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Why can't our planners take a leaf out of Qatar's book?

For positive reinforcement of the civil engineering profession’s position, value and sheer excitement, look no further than Qatar and its plans for the Fifa 2022 World Cup.

NCE’s sister title MEED hosted clients from this gas-rich state at a conference last week. For anyone involved in infrastructure delivery, the vision and can-do attitude on display were truly spectacular.

It comes in stark contrast to the UK’s lumbering plans for delivering its own vital infrastructure for growth.

Witness the seemingly never-ending debate over Thames Water’s £5bn plans to divert the 39M tonnes of raw sewage which still, in 2011, find their way into the River Thames each year.

Witness the on-going farce surrounding aviation policy and the likelihood that there will be no new airport capacity in the capital for another 15 years at least.

Witness too the hugely long winded debate over plans for a new north-south high speed rail network.
By contrast, Qatar looks set to become the next engineer’s playground over the next decade.

“Engineers must lead the change to cut back the political long grass and ensure that the difficult policies are addressed and not forever conveniently ducked”

Having won the right to host the Fifa event late last year, Qatar has put together impressive plans in just six months. It will create the infrastructure for a zero carbon global sporting event in the desert heat.

Along the way it will spend £55bn on new stadiums, a comprehensive rail and road network, 50,000 new hotel rooms and new water and electricity infrastructure.

And we are talking real fast-track delivery. As was pointed out at the conference. Spending on the new rail network will reach £22bn over the next 10 years, with design and build contracts due to kick off very soon.

The award of the Fifa event to Qatar has been controversial. It will, after all, be the first time that the World Cup has been held in an Arab country and in a country not known for its footballing prowess.

And then there’s the heat of a Middle Eastern summer in June. It was almost inevitable that the Western world would call foul.

The reality is that most major infrastructure projects are controversial. Ensuring they happen inevitably comes down to political will. On that basis, the UK can aspire to the same infrastructure “can-do” attitude as Qatar. The London 2012 Olympic Games, which kick off in just over 12 months, bear testimony to the fact that, with political will, anything can happen.

For too long we have allowed the democratic process to stand conveniently in the way of infrastructure progress. Engineers must lead the change to cut back the political long grass and ensure that the difficult
policies are addressed and not forever conveniently ducked.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

Readers' comments (5)

  • Thank God political will or journalistic pressure are not accepted without the necessary curbs.We've all had too many recent poor examples of Government and Press judgment to allow unfettered decision making.
    Comparing Thames Water's scheme or HS2 to works in the desert where the population has no input and money is not a problem whilst using such terms as 'never-ending debate ' and 'on-going farce' is ridiculous.

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  • "For too long we have allowed the democratic process to stand conveniently in the way of infrastructure progress."

    Hopefully Mr Oliver will never be a MP.

    I think the "can-do" attitude of Qatar is probably due to having more money than sense, rather than any particularly admirable approach to infrastructure that we ought to be emulating.

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  • it maybe would help if we became an effective dictatorship, had access to billions of oil money and little or no regard to the long term viability, cost effectiveness or sustainability of what we are building.

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  • Barry Walton

    Have I missed something or was it not Qatar that ran before the planners wrt Chelsea Barracks and a certain other prince?

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  • Not your finset hour!

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