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Letters: Understanding reservoir risk

The inclusion of “small raised reservoirs”, those with a retained capacity between 25,000m3 and 10,000m3, within the ambit of the proposed new risk based Reservoirs Act legislation is very likely to prove a show stopper.


Assessment need: Looking after larger reservoirs is more critical

As a guide as to how many additional structures will need categorising one could estimate that for every “large raised reservoir” there may be two or three “small raised reservoirs”, this is certainly the case in agriculture. In my opinion, there is simply not the manpower available to categorise all these “new” reservoirs. Sir Michael Pitt may not have been made aware of this.

As an engineer on the Panel of Supervising Engineers, I am tasked with inspecting and reporting on around 75 reservoirs every year, most of which are in the agricultural sector. Of those reservoirs at least 30 are zero risk, some are low lying habitat creation schemes on marshes below high tide level, the banks of which are obscured by reed growth.

If the priorities were changed so that the zero risk “large raised reservoirs” were deregulated as a matter of urgency then it would allow all of the Reservoir Act Panel Engineers to concentrate on the genuine risks.

The adoption of a risk based approach is common sense and should be applauded, however we should learn lessons from history. Since the original 1930 legislation was revised into the 1975 Act, there has been no loss of life, that I am aware of, that has resulted from an uncontrolled release of water from any reservoir in the UK including the unregulated smaller structures.

  • Andrew Hawes 1975 reservoir Act Supervising Panel,


No new homes in high risk areas

It’s no surprise that insurance companies are unwilling to insure 200,000 high risk homes, because these homes are not high in risk, they are high in certainty, both in perceptions of location and frequency. The only uncertainty is when.

Thus it’s not an insurance issue. The government could contribute by making it illegal to insure new development in known high risk locations. This should not preclude development because owners can decide to own the risk if they want.

This reduces the issue to one of promoting the establishment of reserve funds, either through a public fund or though the mutual sector, both of which avoid the making of profit through the misery of others.

  • John Blanksby (M), Pennine Water Group, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Sheffield, Sir Frederick Mappin Building, Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 3JD


OGSS should be brought to book

I would echo Alanna Marsh’s comments about the shameful lack of safe and secure parking for visitors arriving by bicycle at the ICE’s London HQ in Great George Street. When I last visited on two wheels I ended up chaining up to a fence behind the building, which I got to via Little Sanctuary.

The editor’s response was not helpful. We don’t all own Bromptons and should not have to do so to qualify for a parking place. I have looked on Westminster Council’s cycle parking standards and see that libraries, the nearest class of building to the Institution by my estimation, have to provide one parking space for every 10 staff and the same number for visitors.

  • Nick Gough (M),


Severn Barrage’s neat solution

I write regarding the article by Declan Lynch and the letter from Ranald Crook (NCE 17 January) [on the Severn Barrage and UK airport development].

An obvious solution is to extend the proposal for a Severn Barrage as shown to include a second crossing at the narrows near the existing bridges, with a central island linking the two barrages.

This central island could form the National Hub Airport linked to London with HS4 which could be extended to serve South Wales and Bristol.

As well as providing 24-hour tidal power generation and creating a large fresh water lake upstream, this could offer a possible supply of water to be pumped into the upper reaches of the Thames in times of drought.

In addition, the existing Severn bridges will no doubt be in need of replacement by the time such a barrage is constructed.

  • Brian Harle (M), 7 Laurelwood Close, Droitwich, Worcestershire WR9 7SF


Why Milton Keynes bridge should not be demolished


Seklow bridge: Demolition threat

I refer to the article (NCE 17 January) regarding the proposed partial demolition of the elevated highway structure that runs at first floor level through the shopping centre in central Milton Keynes.

Like Andy Thomas, I also worked for Milton Keynes Development Corporation, in my case in the city roads section.

The system of grid or city roads in Milton Keynes provides an exceptionally efficient network of main roads with little significant congestion. The reason such a high level of service is available in a town with a population of 250,000 is that the grid is non-hierarchical and offers several different route opportunities for the same journey, thus distributing traffic over the network.

No doubt the developer’s transport planners will argue that spare capacity is available elsewhere in the network to allow the bridge demolition.

However, I feel certain they didn’t do their traffic counts over the Christmas and New Year period when I know from personal experience the road was very busy.

Furthermore, at a time when investment in infrastructure is at such a low level, it would be appalling if the demolition of an expensive and important section of public highway was to be approved by Milton Keynes Council.

The council should be rigorously safeguarding the grid system for the overall benefit of Milton Keynes and ensuring it is not eroded simply to facilitate a developer’s financial aspirations, which in my view is what the present proposal is all about.

  • Colin Potter (M), 1 Shaw Close, Newport Pagnell MK16 8RQ

Speaking plainly in testing times

As a retired highways engineer formerly specialising in traffic management and accident reduction, I offer my observations on recent letters by Malcolm Noyce and Colin Low [on the topic of highways maintenance].

I believe a great many readers identified with their anecdotes and conclusions, which I sensed came from what are regrettably sometimes regarded as conflicting sections of our industry: the commercial sector and the client.

In the current climate of cuts the use of available resources no matter how limited is even more critical and likely to draw criticism from the public where seen to be inefficient.

In my experience in an extensive shire county expressions like “working in partnership” and “joined up thinking” were in everyday use and I believe broadly followed, not reserved for motivational meetings.

Locally, while consultants and contractors are fighting back from hard times, there appears to be opportunities for a revitalisation of these partnering values with the clients and local communities and I am encouraged by publication of latest road safety/ speed management policy, which is based on the traditional practices of engineering, training and enforcement. I look forward to it being followed by similar practical and locally focused maintenance plan.

  • Roger Drummond (M ret),

FRP composites offer alternative

Having read the article in NCE about the installation of a new pipe bridge at Sellafield I would be interested to know if the client considered using an alternative fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composite bridge, which would have been a fraction of the weight so “one of the world’s largest mobile cranes” would not have been needed and the whole operation would have been a lot safer, quicker and probably cheaper.

CRL is involved in the preparation of a FRP bridge design guide supported by all the major UK consultants, the Highways Agency and Network Rail. This will be published at the end of 2013 to assist engineers in designing with these materials which are used in all sectors of industry.

Can I please encourage bridge designers to stop and think about FRP composites before reaching for the steel and concrete design manuals.

  • John Drewett (M), Concrete Repairs Ltd (CRL), Cathite House, 23A Willow Lane Mitcham, Surrey CR4 4TU

Tube tickles the imagination

I would like to say how much I enjoyed the item Underground Revolution by Mike Chrimes (NCE 17 January) and look forward to seeing more articles in this vein.

Incidentally, readers may also be interested in the novel King Solomon’s Carpet by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell), set amidst the London Tube network.

I won’t elaborate on the plot, save to mention it covers a series of events in which wayward youth improbably “surf” the roofs of speeding trains, however, it remains a highly entertaining read with numerous well researched nods toward the system’s civil engineering culture - a recommended holiday read for all the family!

  • Ben Zabulis (M), 135 Victoria Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottingham NG17 8AX

Progress visits ICE bookshop

The sad but inevitable closure of the ICE bookshop (NCE 10 January) only puts the “favoured” South East in the same situation as the rest of the UK has always been.

However, most of the technical books I have bought have been from the shop following the opportunity to look through the pages and so sort the “wheat from the chaff “.

Many books do not seem to live up to the expectation of their title and subject matter.

  • Jeffrey Smith (M), Baden Drive, Horley, Surrey
  • Editor’s note: I believe that although all purchases must now be made on line it is still possible to browse the books on offer for sale by the ICE in the Library at One Great George Street.

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