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Letters: Thames Hub: visionary plan or recipe for more congestion?

Thames Hub: visionary plan or recipe for more congestion?

Halcrow and Lord Foster should be congratulated and support must be found to further develop their “bold vision” for the Thames Estuary (NCE 3 November).

It is simply not tenable in the long term to have flight paths over one of the most important cities in the world to one of the most used airports. It will take time and courage to make the essential changes. But in this era of change, now is the time to make bold decisions.

The integrated multi-modal links, especially combining rail with ports, puts this scheme ahead of the rest and will make vast improvements to traffic connectivity across the UK. Politicians are unlikely to drive this forward because of their short term ballot-box vision. The engineering profession must push the debate so that obstacles can be overcome and benefits maximised.

  • Gordon Rankine (F) Beckett Rankine, 270 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 1BB

With reference to your feature and Comment on the Thames Estuary Hub being a bold vision for the UK infrastructure for the 21st Century, can you not see beyond the sea mist over the estuary to take in any visions of the UK much beyond your office in London?

Your article says that with a high speed rail link, passengers could travel from London in 30min or from Manchester in 1hr 50min. But you fail to ask if the UK needs a new airport or what would be the environmental impact of providing it.

Why should so many want to fly from London? If the expansion in air travel is going to be so great, Birmingham, Manchester and other UK airports are unlikely to remain static in the expansion of their services and people will prefer to travel from the nearest available airport.

The vision for the UK in the 21st century should be about expanding and improving the quality of services and the environment for all of the UK - rather than building bigger transport systems to get yet more people to funnel through a London Gateway.

  • Richard Stubbs (M), 14 Bourton Road, Solihull B92 8AY

As engineers we should promote bold schemes such as the Thames Estuary Hub.

However, surely we also have a responsibility to consider the social, economic and environmental aspects of the proposal and any reasonable alternatives for the whole country.

Given the new strong line against significant expansion of London’s airports now must be the time to consider equally bold alternatives north of London, where there could be substantial economic rebalancing benefits, before further intensifying development in the crowded south east.

  • Ian Smith (M), 8 Browns Lane, Tamworth B79 8TE

Can engineers make progress sustainable?

Matt Humphrey raised interesting questions about the role of civil engineers and the ICE in creating infrastructure that encourages population growth (NCE 3 November).

For thousands of years the earth’s population was stable at about 1bn. Since the 18th century, gifted engineers such as Watt, Telford, Stevenson, Brunel, and dozens more, enabled a transformation from local farming and trades, to manufacturing, construction and international trade.

By extracting fossil fuels and minerals on a grand scale, man has now covered the land in a layer of infrastructure. By intensifying crop and animal production and overfishing, the earth now supports 7bn of us.
Civil engineers cannot be held solely responsible for consumption, population and human behaviour.

We all want more possessions; corporation bosses want growth, power, profits and personal wealth; politicians want to gauge the mood and get re-elected.

In my view, nature’s earthquakes, tsunamis, ash clouds, floods, hurricanes, droughts and sea-level rise will always have the capacity to overwhelm our infrastructure and unfortunate populations.

I would argue that we must change our behaviour, stabilise and reduce consumption and population, save the natural environment, and employ engineers to modify our infrastructure to suit.

No loopholes for foreign engineers

Michael Grounsell raises concerns about loopholes in ICE’s professional qualifications (NCE 3 November); these loopholes do not exist.

We have a number of bilateral agreements with other institutions which have professional qualification processes the equivalent to ours. Applicants, already professionally qualified, are required to demonstrate how they satisfy the ICE’s attributes in their applications.

However, this does not mean that they are automatically accepted. All applications are assessed by a panel that can, and does, request further information and calls applicants forward for interview if they are not satisfied.

Applicants also require sponsors. The only exceptions to this are applicants under European Directive 2005/36/EC, on professional recognition. These applicants still have to demonstrate how they meet the ICE’s standards as above, but are not required to provide sponsors as the directive blocks this.

  • David Lloyd-Roach, director of membership, ICE

Qualifications from abroad give no guarantees

Michael Grounsell is mistaken (NCE 3 November); there is no loophole for foreign professional engineers. My personal experience is of the European Directive Route.

The ICE is one of the competent authorities for European Directive 2005/36/EC, which requires that “persons having acquired their professional qualifications in a member state must have access to the same profession … with the same rights as nationals”.

But it does not guarantee automatic recognition in the host member state.

The ICE is entitled to ensure that the applicant’s formal qualifications (academic and professional) satisfy its own standards and criteria for registration.

The ICE’s Exemption and Recognition Panel examines a detailed report on the academic and professional qualification of every candidate, accompanied by certified copies and translations of each qualification.

An independent statement from a senior professional engineer (MICE or equivalent) is recommended. The application may not be successful, in which case the ICE gives the choice between an Aptitude Test and an Adaptation Period (up to three years) under the supervision of a qualified ICE Member.

Given that standards and criteria for registration are met, it is right to recognise equivalent qualifications and avoid repeated reassessment in each country. Engineering is intrinsically a very “flexible” and “exportable” profession.

Codes of practice may vary, but knowledge from first principles and professional experience acquired in a specific engineering field are always valid.

The adoption of Eurocodes should facilitate further mobility and work opportunities across Europe.

  • Manuela Chiarello (M) manuela.chiarello@gmail.com

Explosive shipwreck could scupper estuary hub plan

I read with great interest the article on the Thames Estuary Hub (NCE 3 November). It all seems a very feasible and of great value to the future of the nation.

I was just wondering what the proposals were for the wrecked Liberty Ship Montgomery which has lain undisturbed for the last 70 years or so and appears to be only a kilometre or so from the runways?

  • Chris Marshall (M) chris.marshall1948@gmail.com

The proposed Thames Estuary Hub is an innovative approach to growing the UK’s transport infrastructure.

I wonder, however, how the proposers will overcome the significant challenge of a Second World War explosives ship which is sunk and decaying about half a mile from the end of their new runway?

The SS Richard Montgomery is a spectre hanging over the residents of Sheerness and Grain and its masts a recognisable navigational aid in the Meday/Thames area.

The Liberty Ship sank on 20 August 1940 and 3,173t of munitions and 1,400t of TNT remain in the wreck.
Work to offload the cargo was halted during the war because a similar exercise to unload another munitions ship in the English Channel resulted in a huge explosion.

It is suggested that if the Mongtomery were to explode the Port of Sheerness and Sheerness town would be severely damaged and a tidal wave would rush down the Thames overpowering the flood defences in London.

It probably wouldn’t do the new airport much good either. mStill, we civil engineers love a good challenge!

  • Mike Stephens (F) mjdstephens@gmail.com

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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