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Letters: Government funded Thames Hub could be an improvement

Government funded Thames Hub could be an improvement

Much as we engineers can applaud the big impetus to new infrastructure that is now underway, Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute was right to point out at the Institute of Directors discussion that with projects like the Thames Airport, raising £50bn would be very hard to achieve (NCE 1 December).

Suggested plans for that project include a totally integrated transport system consisting of a large international airport and two high speed rail links constructed over built up areas and running significant distances to other large transport links to serve the rest of the UK.

This arrangement means that phasing is very difficult and a very high percentage of the total capital cost has to be spent before any income stream is available.

The programme to completion would also be high risk.

In developments like Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which was much smaller than the proposed Thames Hub, capital spend occurred over a 20 year period before there was any operational income. That is a very significant risk and cost element which would be a barrier to the private sector.

This suggests that only government finance would allow this project to proceed.

  • Mike King (F), dmgking@talktalk.net

I agree with your recent articles that the Halcrow/Foster proposal for a new airport in the Thames estuary is brilliant and for once shows “joined up” thinking.

Richard Stubbs is right in saying that we do not need any aviation expansion. The case has been proven against expansion, especially in London, which is already served by six airports (NCE 17 November).

This proposal should be to replace the overburdened and wrongly placed Heathrow and City airports.

Our politicians should stand firm on that. Heathrow has two runways, City has one, this proposal has four. Life is hell for people affected by Heathrow and City.

This proposal will allow aeroplanes to land and take off without affecting the thousands who presently live under flight paths.

It will also allow for expansion, if it is ever needed, without upsetting Londoners and blighting their properties, (whilst planning permission and arguments take place). Stansted, Luton and Southend airports will continue serving London.

Everything argues for the estuary airport to replace Heathrow and City, as it would be better situated from the City/business aspect and the citizens’ well being.

It should never be an addition.

  • C Barnston, 6A Fairlawns, East Twickenham, Middx TW1 2JY

 

Our global heritage

I was surprised to read in your editorial the sentence “It is also fortunate that UK civil engineering businesses are now operating on the global stage” (NCE last week). Civil engineers from these islands have always worked globally, at least from the early Victorian era.

My own great grandfather went out to India in 1856 and worked there as an irrigation engineer for 30 years followed by 10 years in Egypt. I have worked on water projects in Asia and the Middle East for 20 years, starting in Iraq in 1968 also on irrigation. My son is currently in Sudan doing similar work.

You are right to encourage young graduates to take advantage of the excellent job opportunities overseas but don’t give the impression that this is some new trend.

  • Brian Bromwich (F), brianbromwich@googlemail.com


Height of danger

Your picture on p23 of NCE 1 December, without editorial comment as to the pictured worker’s chances of falling, sits very uneasily with your excellent article on health and safety on p29.

Without any sort of safety line, this poor chap only has to slip once and he’s dead. At that height his good luck bracelet would fail him.

  • Michael Rowan (M), London, michaeljrowan@hotmail.com

Youth opportunities

How about providing employment for all those youngsters not in education, employment or training on labour intensive projects, modelled on the way such work is often undertaken in Third World countries.

Road schemes might be a good place to start - a bypass for example that has been postponed due to government cutbacks. A few experienced construction hands, retired or unemployed themselves, would be required to set the job out and keep it on track, but the dig itself -and stoning up - would be by boys and girls with shovels and wheelbarrows.

There would be some expenses of course, though the youth workers themselves would receive employment experience and whatever benefits they are already receiving.

If they refused to work, then these benefits would be withheld. On the other hand those who really found their feet and got stuck in might find it easier to get a job elsewhere in the industry.

Either way it would be a start in establishing the principles that no one gets anything for nothing and that to eat you must work, not watch daytime television.

  • Dave Knowles (M), Curtins Construction, Columbus Quay, Liverpool L3 4DB

Sustainable transport spending first

While I entirely believe money for infrastructure is required, my view may differ from the ICE’s.

The Institution seems quite unclear about what infrastructure they’d like to see money “thrown at”.

There’s utility infrastructure, and we must ensure these systems are fit for purpose, for a long time to come.

No great disagreement there probably and there are big, mouth-watering infrastructure projects to look forward to.

Then there is transport infrastructure.

And this is what we must get right and where adopting an entirely new approach is vital.

The UK’s current “vision” is cross-eyed.

In future, roads in the age of diminishing oil will have to be funded directly at source, by the user, possibly distinguishing between freight and leisure travel, and charging accordingly.

There’s huge uncertainty about electric cars, their real benefits, and never mind the question of energy supply and resources required.

So I’d like public money sensibly to go to the more sustainable, equitable and inclusive transport modes.

Train, tram and cycling tracks must be invested in, in the way other countries have done for decades.

As usual our oil-driven planning and thinking does not make for a fit-for-future approach or enlightened vision for a country that used to be great.

Were the right transport investment decisions made, we could be great again.

  • Katja Leyendecker, leyendecker.katja@gmail.com

Muddling through

In the days when Labour leader Ed Miliband was energy secretary, the plan was to have a full scale Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) demonstrator working by 2014.

Here we are almost in 2012 after four years of fruitless and no doubt very expensive procrastination by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) with negative progress; a fiasco.

An abandoned process to be replaced by what? Something similar, except this time there is no money available, at least not for the next four years at least.

I cannot see many potential CCS providers falling over themselves with enthusiasm and rushing to the table.

This debacle sums up the incompetence and woolly minded thinking, if it can be called that, in Decc.

Current energy secretary Chris Huhne said recently that we could meet our electrical energy requirements and carbon reduction obligations without nuclear power, solely by the use of wind, gas and CCS, some hope.

Is it not time that the Institution, preferably in conjunction with the other professional institutions, really told the government the facts - that the present policy, if that is what it is supposed to be, is a recipe for disaster and that all that we are currently achieving is the likelihood of serious power shortages in the next four to five years and such power as we do have being outrageously expensive?

  • Derek Limbert (F), Knotty Green, Beaconsfield, HP9 2BB

Cash for better roads network is a drop in the ocean

I was dismayed, as I am sure many in industry are also, to read that Alan Cook says, in his review of the Highways Agency, “the road network is largely built” (NCE 1 December).

The key word is “network” which means that where a major problem arises, as it invariably does somewhere everyday, there are alternative strategic routes to allow industry and travellers to divert to without too much economic cost. The UK’s road network fails dramatically on this account.

Where is the Manchester to Sheffield dual carriageway, the Birmingham western bypass and what about the black hole that is the southern half of London, never mind a fair number of other routes which require the completion of dualling. Give me half an hour and I’ll list the next dozen projects and I won’t charge the Highways Agency a consultants fee.

Please don’t tell us UK plc cannot afford a decent road network. If we can find £200bn for Quantitative Easing why can we not use the small change to give us a decent infrastructure so that we can compete effectively with other countries?

  • John Franklin (F), 11 The Ridings,East Horsley, Surrey, KT24 5BN

Letters to the editor

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.

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