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Letters: Do humps, cushions and bumps really slow traffic?

The main point:

Speed cushions

Do speed cushions make drivers slow down?

I would be first to admit that I wish that everyone would drive appropriately so that we can spend our dwindling budgets on things like pedestrian crossings. But they don’t, so we have to use the limited measures we have to hand to keep the speeding majority at bay.

Speed cushions are not perfect (NCE 9-16 July) but there again what is? Certainly not speed cameras or flashing signs.

OK some vehicles can straddle speed cushions, but the driver still has to align the vehicle to do so, which slows them down (strange but true). At least buses and ambulances can go the same speed as sports cars.

The other thing is that it only takes the majority of drivers to keep to the speed limit to keep the rest of them there as well.

And by the way, what you see in Pompeii are pedestrian crossings of the sewers. Driven traffic was obviously considered to be in the same class as sewerage.

  • Mark Foweraker (M),

I agree with John Wharrie’s comments (NCE 9-16 July) about speed cushions.

I have made the same point to my local highway authority but it won’t answer, telling me that the purpose of the “cushions” is to reduce accidents, not speed.

I think that the real purpose of the humps is to make the road more hazardous in an attempt to reduce accidents by making drivers concentrate more but no one will admit this.

  • Alan Perry (M), 62 Torrens Drive, Lakeside, Cardiff CF23 6DS


There’s more to this bridge than a concrete pump

Lewisburn bridge: BCIA shortlisted

Lewisburn bridge: BCIA shortlisted

You may have noticed that one of my designs has made this year’s shortlist for the small civil engineering project category of the British Construction Industry Awards and was featured on your pages (NCE 9 July).

Sadly you have printed a picture of a concrete pump used during construction of the Lewisburn Bridge instead of the 50m span bridge now in place.

I have sent a picture of the completed strucure. I would appreciate if you could show this before someone thinks I have invented a new kind of bridge!

  • Dr Geoff Freedman (F), head of design, Forestry Civil Engineering, Greenside Peebles EH45 8JA


Exploding the electric car myth

When there are 900M cars in the world, I wonder how many additional nuclear power stations will be required to supply this electricity, knowing also that in 20 years the number of cars will double?

Added to this is the issue of depletion of natural resources. Batteries consume metals and other natural resources, and the processes for extraction and processing these inevitably use energy and cause pollution.

Do we have any masterplan to treat or recycle chemical batteries at the end of their useful lives? They last perhaps two or three years for the proven technologies, and maybe longer for some of the new technologies currently in their infancy.

Car companies must be responsible for providing genuinely green cars and not pseudo-sustainable ones.

It is now evident those cars are not sustainable and only electricity generators will make huge profits in spite of harming our planet.

Fortunately there is an alternative car type which uses compressed air − not a joke! And I have not even started to talk about the derisory price! See

  • Fabien Rollet, bridge engineer, Scott Wilson Scotland, Citypoint2, 25 Tyndrum Street, Glasgow, G4 0JY

Academia beckons

In the recent discussion relating to graduate jobs, an important civil engineering career route has been overlooked.

I would like to highlight the fact that the very universities at which students have trained are always seeking high quality, motivated PhD students and researchers.

While self funding is always an option for a PhD, there are many funded studentships around.

These are increasingly generous, tax-free and will ultimately lead to a further qualification as well as involvement in a research project that is at the cutting edge of civil engineering. This could add value and experience to a CV while the wider job market picks up, or could inspire a longer term career in academia as it has done for me.

I would encourage all graduates and final year students to chat to their lecturers and consider the opportunity to advance civil engineering research.

  • Dr Richard Dawson, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Room 3.21: Cassie Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK

Hidden costs of training

In response to the recent letters regarding Martin Cure’s advert for a graduate engineer (NCE 25 June), I think that people are missing the point. Graduates, especially those under agreement, require resources to ensure that they receive suitable training and CPD.

This costs money, both in “unproductive” time and also in direct costs of training. Can companies in this environment afford to offer high salaries and commit to training schemes? I notice several companies have recently laid off large numbers of employees, so any job at the moment should be reviewed accordingly.

I would like to make it clear that I am a great supporter of training and have encouraged many to start on the route to membership, graduates need to realise that salary and status are improved once membership of the institution is gained.

I don’t think that the salary offering was that far wide of the mark for a consultancy based in north Yorkshire. I wait with interest to see what response I get when advertising for a graduate down here in the south.

Perhaps I will have a similar response?

  • Daniel Jane (M), Dan@, 46 Keith Road, Talbot Woods, Bournemouth, BH3 7DU

£19k is fair enough

Further to the replies to Martin Cure’s letter (NCE 25 June) am I not the only one shocked that people consider his offer of a graduate salary of 19k-plus as derisory?

Most graduates would still be living at home so surely they can live on a salary such as this?

Without getting into the “in my day we could pay our rent, eat all week and still have change from a fiver” debate, I started an apprenticeship in 1973 on £9.50 week, (around £80 week at present) plus day release.

The argument about comparison of rates to other professions is a bit weak now. I knew as an apprentice that I would be relatively poorly paid compared to my friends who went into nonprofessional jobs but got by on the mantra that “it will be better when you qualify”, and that did not just relate to passing exams but gaining enough experience to show I was worth the money. I do not see how anyone can ask for large salaries untested.

Take a job such as the one Martin Cure offers. Work hard, then ask for more when you can show you are worth it. Do not automatically expect it just because you have a degree!

  • Robert Lye, (M), project engineer, WA Fairhurst & Partners, 51a St Paul’s Street, Leeds, LS1 2TE

Are children better at design?

Paper project archway

Paper project archway

The letters regarding the Paper Project (NCE 25 June) raise the interesting point about just how much the pupils learned about engineering structures.

We are involved in delivering problem solving at Clyne Farm Centre both to corporate management groups and to children of all ages and abilities.

One of the most successful problems is called The Millennium Tower in which the challenge is to construct the tallest tower possible in a set time from the materials provided − three newspapers − no paste, no tape no added extras!

This quickly demonstrates that an understanding of engineering is needed if a tower over 1m tall is to be constructed. If they succeed, participants have become engineers without even realising it. To move on, groups need to construct a tower that will stand unaided for at least 30 seconds. The record height is around 4.2m.

Some of the best towers have come from children − and some of the worst? People with an engineering background − they just over-complicate everything!

So, without giving any more away here’s the lunchtime challenge. Take a random group of six (say, a couple of engineers, an architect and office staff ), hand them their instructions and materials and beat 4.2m in 15 minutes.

Send photographs of successes and failures to us and NCE and we’ll arrange a free visit to Challenge Valley − the muddiest assault course in the world − at Clyne Farm Centre ( for the group with the tallest structure.

  • Stuart Haden and Geoff Haden (M),

Editor’s note: Why not enter the paper tower challenge? The objective: to build the tallest possible free-standing paper tower. Your materials are three daily newspapers (your choice!) − no glue, tape or any adhesive allowed. Email your pictures to and Closing date: Friday 4 September. Prize: a visit to Challenge Valley − the muddiest assault course in the world

Your views & opinion

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.

The Editor, NCE,
1st Floor, Greater
London House,
Hampstead Road,
London NW1 7EJ

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