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Letters: ICE must reflect its members’ views on high speed rail

ICE must reflect its members’ views on high speed rail

I am writing in complete agreement with Stephen Tanno’s recent letter (NCE 25 August).

I, too, attended one of the ICE workshops and confirm that the notes produced afterwards were a travesty, bearing no relation to the significantly negative points made at the event.

I also note that the panel only included railway interests. No surprise at their conclusions then!

The whole exercise brings the ICE into disrepute and only confirms my jaundiced view that the politicians have already made up their minds on the basis that this country needs a high speed link only because others have one. Never mind the facts that the business case is totally flawed, the exorbitant cost and that the countryside will be blighted.

I can only hope that the ICE’s views are in a minority. In the meantime my objections will continue as long as possible and I remain disappointed and disillusioned with an Institution of which I have been a Member of for 35 years.

  • Mike Knight, cknight10@talktalk.net

How right Stephen Tanno was in his excellent letter to point out the “shameful response” by the ICE as part of the High Speed 2 (HS2) consultation procedure (NCE 25 August).

I also attended the meeting held in High Wycombe and consider that without doubt the views of those attending were not adequately included in the ICE response.

Of course the ICE is right in promoting appropriate projects that will benefit this nation and lead to civil engineers being employed.

Surely, however, our Institution has the responsibility to offer carefully considered views when it comes to a project such as HS2 where the business case has been shown to be highly suspect, where the true costs have been deliberately kept at 2009 levels to avoid having to face the reality of a final cost of £70bn.

Over the years I have been very disappointed about the ways in which the ICE has tended to be single minded in certain issues. The impressions gained are that the ICE is anti-nuclear power yet pro-wind energy. In both these examples the ICE has not presented balanced arguments.

We are a respected and professional institution, and as such we have a duty to our members and the wider public when presenting our views.

  • Derek Godfrey (F), Clover Cottage, Hughenden Valley Bucks. HP14 4LX

Partial argument

Anita McEleney explains the lack of evident impact of aid money to Africa on the basis of 2002 figures, saying not enough was given to result in visible benefit (NCE 25 August).

Quoting a single year’s numbers from nine years ago, rather than an average over, say a decade, arouses the sceptic in me, but more interestingly she quotes how the £18 per sub-Saharan African was used.

Splitting off expenditure on consultants, food aid, other emergency aid, debt service and debt relief leaves only £7.28 per person going to Africa, she says. Talk about biased presentation − you’d be forgiven for thinking that food aid isn’t a legitimate use of aid money.

The problems in Africa are corruption and excessive population growth. By “excessive”, I mean more than the country can feed and create jobs for.

I have no criticism (in fact, only sympathy) of individual families, but if you do not have a well-paid and secure job and have only a patch of drought prone land, having lots of babies is going to result in a need for aid from somewhere. To be just a tad politically incorrect, the more lives we save, the bigger the problem.

It’s no wonder that £18 per person is not enough (though I don’t think it is small). But without good government and somehow getting higher economic growth than population growth, I think the objective of a self-sufficient Africa is unattainable regardless of how much aid is provided.

  • Paul Barnard, International Power, Operations and Engineering − Low Carbon Group, Swindonpaul.barnard@iprplc-gdfsuez.com

The North must rise again

Antony Oliver discusses a replacement for Heathrow Airport in his comment column (NCE 11-18 August).

In the same issue NCE previews a Halcrow/Foster plan to construct such an airport in the Thames Estuary.

A Heathrow replacement to rival nearby European airports should make maximum national economic impact, rather than just serve London.

A clear contender for this would be South Yorkshire, between Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. These cities, with Liverpool, Nottingham, Hull, and numerous smaller towns, have the potential to be the UK equivalent of Holland’s Randstad. They would be assisted by cohesive cross-regional planning at this highest level rather than distinct local regions. With upgraded existing rail links, this new airport would serve a huge population and be accessible to London if a high speed line was built beside the M1.

Years ago an economic map of Europe showed a triangle defined by London, Berlin and Milan as Europe’s prosperous heartland. That the currency weak spots in Euroland fall outside this triangle suggests this simple rule still applies.

Forming the North West, Yorkshire and North Midlands into an economic hub, could move the north west point of this triangle to Lancashire.

This could significantly increase UK GDP, helping to ease our debt situation. Such a huge growth area would also take pressure off the overheated South East!

  • George Green (M), project manager, Bam Construction, 29 Grosvenor Road, London N10 2DR

Function before form please

I was dismayed to read, yet again, correspondence proposing the construction of bridges considered to be of “style and elegance” (NCE 25 August).

Your correspondent unfortunately omits to mention the important additional costs involved.

In 2008 we were advised of an “iconic” Wear Bridge to be built in Sunderland which required the expenditure of an additional £29M over a basic beam design.

I wrote and complained at the time (NCE 4 December 2008).

Yes, the Térénez Bridge in France is attractive but the simple suspension bridge adjacent to it is functional, it gets people across the river safely and would have shown a considerable cost saving.

The UK cannot afford to spend large sums of money putting bells and whistles on functional structures.

The temptation to do so is symptomatic of the mindset that has created the huge financial black hole we find ourselves having to fill.

  • DL Geeson (M), 9 Sherwood, Herne Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 5BU

Reuse is best

Many will admire the plant used on the Woolwich demolition job (NCE 25 August).

But was removing the substantial structure described the best economic and environmental decision? Was reusing the existing foundations considered?

  • SP Bowers (M), sands@bowershouse.me.uk

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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