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Letters: Insurance payouts save councils money

In the midst of all of the talk about the wrong kind of rain, with the implication that it is the cause of flooding, there is the thought that if more attention was paid to maintaining drains, gullies, grips, and ditches, the incidence of flooding would be considerably reduced, no matter what sort of rain fell, convective or not.


Drainage systems: Why do councils wait until after the floods to clear culverts and ditches?

Drainage systems are designed for 1 in 100 year events, and the frequency of gullies and the diameter of pipes is based on this. However, their performance is dependent on the pipes being clear and the gullies emptied of detritus to allow the water to reach the pipes. By observation, it is quite clear that gullies and ditches are in general not maintained, hence the frequent flooding of roads we experience.

Farmers can take some of the blame. I’ve seen a recently-cleared ditch filled with cuttings from the hedgerow, rendering it useless once more, so whatever efforts have been made by the council have been fruitless.

What I’ve also observed is that once floods have subsided, councils rush out and clean ditches and gullies, but by the time the next flood comes along the drainage system is full of leaves and grit from winter spreading, so they’re clogged again, and the flooding is repeated.

From time immemorial the leaves have fallen in autumn, and for as long as grit has been spread in winter gully-pots have clogged up.

It’s surely not beyond the wit of man to clean the gullies once the last leaf has fallen in November, and to do it again in spring once the gritting has finished.

There is the cynical thought that maintenance costs councils money, whereas flood damage is paid for by insurance, but I’m sure that can’t be the case.

  • Alan Morley, 19, Highland Road, Lillington, Leamington Spa, CV32 7EG


Snail’s pace development

I was extremely interested to read about Crossrail 2. The first plans for a full size subsurface railway line between Paddington and Liverpool Street were proposed in the early 20th Century. There was a bill to allow the construction of Crossrail in, I believe the 1970s. This bill failed during its parliamentary stage. It has therefore taken Crossrail almost 100 years between its inception and actual start of construction.

As a highway engineer in the 1990s I remember working on a bill to safeguard the route of a new sub surface railway line between Victoria and Hackney through the Angel.

So far it has taken 20 years for Crossrail 2 to see a new dawn. However the plans shown in NCE show that the scheme already has a failing. It does not release capacity at either Waterloo or Victoria stations.

Why not use Clapham Junction as the interchange between the two southern arms of Crossrail 2 and the trains from the inner London suburban network.

This would relieve congestion at both terminals and allow more trains to run from the outer suburbs, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex.

Infrastructure in this country still seems to proceed at snail’s pace, compared with say, Switzerland, where they have built and opened one base railway tunnel (The Lötschberg) through the Alps and are midway through the construction and fitting out of a second base railway tunnel (The Gotthard). The whole started with a national referendum in 1992 which found in favour of building two low level railway tunnels.

  • Allan S Carter (M), 34 South Vale, Harrow, Middlesex HA13PH


How to build HS2 quicker

Having read the many pages in NCE and the national press regarding the proposed route and cost of High Speed 2 (HS2) and having listened to the arguments on both sides on the value of the scheme, it appears to me that the current plan is lacking in the foresight and boldness historically associated with the civil engineering profession.

Surely what is required for Britain’s future prosperity is a route which will quickly open up and develop new areas, using the opportunities that high speed rail may bring, not just feeding cities and regions which are already prosperous and overcrowded.

I would suggest that a route directly north through Cambridge, Peterborough, Lincoln, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edinburgh and Glasgow would be far more beneficial and affordable to the country as a whole.

Links to Leeds, Sheffield and Leicester could easily be added when funding allowed. The economic benefits to the towns and regions along this route would far outweigh the benefits to established cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.

The route would also be more easily engineered, adversely affect fewer communities and probably pose less environmental problems.

The route to Berwick-upon- Tweed could be built within the timescale of Phase 1 or even quicker and the Scottish government (of an independent Scotland or otherwise) could probably complete the line toGlasgow in the same timescale.

What is needed from the civil engineering profession is to make the case for the right infrastructure, projects that can not only fire the imagination but benefit real people and can be afforded and built quickly without huge opposition.

  • Bob Hopewell (M Ret)


Small step to Euston congestion relief


Euston: Congestion could be eased with simple Crossrail 2 links

I note the news item on Crossrail 2 but suggest a cheaper way to relieve pressure at Euston. It is one that will take some passengers away from the terminal altogether and provide alternative central London destinations.

A connection from Crossrail 1 at Old Oak Common to the Watford DC line at Wembley Central would achieve this result.

This short connection could be built almost entirely over railway land and would divert the Watford Junction-Euston service away from Euston and onto the Crossrail system, thus releasing the two dedicated DC platforms at Euston and three trains per hour each way on the Euston approaches.

Some Crossrail trains will be terminating at Paddington so these could be extended to Watford Junction and the line north of Wembley Central could be converted to 25kV or dual voltage trains used.

The Bakerloo Line would serve stations from Queens Park to Wembley Central where they would connect with Crossrail, and the Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead stations could be served by extending London Overground services from Camden Road to Queens Park.

In addition, the service from Tring to Euston could also be diverted onto Crossrail taking additional passengers away from Euston.

I do not suggest this as an alternative to Crossrail 2, for it has a far wider remit, but this connection is a cheaper alternative to relieving the pressure at Euston and gives a better service for stations between Wembley Central and Tring.

  • Peter JH Smith (M),


Procurement insight

Having spent 35 years checking building regulation submissions for a local authority, a procurement route map, suggested by Infrastructure UK, is long overdue. Although relatively minor in scale, this checking work has highlighted serious issues.

Checking lets you into the very soul of the design process, and exposes how that can be so easily debased by poor procurement.

The range of design skills presented, from one single client source, ranged from downright dangerous to work so inspiring you feel honoured to be of the same profession as the designers.

Good design was clearly by good fortune, but bad design was equally likely; in fact a lottery. But why?

The conclusion I came to was that there was a lack of understanding of what design actually is, and therefore not recognising either good design or indeed bad. Because of this complete lack of understanding, during the procurement process fatuous and irrelevant questions, which bear no relationship to the brains of good designers, are asked of the consultants.

What is needed is a properly constituted professional body which can connect a public client’s aspirations with designers.

Most clients need help to frame their ideas, and it should be a given that such a professional body would have a profound understanding of the design and construction process.

Checkers can, with due humility and respect, of course, bring their experience to the agenda where appropriate.

  • Simon Brody, Wisteria Cottage, Main Street, Bothenhampton, Bridport, Dorset DT6 4BJ


Engineers are key to effective procurement

As a chartered engineer with 30 years’ experience in major project procurement, I read with interest your leader comment and article.

No doubt there is some truth in your Highways Agency source, that “…procurement teams are being run by administrators rather than by sage professionals …who can make an engineering judgement”.

Enlightened clients like my own see the value in employing engineers in this critical role. These engineers are capable of understanding the complexities of construction and process plant, and weighing up risk allocation and value for money in this area. I would urge more clients to seek qualified engineers for their procurement departments and ICE members to consider this as a rewarding career choice.

Procurement strategy selection is one of the fundamentals of successful construction project delivery. Our skills are essential, let’s not leave it to others!

  • David Slarks (M)

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