start again
Paul Withrington (NCE 5 November) suggests taking up our railway lines and converting them into roads (at the taxpayers’ expense?). Given the width of a twin-track railway these would presumably be single carriageway roads.
Considering a single direction (although clearly tidal flow is an option) a single track railway running with 3 minute headways and trains of 1500 passengers carries 500 people per minute. Assuming two passengers per car then a similar capacity would be met with 250 vehicles per minute, or 4 per second.
If vehicles were 4m long and travelling at 60 km/h then the required capacity could only be achieved by coupling them together.
- Professor David M Johnson (F), Cumhill House, Pilton, Somerset, BA4 4BG
Censorship won’t win the debate
Censorship is generally a bad thing, so I don’t entirely agree with Dr Richard Barnes (NCE last week) that man-made global warming deniers should be silenced.
However, global warming and climate change are a real problem, bringing misery to millions in Africa and elsewhere now, and are a time-bomb for our children.
So we should stop saying: “It wasn’t me that did it” or saying: “yes you did” and instead ask “what can we do about it?”
- Richard Bowers, (M), email@example.com
CO2 can pump out subsea oil
I have noticed that in describing carbon capture and storage (CCS), nobody mentions that the injection of liquid CO2 into oil reservoirs permits the recovery of much of the oil left behind by normal water flood.
Using existing pipelines, most being designed to operate at 95 bar or above, and existing platforms would enable the UK to regain its energy independence, while reducing the cost of CCS to a level where it will be widely used.
- Ross Carruthers (F), Balcassie, Kirkton of Mailer Road, Craigend, Perth PH2 0SS
Rail is not outdated
Paul Withrington (NCE 5 November) asserts that rail is a 19th century technology long past its sell by date. It’s strange that so many other countries seem to have reached the opposite conclusion.
He advocates converting commuter railways into unguided busways.
This is claimed to reduce fuel consumption, although Department for Transport figures show trains having less than half the carbon emissions of buses.
Costs are claimed to be a fraction the cost of the train. How this could be is unclear since the huge fleet of buses and drivers needed to give London surface rail commuters a seat would have the same problems of underuse during the day as any commuter railway. Let’s see how the Cambridge busway fares before getting too radical!
- Jim Walker (M), 48 Laycock Lane, Keighley, BD22 0PN
Your views & opinion
NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.
The Editor, NCE,
1st Floor, Greater
London NW1 7EJ