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Letters: How cheap is Chinese steel?

What a heartfelt plea from BCSA president Ivor Roberts about the need for the government to do something about unfair competition in the steel fabrication contract for the Forth Replacement Crossing (NCE 7 March).

Which government are we talking about? The Scottish government on its website boasts of the fact that the contract was awarded at a price considerably below the original estimate. The successful contractor does not include any of the major British companies, despite the fact that we have successfully constructed many large bridges over the years.

Forth

Price query: New Forth bridge will use Chinese steel

There are two questions that need to be considered. Firstly, how can a Chinese steel fabricator import steel from China, many thousands of miles away, at a lower price than steel can be purchased from producers in this country?

And secondly, how rigorous was the tender evaluation process? Were basic questions asked such as: “How many local people will be employed in the steel fabrication for the project?”

The Scottish government may boast of the tender cost being below the original estimate. One perhaps needs to question the original estimate?

Considering the loss of British jobs and expertise it is highly doubtful if the right decision was taken to award the contract to a consortium with limited British involvement knowing that steel would be imported from China and fabricated by Chinese labour.

  • Derek Godfrey, Hughenden Valley, Bucks HP144LX

Treading on people’s toes

“Most of us live in cities and most journeys are short,” says Peter Treadgold in his letter (NCE 28 February). He is expressing a narrow-minded and idealistic view.

In my career, which began almost 40 years ago, I have only once lived and worked in a city. I have worked for a variety of consulting engineers in various locations and almost all of my colleagues over the years have not had short journeys to their place of work and certainly not journeys feasible on foot or by cycling. That has also been the case for me.

To say that “a smart traveller can make choices based on time, comfort, environment, and the opportunities for fun, work and social engagement on the journey” is simply not realistic for the majority.

I am a supporter of public transport and at present I am using it to travel to my office. I can assure Peter Treadgold that it is not fun, comfortable or timely.

As for social engagement, I rarely see anyone who isn’t texting continually, listening to their music player or using a tablet to play games. The environment is one of overcrowded trains and trams generally with someone’s rucksack stuck in my face.

The return journey costs over £15 per day, far more than the cost of fuel for the journey, which is over 32km on country lanes, major roads and motorways.

In the community where I live my journey is unique and car sharing is not an option even if I did travel to the office every day. I certainly do not “celebrate the car” but it does offer flexibility and comfort.

For Peter Treadgold’s utopian view to be realised we need to invest in an integrated, flexible and affordable public transport system which will never happen for those of us who do not live in the South East.

John Thomas (M), john.thomas@dwllp.com

Hot under the collar over grit

I have no problems with Myles Huthwaite’s letter on drainage maintenance (NCE 7 March), but cannot accept that “grit is only used when the temperatures fall to about -9oC”.

If this was the case, there would have been no gritting in this area this winter. My son grits footpaths in this village and is called out when there are wet roads and freezing temperatures or snow forecast, but long before -9oC.

  • Berry Kenny, 8 Fardell’s Lane, Elsworth, Cambridge CB3 8JE

Using project management

Recent letters on project management in NCE are welcomed but will not discourage the abuse of a process that if used to its full advantage could be a way for a nation and its communities to save effort, materials and financial investment.

For large and medium size projects, at least, the approach should be to establish specific teams in one location with the project management process inculcated as the way to achieve successful outcomes.

As an example, I was called upon to lead a Canadian international project management team to design, procure and implement a major energy project. We rented accommodation in Montreal and all the resources needed were seconded to the team to create this planned new infrastructure.

Human resources, from all conceivable professions, were assigned by the many parent organisations involved to contribute the needed skills using a project management manual of procedures.

Our approach, not many years ago, could be seen as a simile of the highly respected Victorian project environment of integration where the designer was also the “constructor”.

Today, more attention needs to be given by the implementing agencies/clients to strategising projects. Also project management should be given significantly greater visibility and significance in education and training. It should be a mainstream learning module for those creating something that currently does not exist.

  • Professor Albert Hamilton (F), bert.hamilton@btinternet.com

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • The British Constructional Steelwork Association is calling for recognition of the benefits of procuring UK firms for infrastructure delivery. To find out more - and to pledge your support - please visit www.rebuildingbritain.com.

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