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Mark's blog

I am deputy editor of NCE. I am a qualified civil engineer with more than 15 years construction industry experience. Since joining NCE in 2000, I have been the first construction journalist into Iraq following the second Gulf War (and won IBP News Reporter of the Year as a result), was on the scene in tsunami-struck Sri Lanka, reported on a fatal bridge collapse in Portugal, covered a tunnel blaze in Baltimore, and exposed fundamental design failings in the Windsor’s Jubilee River. ...

Written in the cloud

Posted by Mark HansfordThu, 6 Dec 2012

“We want to change the way people do infrastructure design,” proclaimed software giant Autodesk’s senior vice president, industry strategy Andrew Anagnost on the eve of the firm’s annual convention in Las Vegas last week. “And the way we’re going to do it is by using the power of the cloud.”

Mining a rich seam of UK talent

Posted by Mark HansfordThu, 6 Sep 2012

Mining is the new roads sector for UK consultants eyeing up a £200bn global pot of cash.

Keeping focused on engineering

Posted by Mark HansfordFri, 6 Jul 2012

The stock of the engineer as innovator is rising, driven by client demands for better cost and time certainty on increasingly complex projects. So much so that it is prompting enlightened consultants seriously rethink attitudes to research and development and the way they treat their technically-minded engineers.

Should Gatwick become London's hub?

Posted by Mark HansfordFri, 18 May 2012

While the South East airport capacity debate centres on a Heathrow third runway versus Boris Island in the Thames Estuary, Gatwick is coolly making an understated case for the next new runway to head its way.

Railtrack haunts Cameron's plan for road privatisation

Posted by Mark HansfordFri, 30 Mar 2012

Fear of recreating mistakes of the past is the biggest threat to prime minister David Cameron’s bold vision to drag England’s roads into the 21st century, aided by vast slugs of private money.

Old problems threaten to derail new era of light rail

Posted by Mark HansfordWed, 14 Mar 2012

Britain stands ready to embark on new era of light rail through tram-trains, but the age old problem of skyrocketing construction costs threatens to derail the dream before a new tram even leaves the depot.

Localism in transport sounds death knell for major schemes

Posted by Mark HansfordWed, 8 Feb 2012

New plans to devolve transport funding decisions to local transport bodies are good for the government’s localism agenda, but they could signal the death of big schemes.

2012: the year of the one stop shop

Posted by Mark HansfordTue, 10 Jan 2012

Last year’s warning from industry leaders to merge, be acquired or go under may have seemed bold and frightening talk, but 2012 shows no sign that the underlying business prerogative of the last few years – get bigger to offer a one-stop shop or be bought – is about to change. Nor is the fact that there are some vulnerable firms out there.

Life on Mars stalks a squeezed industry

Posted by Mark HansfordTue, 1 Nov 2011

The next three years will see many civil engineering contractors go to the wall unless clients take responsibility for the situation and ease the pressure on cash flow and project risk.

Are one stop shops key to cracking the global market?

Posted by Mark HansfordThu, 20 Oct 2011

As UK-centric consultant Mouchel battles with its banks, Halcrow prepares for life as part of US giant CH2M Hill’s world and URS gets ready to consign the Scott Wilson brand to history, the benefit to UK firms of consolidating with global giants seems all too apparent. But is such a path guaranteed to be paved with gold?

Health & Safety - time to act on construction's achilles heel

Posted by Mark HansfordWed, 28 Sep 2011

Official figures showed that the number of deaths in the construction sector rose from 41 to 50 last year. To drive health and safety to the top of the agenda, NCE has joined forces with the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Standing Committee on Structural Safety to produce a quarterly special focused on highlighting best practice while also examining the latest issues and setting out where work still needs to be done.

French lessons worth paying attention to

Posted by Mark HansfordFri, 23 Sep 2011

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg this week said it was time to get serious on infrastructure investment. He said 40 critical infrastructure projects will be flagged and given “special” status; that overseas investors will be lured in to fund them; and that planning hurdles will be unblocked to accelerate them.

Will lack of confidence dash £200bn infrastructure spend?

Posted by Mark HansfordThu, 15 Sep 2011

As civil engineering consultants and contractors keenly await the first annual update of the government’s National Infrastructure Plan, big questions about where the £200bn investment is going to come from remain.

Will lack of confidence dash £200bn infrastructure spend?

Posted by Marissa LynchThu, 15 Sep 2011

As civil engineering consultants and contractors keenly await the first annual update of the government’s National Infrastructure Plan, big questions about where the £200bn investment is going to come from remain.

Look to contractors for good business sense – and jobs

Posted by Mark HansfordFri, 26 Aug 2011

NCE’s annual Contractors File, published alongside NCE this week, confirms it has been another tough, tough year for civil engineering contractors. Yet in stark contrast to the consultancy sector, engineers’ jobs appear not to have gone up in flames; extraordinarily, it’s the reverse.

TfL's bid to control trains has much going for it

Posted by Mark HansfordTue, 12 Jul 2011

By 2031 there will be 1.3 million more Londoners and 750,000 new jobs in the capital. But getting those Londoners to those jobs will be impossible unless Transport for London (TfL) is able to wrestle control of suburban rail services away from the Department for Transport and its phalanx of train operating companies (TOCs). That at least is the view of TfL, which late last month went public on a very bold plan to take charge of routes currently operated by a bewildering array of 10 TOCs.

Climate of fear surrounds accident reporting

Posted by Mark HansfordTue, 21 Jun 2011

The construction industry is a killer with a “climate of fear” running throughout the supply chain largely to blame. That is the stark conclusion to be drawn from the Office of Rail Regulation’s (ORR’s) latest annual assessment of Network Rail’s performance.

Extinction awaits those firms who ignore BIM

Posted by Mark HansfordThu, 9 Jun 2011

Government efficiency mandarins this week fired a wake-up call at the construction industry with news that from 2016 building information modelling (BIM) will be used for every single publicly funded building and infrastructure project. It’s a tall order, given that take-up to date has been less than overwhelming.

Sustainable aspirations are undermined by compromise

Posted by Mark HansfordTue, 24 May 2011

This week, according to housing minister Grant Shapps at least, was “an historic turning point” in the UK’s drive to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. New government standards, unveiled by Shapps, aim to ensure that every home built after 2016 be “zero carbon”.

Why London needs more railways

Posted by Mark HansfordWed, 11 May 2011

Last week former London mayor Ken Livingstone used the London Transport Awards to set out the case for not just Crossrail, not just Crossrails 1 and 2, but Crossrails 2 and 3 as well.