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Letters: Finding room for manoeuvre as the UK keeps expanding


Congestion: Smarter thinking is needed to tackle it

The M25 is full again. Traditionally we built our way out of road congestion with widening, bypasses and bypasses to bypasses. Now, on a small island, in many places, there is no room or desire, or money, for more roads.

Our infrastructure gets filled up because there is a relentless growth in demand to use it. Can we think differently about infrastructure in the 21st century? When something is full, could we react to this reality and consider ways of reducing the inputs?

It’s not just roads that are full. Heathrow is full and rail is overloaded in places.

Why not maintain gains in road capacity, airport capacity, rail capacity, water security and energy generation?

In my view, today’s civil engineers, as professionals and educated members of society, could work with government to adjust and rebalance demand within the entire built environment.

But how?

This is the hard part. We might design a system of benefits and pricing. We might consider limiting our numbers and our journeys. We might move closer to our work places. We might make more use of improved public transport. Trials are needed. If we don’t take a new approach, I suspect full roads, airports and railways will be featured in NCE from now to eternity.

  • Norman Pasley (M),

Mark Hansford’s Comment on the M25 congestion (NCE 4 September) brought back memories of the Greater London Development Plan inquiry.

As many will recall, the M25 took the place of the former D Ring. The inquiry effectively deleted the “Motorway Box” and the “C Ring”. The purpose of the D Ring/M25 was to connect the radial major motorways, and thereby remove the long distance trips from the London roads. The London boroughs, however, raised objections to it passing through their territory unless they could have accesses to it, and relieve the congestion on their roads. It was therefore expedient to meet their demands, and we can see the results with many relatively short journeys hopping on and off the motorway.

Once again, short-term thinking has resulted in long term problems.

  • Ernest Smith (M Retd),

Video makes me twist and shout

Full marks to ICE London for attempting to change the image of civil engineering, and it almost succeeds (News last week).

If only the embarrassing images of Sir John Armitt, the director general and the other oldies had been edited out, it would have been a real winner. We are trying to connect with those still at school (and their parents) and these images of what they could turn out like in later years could just put them off!

The ICE does needs to shrug off its dowdy image and get into the real world, and this video could just be the start.

  • Chris Hughes (M)


Banking power in embankments

The Dutch solar roads trials look interesting (NCE 18 September). Could you possibly investigate other research trials and report in your pages?

The Japanese were looking at heat stores within embankments under blacktop roads many years ago but I’ve heard nothing since.

High potential sites for PV panels are south and west facing road and particularly rail cuttings and embankments where mechanised night time installation and maintenance is possible. Obviously in the UK vandalism and theft is an on-going risk but the scope is vast.

  • David Gardner ,

Editor’s note: We would be very keen to report on other research trials - anyone involved in any, please get in touch.

Distant views on Thames sewer

In seeking to justify my sewerage charges increasing by £80 per annum in perpetuity to fund the resolution of the Combined Storm Overflows (CSOs) into the Thames in the capital, Mark Hansford opines that “higher bills may not be such a bad thing and Thames’s Water’s customers are paying directly for a service they use almost entirely without thought or question”.

I live in West Sussex within the South Downs National Park, but sadly just within Thames’s catchment. I make no contribution to the metropolitan pollution and consider it inequitable that all Thames customers should fund such a grossly idealistic scheme.

With regard to the “without thought or question”, in my case, in consequence of my background in engineering many sewerage schemes, ironically including within Thames’s catchment, each morning I visualise every metre of my wastewater’s progress down the network, through each stage of the treatment works, and into the Thames tributary, where ultimately it will arrive in the capital and assist in diluting the CSO spillages. Perhaps I should get a discount?

  • Robin Ellks, 


Safety is first for tidal lagoon

Nigel Craddock requests information regarding the mitigation of any risks to public health and safety at the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon (NCE 11 September).

He can be reassured that the health and safety of the public and of construction and operations teams have been integral to the design process from the earliest stages.

While our design intent is to construct an open and accessible facility, in the same vein as riverside parks or harbour areas, health and safety remains a priority for ongoing design development.

Our Design and Access Statement details some of the design decisions with regard to public safety. In accordance with normal practice for public access areas, railings and balustrades will be provided in areas with a vertical drop height greater than 1m, as at the turbine house.

With graded rock armour down to the seabed, they are not generally provided along the lagoon side of the breakwater, while a wall along the seaward side will protect visitors.

Our Operational Environmental Management Plan outlines public access procedure and observations from a January H&S risk workshop.

As with all such infrastructure, a public safety risk assessment will be undertaken during detailed design and a decision to consent the project would necessitate agreement with the local authorities over final strategies and mitigation measures relating to public safety prior to the start of construction.

  • Alex Herbert, Head of planning, Tidal Lagoon Power,


Backing holes into a corner

I would endorse Robert Holland’s observation about the lack of compaction at the corners of square-cut repairs to road surfaces. There will undoubtedly be an arching action against the sides as the aggregate infill is compacted by rolling.

On the other hand, sharp corners in structures subjected to dynamic loads such as ships or aircraft are known to be stress concentrators. In either way, the corners are likely to be a source of weakness under dynamic traffic loading.

Is there no equipment like a router that is capable of cutting a circular or elliptical hole in asphalt?

  • Peter Kinsey, (M Retd), Llys y coed, Parc Road, Llangybi, Monmouthshire NP15 1NL


Qatari workers deserve rights

When I worked as resident engineer in Qatar during 1981 to 1983, it was a little known part of the world. Following the controversy over Qatar winning the holding of the 2022World Cup, this small, but wealthy, country is now being scrutinised on many fronts.

British engineers in Qatar should play their part and not turn a blind eye when they become aware of workers’ conditions which should not be tolerated.

  • Peter Mason,


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