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Letters: Tell us the real environmental cost of HS2

Tell us the real environmental cost of HS2

It appears that NCE is in no doubt that High Speed 2 (HS2) is a good thing for our country (NCE last week), an opinion that appears to have been formed without due consideration of the alternatives and with total disregard to the natural habitat.

For example, there is no Environmental Impact Assessment on HS2 so far. At a recent ICE Consultation Workshop on HS2 the assembled ICE members seemed surprised to hear the arguments that HS2 as proposed is in fact a bad rather than a good thing for our country.

Our profession needs to be objective and balanced, especially when politicians are claiming that “care, effort and high quality engineering” have been deployed in devising the plans for HS2.

There is nothing clever, careful or “high quality” in bulldozing the landscape to stick a train line through. Care, effort and high quality engineering could on the other hand be seen to be applied if one made use of the existing infrastructure and optimised it to bring out more capacity and a better service.

The ICE’s voice is an important one in this debate and ICE has to give an “intelligent” opinion that shows a balanced vision.

  • Stephen Tanno,

The cost of building High Speed 2 is stated at £32bn. It is important that the public understands that this is at 2009 prices and makes no allowances for inflation during the construction period.

The business case is a separate issue which has clearly not been justified.

It is not unreasonable to consider that with inflation and design changes, the total project cost could be £60bn to £70bn. When the costs of the trains and annual subsidies are taken into account the costs will be even higher.

It is therefore incorrect of Sir Brian Briscoe to state that the expected annual spend will be £2bn, similar to that of the Crossrail project. It should be noted that the expected £14.5bn cost of Crossrail is out-turn cost, and takes into account inflation and risk.

A further concern relates to the increased costs of the changes that have already been introduced to the detailed route, including the need to enlarge tunnels, construct green tunnels and construct significantly more structures, especially within the section between Euston and the M25.

It is time that the general public are told the real costs of this project.

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

Alternative routes to ICE

The last two weeks have seen a number of letters about university tuition fees and how the profession can continue to attract the best talent when students are faced by such large costs for university degrees.

The ICE offers several alternative routes to professional qualification because we strongly believe that we must not restrict membership to those who have had a university education, or those who can afford it.

Engineers without any or insufficient educational base can choose to use the Technical Report Route, demonstrating academic equivalence through the practical experience they have gained to become professionally qualified.

For those who have completed an undergraduate degree but wish to achieve Chartered status, there are also non-standard options.

Graduates can top up their initial degree by studying alternative accredited courses or embarking on a company managed scheme, to the equivalent standard of a Masters programme.

The ICE has also been instrumental in setting up and encouraging employers to take up apprenticeship programmes. In December last year we announced a new Technician Apprenticeship, based on the development objectives for a Technician Member of ICE. Driven by an employer-led consortium, nine apprentices have already been recruited with 17 confirmed for next year.

  • Peter Hansford, ICE President, 1 Great George Street, London SW1 3AA

Unsung planning inspectors

It is most gratifying to see NCE reporting the results of a Planning Inquiry by naming the Inspector (NCE 12 May).

The Planning Inspectorate employs a significant number of members of the ICE who provide a service of the highest integrity determining or reporting to ministers on planning applications, statutory orders and the like.

It is rare for their work to be acknowledged in NCE, even though it is customary to attribute the work of the designers and builders.

It is to be hoped that your attributing the work of Wendy Burden (not a Member) will not be an exception, but the beginning of a new approach.

  • David Ward, (M Ret), Inspector: Terminal 5 team, Thameslink 2000; London Gateway.


Fighting for the middle ground

Now that we are in the age of the high speed train and are planning to link Britain onto the European High Speed Rail Network we propose to have two London terminuses 10 minutes walk apart and a single track bypass tunnel for through trains that visits neither main line station.

Surely what is required is a through station most beneficially sited between Euston and St Pancras/Kings Cross and accessible from both.

Then all trains from north of London heading for the Continent can connect into a major transport hub, and those terminating in London can serve Heathrow Airport and the three stations at Old Oak Common, central London and Stratford.

  • Mike Schumann (M Ret),

Must lecturers be chartered?

It is hardly a surprise that current lecturer chartership rates are only around 10% (NCE 21 April).

With what appears to be only five universities currently acting as “ICE approved employers”, the only real source of CEngs is from industry into academia.

This also highlights the possible issue of industry reluctance to hire academics, who are unlikely to be chartered unless having worked in industry or have completed the Career Appraisal route − which apparently is extremely difficult for academics.

The ICE and universities need to first establish many more training schemes in order to make 50% targets realistic.

This will improve the flow of civil engineers between academia and industry.

  • Edward Byers, researcher in infrastructure systems, School of Civil Engineering & Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK


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