Frank Westcott (Letters last week) is spot on with his assessment of what the M25 and other circular motorways were designed for - that is the bypassing of cities.
In the event, as he says, they have been commandeered by circumferential commuters and, I wish to add, by the developers of peripheral land, particularly for retail parks. There is no evident joined up planning between central and local government, the one thinking strategically and the other thinking locally and reaping, in the short-term, the benefit of increased land values in the vicinity of motorway junctions and, in the long-term, the ruination of town and city centres.
Furthermore, central government then seems to join in the party by agreeing to local motorway widening or even additional junctions to provide better access to these developments - dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes.
Until some overall strategy is enforced our motorways will never serve their proper function and we will always have vested interests demanding more capacity when it should not actually be necessary.
It is the government’s job to regulate to ensure market forces work strategically for the benefit of the country and, where government investment is involved, it should ensure the design benefits are delivered to the public and not into the pockets of developers.
● Richard Preece, 20 Mereworth, Caldy, Wirral CH48 1QT
A crowded island with a paucity of planning sense
I read with interest the letters from both Norman Pasley and Ernest Smith (Letters 2 October).
The problems we are now faced with are a direct result of too many people on this small island and too many crowded into the South East.
We must really start to look at the fundamental structure of this country and stop tinkering at the edges, since no matter how many times we try to solve the problem by improving the infrastructure we will be doomed to failure in the long term.
How many times have members seen bypasses completed only to find that large tracts of land are then released for development only to allow the same problems of congestion to return?
- Colin Boon, (M Retd), Glenwood House, Efail Isaf, Rhondda Cynon Taff CF38 1AR
London is in danger of self-strangulation
The editor’s comments regarding the congestion on the M25 have spawned many letters pointing out congestion, present or predicted, in other forms of transport in and around London.
London is expanding, and as it expands it draws into it more and more companies, people, traffic, resources, and the need for homes and space.
It seems the more it has the more it requires, like a black hole. As a Londoner myself, I know how crowded the capital is, and it is becoming even more crowded. Now we are considering adding more capacity to a London airport. That in time will bring demand for more roads and other infrastructure.
How long can such demand continue before London strangles itself?
Something needs to be done to curb the increasing pressure, and it needs to be done soon.
I suggest the time is ripe for looking at why it is happening and how to cure it. At the moment we have an opportunity to act; a chance to draw the centre of gravity of the country away from London a little, an opportunity that will not last much longer.
We require additional runway capacity. If we were to put it in, say Birmingham (where there is space and where it would be cheaper), companies would then be drawn there.
Add to that a convenient connection to the proposed High Speed 2 and the attraction would become much greater.
Pressure on London would be relieved and the Midlands boosted.
We engineers are often urged to do more than just provide structures to suit other people’s whims; to offer engineering solutions to major problems, as did our forefathers in the building of canals and railways.
Here is one where we can point to the root cause of the problem and offer a solution to ever-worsening congestion and similar difficulties. Is anyone with me?
- Ed Webber (M Retd), firstname.lastname@example.org
Full support for the rights of female engineers
I just wanted to add a voice of support to your recent work championing the cause of feminism in our profession. We have a such a long way to go, but it’s worth being remembered for being on the right side of this fight; and it’s worth fighting hard.
The very best I could hope you achieve through your campaign is to make our profession a safe space for a female civil engineer to be a vocal champion for change on this issue without her career being limited or otherwise adversely affected by it.
- Tom Wharf, email@example.com
Come on TV bosses, make a drama about us
Much has been said about how we can attract more women into the engineering profession. But perhaps we should be looking in the corner of our rooms at our TVs and learn from the example set by the acclaimed BBC series Silent Witness.
Interest in pathology and forensic science, especially for women, has been boosted by actress Emilia Fox’s portrayal of Dr Nikki Alexander.
And whether we like or not, other professions have also gained from the popularity of various TV series. So why not a civil engineering equivalent of Emilia who could fly the flag for us?
If a good story-line could be written around a variety of aspects of civil engineering work, and to which audiences could relate, it should be relatively straightforward to write appropriate leading characters of both sexes into a script.
The public could then see how attractive (or otherwise!) our lives are to those with ingenuity and enthusiasm.
- Roland Arthur (M Retd) firstname.lastname@example.org
Backing square holes into a corner
I would endorse Robert Holland’s observation about the lack of compaction at the corners of square-cut repairs to road surfaces.
There will undoubtedly be an arching action against the sides as the aggregate infill is compacted by rolling.
On the other hand, sharp corners in structures subjected to dynamic loads, such as ships or aircraft, are known to be stress concentrators.
In either way, the corners are likely to be a source of weakness under dynamic traffic loading. Is there no equipment like a router that is capable of cutting a circular or elliptical hole in asphalt?
- Peter Kinsey, (M Retd), Llys y coed, Parc Road, Llangybi, Monmouthshire NP15 1NL
Further frustrations with Thames Tideway tunnel
My sympathies lie with Robin Ellks’ irritation at his financial contribution to the Thames Tideway Tunnel (Letters 2 October).
I must, however, add that there are many more dissatisfied Thames paying customers whose drainage problems have been ignored in order for the tunnel to go ahead.
After 14 years of complaints, Thames Water has accepted that its 300mm diameter surface water sewer in the road outside my house is undersized.
The resulting surcharge causes the road surface run-off to overflow, carrying highly toxic pollutants into my garden, garage and drive on a 2 in 1 year frequency.
Thames says that any remedial scheme must satisfy its self-imposed 1 in 30 year design criteria and that measures must also serve the whole local region. Thames’ flood technicians have concluded that such a scheme in my road would not be “cost effective” and is unlikely to feature in their expenditure for the foreseeable future, partly because the dwelling is not regularly inundated and no foul sewage is involved.
Civil engineering giant Joseph Bazalgette provided 1,200km of desperately needed sewers for £6.6M to remove the “London stink” and allow government to return to Westminster.
The return to the Thames of salmon hardly compares to Bazalgette’s motivation for a clean-up, nor with the benefit to many Thames customers that could be achieved by many smaller London-wide schemes.
- Alan Harris (M), email@example.com