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Letters: Doing the maths: Does High Speed 2 add up?

Does High Speed 2 add up?

Professor Norman Ashford: preparer à manger ton chapeau! (NCE 24 June).

Yes the analysts have indeed examined the effect of “splitting the traffic” between the existing and new high-speed lines and yes there is a strongly viable business case.
Take a look for instance at Fast Forward, available for free download from, which summarises a £750,000 public interest group-funded
study of this subject.

All based on an assumption of no fares premium for high speed services.

High speed rail is about building modern and effective national transport capacity and addressing the economic challenges facing Britain’s core cities, while bringing about a helpful reduction in carbon.

  • Jim Steer(M), director Greengauge 21,

Lack of local knowledge is serious obstacle to progress

Jean Venables and Venessa Goodchild-Bradley, in reference to the capabilities of local authorities (NCE 24 June), are reiterating the problems identified in my letter of December 2008 (NCE 4 December 2008) and their remarks indicate that 18 months later nothing has changed.

Regardless of the progressive weakening of local authorities’ engineering departments over recent years, Parliament has nevertheless (and rightly) designated unitary and county councils to carry out the work necessary to comply with the Flood and Water Management Act and the EU Floods Directive.

If local authorities are obliged to engage consultants for this work the results will be disastrous. Not only would the lack of local knowledge and of local records be a serious obstacle to progress but consultants are known to prefer starting from scratch.

Furthermore, where would be the expertise for dealing with the new rules for SUDS?

Everything points to a grossly magnified cost compared with the normal in-house procedure.

Whether carried out in-house or by consultants, the funding will have to be assured by the government.

It should act at once to ensure that local government has the resources to do the job at reasonable cost.

Failure will cause deep embarrassment to local government as a national body and do nothing for the reputation of the Institution’s municipal members.

  • Peter Brocklebank (M), 18A Camden Road, Maidenhead, Berks, SLO6 6HA

Wind won’t work

Thank heavens for Derek Limbert and his effective and concise assessment of the massive unsupportable total overhead costs for UK plc as provided by the intended programme of wind farms (NCE last week), and his focus on the truly distorted and misleading “evidence” currently being provided by others to substantiate and support such systems for power generation as an effective solution to our current energy shortages.

The various UK engineering institutions, including the ICE, should be ashamed of not having previously formally presented such precise total costs/subsidy evidence for public information and government appraisal together with a joint professional engineering institution’s submission strongly advising against such an unnecessary, counter-productive and grossly inefficient and over-expensive power generation system.

  • Peter Wilson (M),

Speak up about steelworks

Irefer to your recent article on the looming energy crisis (NCE 24 June) and various comment pieces throughout on the value of infrastructure and how engineers need to be more vocal on the issues affecting our country.

Nowhere in the magazine did it mention the axing of the loan to Forgemasters steelworks and the knock on effect this will have.

I heard that the new equipment to be funded by this loan was to produce essential elements for a new generation of nuclear power plants and that these power plants are needed not just to meet our carbon reduction agreements but also to avoid power dips and power cuts as old coal-fired stations reach the end of their working lives and have to be shut down.

This is about critical investment in infrastructure, yet I have not heard of any engineering institution commenting on this in the media, and I expect most of the public is largely unaware of what the effects of this particular cost-cutting could be.

Why isn’t more being done to raise this issue?

  • Siobhan Hodge,

Don’t run risks with water

I fully endorse the ICE’s call for a more sustainable approach to wastewater treatment (NCE 24 June).

As the State of the Nation report correctly identifies, we treat more and more drinking water to a higher standard, the vast majority of which is not used for drinking. We then mix it with sewage and rainwater before treating it in the main with energy intensive processes.

The ideas proposed in the report are not new and have been bandied about for years, but the challenges faced in achieving these aims are both significant and cultural.

I would advocate a move towards compulsory water metering with a two-stage tariff system. Eighty litres per day per head would provide adequate water supply for cooking, washing and sanitation and this could be provided by way of a standing charge usage. Above this could then be metered with a higher rate for excessive usage, above say 160 litres/day/head.

The five year AMP cycle needs reform, as it acts as a barrier to the implementation of strategic infrastructure of the kind required to decouple sewerage and surface water run off. Finally we will need reform of our planning system, which makes everything in the UK painfully slow to implement and as a direct consequence more expensive.

If we have the collective stomach for some tough decisions and can overcome these barriers we will still need significant drainage infrastructure but the attenuated flows could be used for rainwater harvesting, our rivers will be cleaner, our carbon footprint dramatically reduced and our surfers happy. Alas I am not convinced society is up for any of this.

I hope I am wrong otherwise we run the risk of being the first species to monitor our demise.

  • Stewart Tennant (M), director, GHA Livigunn,

A crude solution?

There has been some discussion lately about the possibility of an underlying shortage of water in the South East and the possibility of transferring water from the North by pipeline with the high capital cost involved for what will be only an occasional problem.

I suggest that consideration be given to using single hulled oil tankers which can be chartered very cheaply as their use is being phased out in favour of double hulled vessels.

The capital cost would be small as existing dock facilities could be used and the water treated in existing plants. This method would give flexibility that high cost permanent transfer systems would not.

  • Laurence May (F), 8 Hollybush Rise, Cardiff, CF23 6TG

Terror is difficult to design out

Graham O’Neill’s idea of constructing a floating cofferdam is a fine one (NCE 24 June). I had the same idea in the 1970s thinking then of effectively creating a floating holding tank thus eliminating the need for at least some of the underwater pipelines.

My reservations then were that it would present an easy terrorist target. With regard to problems caused by rough seas, design development of the freeboard and shape of the inner face of the wall could limit overspill, if not eliminate it completely.

The problem of terror is more difficult to design-out.

  • George Porteous,

Nuclear: what’s the plan?

So, an energy crisis is looming and new nuclear has won the debate to help us out. Wonderful.

Could one of the pro-nuclear party now explain to me in detail what the plan is to deal with the radioactive waste from these reactors that will be fatal to all life for the next few million years?

Or is this another classic “leave it to the next generation” problem?

  • Julian Ashby (M),

Letters to the editor

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.

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