Alexandra Wynne draws interesting parallels between High Speed 2 (HS2) and Heathrow’s third runway
(R3), but the difference in funding approach is not necessarily so different.
Both projects can draw on the regulated utility model, with HS2’s future owner taking its income from track charges, just as airport operator BAA would earn its return through landing fees.
When the coalition government decided to drop R3, any suggestion that HS2 would provide an alternative form of capacity enhancement was widely derided - it is generally acknowledged that high speed rail at Heathrow would provide the equivalent of 10% air passenger capacity: it is only a partial substitute for R3.
There is interplay between the two projects, but their primary purposes differ.
The reason why linking high speed rail (HSR) to Heathrow is of great value - besides the spur it provides to the aviation hub capability - comes from the access to HSR services it creates from across the wider car-dominated South East.
This is best achieved both by using the existing/planned surface access facilities at Heathrow and by conceiving of HSR at Heathrow as being part of a through route, opening up access to the airport from the south for HSR and other services.
This is the way to negotiate what Antony Oliver calls this “sadly unambitious and financially challenged world we live in”.
- Jim Steer (M), director, Greengauge 21, email@example.com
Tariff changes are a turn-off
I note that Joe Sumners last week predicted a future of “several tariff changes during a normal day” (news last week).
The energy market is known for its complexity as it is. Is it realistic, or as he puts it, “sensible,” to expect the consumer to read his energy tariff several times a day and to switch his appliances on or off accordingly?
Are we supposed to delay cooking or doing the laundry until we note that the tariff reading has ticked down to a lower level?
In the developing world, people are resigned to living their lives around the vagaries of the electricity supply. In Western Europe: certainly not. This is a step backwards, not forwards, for our energy infrastructure.
- Zachary Alexander, firstname.lastname@example.org
Armitt wrong on visionaries
So Olympic Delivery Authority chairman John Armitt thinks economists - and by association economics - are unable to be visionary and have no role in developing business cases for infrastructure projects.. While it is certainly true that economists make mistakes, and that few predicted the global financial crisis, perhaps he could credibly suggest which discipline should replace economic analysis in providing a framework for how society should allocate its scarce resources between competing demands.
We need engineers to develop and deliver infrastructure projects and economists to advise politicians - a group not renowned for taking long-term infrastructure decisions - which of these projects provide the best value for money.
The need for such economic vision is greater than ever given the financial constraints within which we live.
- Andrew Price, 60 Oglander Road, London SE15 4EN
Passion triumphs over reason
It is not at all unfair to suggest that “many appraisals are reverse engineered from the desired solution”.
On the contrary, one has only to consider a handful of major cases to confirm that human endeavour is driven by emotion rather than rationality.
Think Crossrail, High Speed 2, nuclear power, the 2012 Olympics (not to mention the Millennium Dome) as examples ready to hand. A new runway at Heathrow looks set to add itself to the list.
Scanning through candidates, only the Thames Barrier plus a handful of bridges and tunnels seem to fit happily into some version of the “rational motivation” model.
It is a demonstrable fact of life that humans are primarily emotional animals, however rational they like to imagine themselves to be… passions rule, whether we like it or not.
Accountability and democracy follow along in their due course.
- Malcolm Cox (M), email@example.com
Back municipal engineers…
I fully support the sentiments expressed by Steve Burstow relating to municipal engineers. Having worked within municipal engineering all my working life, I have seen the changes at first hand. It is a concern that many district level authorities now have no in-house engineering expertise.
These authorities are totally reliant on consultants at a great cost and who have to do basic research before getting into the work proper. The lack of continuity is also a concern to the body of knowledge.
I am certain that the local impact of floods at the district level has been much worse due to the loss of local knowledge over the last 20 years or so.
Garry Scott (M), Long Clawson, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
…and further endorsements
Once again a reader mourns the loss of the municipal engineer (Letters, 21 June). However, while the situation is dire all is not lost.
A paper published in the December 2011 issue of Municipal Engineer (V164(4)241) gives the result of a study carried out among employers in the north west of England to determine where municipal engineers work, what they do and how they can raise their profile.
The findings of the study are illuminating in that municipal practitioners are valued and employed by a variety of organisations.
To quote from the paper’s conclusion: “The municipal engineer, wherever employed, has an exciting future if the positive experiences shown (in the North West) are reflected across the country.”
Plainly, one swallow does not make a spring. Much needs to be done to ensure that the supply of engineers with a broad-range of experience is maintained.
Even more needs to be done to embed the paper’s findings into the fabric of government; at all levels.
- Ian Jenkinson (F), firstname.lastname@example.org
A must-read for designers
Two recent articles highlighted the need to carry out reviews of changes made to designs, even apparently small inconsequential changes.
The first “Hospital’s atrium receives cure” highlighted the consequence of the change to a spacer from metal to thermoplastic - result the requirement to change 432 panels of glass.
The second “Checks could have prevented Hyatt collapse” highlighted that changes to the support design for a hanging walkway could have prevented its collapse - consequence 113 deaths.
These articles confirm my belief that all designers read the Ciria/Loughborough University report Preventing catastrophic events in construction RR834, as it investigates the causes of catastrophic events from which we can all learn.
- Michael Woods (M), email@example.com
A true figure for consumption
Jim Wheeler’s letter in which he states that his daily metered water consumption is just 35l/day spurred me to take a look at what mine is and I was surprised to find that it is very close to the average per capita use of 150l/day.
My wife and I are both retired and it is likely that 95% of all our water use is at home so I wondered just how we could reduce our metered consumption to anything like Jim’s.
Then it struck me - we should both go back to work. We could have coffee and croissant from a cafe for breakfast and something similar for lunch. We would get tea and coffee throughout the day at work and while there we would use their loos. Being too knackered at the end of the day to prepare our main meal from scratch we would have takeaways or ready meals instead.
And given our increased income we would also eat out quite a lot and maybe pay somebody else to do our washing. We could even join a gym and use their showers instead of ours.
Would it reduce our metered water consumption to anything like 35l/day - most probably. Would it significantly reduce our per capita water consumption - I doubt it.
- Roger Curtis (M), firstname.lastname@example.org
How to treat water properly
Jim Wheeler’s letter made interesting reading. In this house the average metered consumption per head has been even less, only about 30l/day - and this includes some watering of the garden (but not this month). Water can be used more than once, and significant savings could be made if we did not use fully treated drinking water for purposes for which it is not necessary.
A supplementary storage tank, just below roof level, could collect rain water and, with the assistance of a simple pumping system, grey water from baths, showers etcetera. This could be used to fill lavatory cisterns. It could also be used to advantage for the garden, the additional height giving much better pressure in the hose than a conventional butt at ground level.
There are many potential variations to the arrangements described, but the principle is clear - do not use treated water when it is not necessary.
- Jeremy Gurney (M), Ferry Hill, East Portlemouth TQ8 8PU
The true effects of Chernobyl
Your summary of the Chernobyl disaster (NCE 26 April) states that the accident caused serious health problems for the “local” population and the displacement of 200,000 people. This is a massive understatement of the effects of this incident.
According to the United Nations 70% of the total radioactive fallout from the accident descended on nearly one-fourth of Belarus, an entirely different country. Although the border to Belarus is close, some of the areas affected are over 160km away, which is hardly local.
The fallout affected more than 2.2M people in Belarus, including 500,000 children. Twenty six years later millions of people in Belarus still suffer from radioactive contamination.
- Richard Hein (M), Bristol, email@example.com