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Letters: Homes at risk from flooding must be allowed to take out insurance

Homes at risk from flooding must be allowed to take out insurance

Robin Clay evidently has strong opinions (NCE 3 March).

To continue with his logic, he would presumably like to refuse any contribution towards education if he were not to have any children of his own, or maybe he believes that Crossrail should be funded entirely by fares and private finance.

Perhaps he should set out on a roadshow to find support for his ideas, taking in at least York, Sheffield, Nottingham, Tewkesbury and even parts of the Thames Valley. He might in passing discover why such places have come to be where they are.

  • Julian Brooke Houghton (M), St Dominic, Cornwall, sixpence@dsl.pipex.com

Where has all this loose talk about flood prevention come from? In my day it was prudently termed flood alleviation.

  • Patrick McMillan (M), patrick.mcmillan@ntlworld.com

Has Robin Clay forgotten the purpose of insurance is to spread risk and provide security? What is the purpose of insurance from which all risk is reflected back to the customer?

The average house buyer has no knowledge or experience on which to base a judgement about flood risk.

The insurance and mortgage industry is slowly getting to grips with the potential and certainly doesn’t always get it right.

The majority of people affected bought their homes before flood risk became common knowledge thanks to the 2000 and 2007 events.

According to Environment Agency statistics, 1 in 6 homes in England and Wales are at risk! Should we abandon these people to their fate including all property currently protected by the Thames Barrier, which is coming to the end of its design life?

  • Howard Glenn (M), Howard.glenn@calderdale.gov.uk

Robin Clay proposes an interesting solution to the financing of flood alleviation schemes (Letters last week).

I am not sure that the purchaser of a brand new property that then flooded would be amused by such an approach from the Environment Agency or the local council as these are the very organisations which should have prevented the development in the first place.

In areas where there is a continuous risk of flooding, both fluvial and marine, and internal drainage boards are active, all property and land occupiers pay a specific drainage rate which is used to finance the necessary protection works.

These ratepayers expect the defences to be properly maintained, and from time to time improved to meet any worsening conditions. Perhaps this system should be extended across the whole country, especially as the legislation is already in place.

  • Barrie Shearer, Boston, Lincs, barrieshearer@aol.com

Unemployed need help with ICE subs

I was distressed to find a letter from the ICE dated 15 February informing me that if I did not pay my subscriptions that my membership would be terminated.

I can see the ICE offers a “benevolent” fund for those with families etcetera. However, I have no family and exist in circumstances which is unlikely to make me eligible.

I am a 36 year old graduate civil engineer and I have just submitted a PhD thesis focusing on reducing flood impact in small urban catchments in the UK. I am now unemployed and looking for work, and am living on Job-Seekers Allowance which pays me around £260 per month. Clearly there is no way I can pay my ICE fees at present.

Eventually I will find a job, and be able to pay for my subscriptions, which I will be happy to do.

What I am not happy about is backdating my payment to include the lapsed period in between the time when my subs ran out and the time when I receive my first pay packet.

There is a risk that the ICE will lose valuable (but poor!) members. I feel I have a great deal to offer the ICE (I sat on the ICE Graduates and Students committee in Yorkshire before I spent a year writing up my thesis. I intend to return to the committee when I begin working again), and my aim is to become chartered.

  • Richard Newman, r.newman@sheffield.ac.uk

Editor’s note: The ICE offers a concessionary membership rate of £56 a year for any member earning less than £11,000 a year. A declaration form is available from www.ice.org.uk/concessionary/subscription, which should be forwarded to the ICE subscriptions manager. An additional fee of between £9 and £13 will also be required to maintain the Engineering Council registration. However, no retrospective payment will be sought for the period covered by the concessionary rate.

Running is great

Thank you for publishing the “Six Healthy Steps” detailing the benefits of running (NCE 3 March).

I was introduced to running in 2005 by two bridge engineers and I went from not being able to jog more than 200m to being able to run competitively, as a club runner in all distances from 5k to marathon. 

I am now an associate director at my local athletic club and I am totally hooked on running.  I know running is not for everyone but I recommend it highly. I am happy to answer any questions a beginner to running might have. 

  • Martin James, doncaster.runner@googlemail.com

Why our infrastructure costs more

Mark Hansford (NCE 10 February) and Blair Fletcher (NCE 24 February) query whether we really know why UK infrastructure costs more than in most other European countriesI believe the Infrastructure UK cost study report does set out the reasons why. 

Of course there are some systemic causes that we cannot, or do not necessarily want to, change − the UK is more densely populated, we have more brownfield building sites; we pay greater attention to environmental matters; we have a better safety record; and our existing infrastructure, into which we need to connect, is older. 

This is not to say we can’t build cheaper − we can.  But we need to be aware of the expectations and conditions around us.

The report tells us how we can reduce costs − for example, we could even out the peaks and troughs in the stop-start nature of UK construction. We can bring more clarity in project leadership and in early decisions as well as more incentives to minimise outturn costs.

We can focus ourselves on lowest cost (capital or whole life) rather than managing within a budget; we could compile and share more asset information and cost data, we can adopt shorter and less complex procurement processes and we can bring in simpler standard contract forms. 

We can adopt simpler governance structures, we can employ more technical skills in client organisations to enable a more effective challenge of technical standards and budgets.

These of course are general comments which will not apply to all projects. But if we want to make the “leap of faith” that chairman of the IUK report steering group Terry Hill advocates, both industry and the public sector have to work together to face up to the real drivers of cost and the need to make radical change.

  • Bill Grose (F), bill.grose@arup.com

What goes around, comes around faster

I am sure many readers will be familiar with the BBC drama “Life on Mars” where Sam Tyler a detective in Manchester is transported back in time 25 years.

Although I have not been involved in any accident I feel, as I read the letters page every week, that somehow I am back in the 1840s.

The short sighted, and often Nimby, arguments being put forward by many of the objectors to the development of a high speed railway network in Britain are almost identical to those faced by Robert Stephenson when he was building the London to Birmingham railway.

There was a good fast stagecoach service between the two cities, so why should anyone want to go faster?
While classic railways were the transport mode of the 19th century, motorways the 20th, it is high speed rail the world over for the 21st century. Current estimates show a world network of high speed approaching 42,000km by 2025 ( Infrastructure 2011 supplement December 2010).

The objectors also fail to appreciate that on current growth predictions many of the main lines into London (even the “modernised” West Coast route) will be full to capacity by 2025. Many inter-city trains into London are now slower than they were 15 years ago simply because the routes have become more congested.

High Speed Two (HS2) is not simply a railway from London to Birmingham − it is the first stage of linking together the major conurbations of Britain with a 21st century transport system − and at the same time releasing capacity on the existing classic network such that services can be developed and improved.

In “Analysis” (NCE 3 March) Mark Hansford raises the question of the sensitivity of passenger forecasts, and goes on to imply that high speed rail is too risky economically. He does not say what the alternative is, nor is his list of “failures” very impressive!

The company operating services on the Dutch high speed line from Amsterdam to Brussels may be in financial difficulties but it is hardly surprising when they are still not, nearly four years since the line was completed, able to operate the full service.

It is not yet operating as a high speed railway. Similarly what the reported sacking on corruption charges of a senior Chinese transport minister has to do with the future viability of their high speed rail network I fail to see.

  • Roger Bastin (M)119 Temple Lane, York, rogandanna@msn.com

 

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