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Letters: Making the case for Stansted expansion


The new transport secretary may wish to consider a number of points in regard to the way ahead for London’s airport capacity.

First, talk of a third runway at Heathrow is a misnomer. Development of the land between the A4 and the M4 would be to create “Heathrow 2” as a new runway would require an associated passenger terminal, taxiways, car parking, rail stations, an aircraft maintenance base, fire station; a fuel farm, an auxiliary control tower plus other minutiae.

However, an estuary airport would require taxpayer funding beyond the scope of the aviation industry’s ability to pay.

This would break the long standing agreement with government that airport development should be independent from public finance, the only concession being the reinvestment of duty free income.

It might be argued that the government should hand over the annual passenger ticket levies in full for London to part fund such a huge project.

But if Heathrow was to remain open it would be worth studying what happened to the big new airport in Montreal years ago. Nobody could be made to use it and it is virtually shut down.

The concept of an airport to specifically cater for Far East air traffic smacks of re-introducing the idea of the Air Traffic Distribution Rules, which were disposed of by Margaret Thatcher following intense lobbying by airlines. This left Gatwick and Stansted suddenly underutilised and Heathrow going into a state of operating below service standards from which it is unlikely to ever recover.

Should the government consider the reintroduction of the traffic rules then Stansted immediately becomes the long term solution to the London problem.

Of all the options it has the least environmental impact, bad as that may be and could be developed quicker and at less cost than any other option.

If London had the vacant land there would be one large airport serving the city. As it is, by dint of history, the capacity is fragmented but, it is one airport system and should be managed as such.

  • Henri Pageot (F),


Engineers should seek another name

Andy Ratcliffe (Letters last week) would like engineers to enjoy a more respected profile in society at large and invites the ICE to consider how to bring that about. I am sure many of us agree with him. However, I suggest that the main hurdle we have to overcome is in the derivation of the denomination itself.

The root of “engineer” is “engine” and, in my trusted 1955 New Imperial Dictionary, the transitive version of the verb “to engine” means merely to equip with an engine or contrive something - not very edifying and technically leaving it open for anyone who does almost anything to call themselves an engineer.

However, on the Continent, where engineers enjoy similar public respect to that of architects, doctors and even lawyers, engineers are generally called something like “ingenieros” or a dialectical variation of it.

Note the difference: whereas we are associated with engines and doing stuff, our more high-profile continental counterparts enjoy the association with the word “ingenious”, which my dictionary defines as “of good natural abilities, skilful in invention or contriving” or, in summary, “clever”.

To put this right we would have to invent a new English word for ourselves: I suggest “ingenier” which would be pronounce and almost the same as engineer but, over the years, its new spelling might encourage the average Brit to see us as not quite as dim as at present they apparently think.

It’s up to younger chaps to prove otherwise - my lot clearly didn’t. The ICE would have to battle it out with ICI for its new title.

  • Bruce Denness, Cinxia Cottage, Ashknowle Lane, Whitwell, Isle of Wight PO38 2PP

Gem bridge value questioned

I thank your readers and more especially Nick Bolt of Devon County Council for providing great amusement with their hypocritical and farcical justification of the expenditure on the Gem Bridge (Letters last week).

On the basis of his justifications I look forward to visiting the bankrupt County Devon to ride/walk on a series of concrete/steel structures through areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Indeed, I feel almost compelled to acquire similar areas of outstanding natural beauty in Devon in order to construct similar industrial style Foleys with the blessing of the County for the “positive impact on our society”.

I look forward to Nick Bolt’s presentations to local and county planners and environmentalists on their adopted policy errors. Good luck Devon County Council, do not expect any bail outs.

  • Gregory S Park, director ParkSteele,

Cyclists need bridges too

I think Nigel Hopwood has missed something in his letter (NCE 23-30 August). The Gem bridge means that cyclists do not have to travel a long zig zag detour nor climb back up the considerable height difference having crossed Nigel’s sleeper bridge alternative.

If we are to take sustainable transport seriously in this country we have to make proper investment in high quality infrastructure.

This is the lesson countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands repeatedly show us. Fortunately the town of Padiham near Burnley is enjoying the recently built Greenway where £2.5m has been spent converting a disused railway. No sleeper bridges but lots of people using it each day.

  • Huw Davies (M), NCN director, Sustrans,

How fruitful will rail alliances be?

Steve King’s analysis (NCE 9 August) provides a more thorough summary of the pitfalls of Alliances within the UK’s dysfunctional railway industry than I have seen anywhere else.
One point not mentioned is how, when Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies become “one”, do we ever get fair competition when the franchise comes up for renewal again? That will no doubt provide plenty to exercise the minds of numerous civil servants and their lawyers in 15 years’ time?

Finally I wonder if the Department for Transport (DfT) have consulted Brussels regarding the legality of so called “deep alliances”?

  • Roger Bastin (M), York,

Embracing the IT revolution

Neil Armstrong, of the Apollo 11 mission, is dead. As the first man on the moon he landed the ingoing lunar module manually and before taking control he reported “an overflow” as I recall.

I interpreted his comment as a computer malfunction. How lucky he was to be able to take control and that the snag did not happen at a more critical point. The cool head, the courage!

Have we developed a sound defence against computer snags? Comparing the outputs from 10 different hardwares, on 10 different circuits, using 10 different softwares and 10 different iterations?

I do not know. The computer suppliers do their best I suppose; and these days they send upgrades and downloads. Snags in “literary things” are more readily noticeable than in “numeral things”.

I seem to recall Alan Turing set his face against computers with more than a minimum of memory.

My goodness look what we have now. A major revolution in computing has been “memory”.s

I once offered a paper on a computer fault to the ICE but withdrew it when it was rejected for The Proceedings. One reason for the rejection I seem recall was that computers are not civil engineering.

  • John Knibb (M), 48 Bellencroft Gdns, Wolverhampton WV3 8DT

Has the rain refilled our reservoirs?


Understandably, we are told constantly about the dire state of the reservoirs and underground water supplies in times of drought. After the last few months of plentiful supplies from above, it would be most interesting to have an update on whether all these water sources are now full to capacity and able to meet our needs for some months to come, even if we have a dry winter.

I also feel that public pressure should be kept on the water companies to maximise their renewal programmes to cut losses from their pipes - this long-term need tends to fade from view once we have a month or two of normal rainfall.

  • Stuart Beniston (M), 74 Mapperley Orchard, Arnold, Nottingham, NG5 8AG

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