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Letters: London 2012 showed how great we can be

Opening ceremony

I too was extremely proud that one of my heroes, Brunel, featured in the London 2012 opening ceremony (Comment, 9-16 August). More so as I was actually one of the volunteer performers in the Pandemonium segment that featured the transformation of the green and pleasant land into the bleak landscape of the industrial revolution.

Having signed up over a year ago in the vain hope that I might get a shot at something in one of the ceremonies I was surprised to make it through two auditions in November 2011. The call up came in March and since May I attended 23 rehearsals covering every weekend and spanning some 175 hours of basically hard labour, albeit choreographed to the mechanical drumming from the Underworld soundtrack.

Director Danny Boyle was present at every rehearsal and he spoke of his passion for the “ordinary man” and how the Industrial Revolution was one of the most momentous periods in the modern age.

The attention to detailing was incredible: from the belts we had to wear as part of our costumes to the brick coursing on the chimneys and the rivet pattern on the beam engines.

It was heartening to see that this part of the show, especially the forging and raising of the rings, was one of the most talked about sequences in the media.

  • David Hampson-Ghani (M)

Antony Oliver reports (Comment 9/16 August) that “unprecedented, single-minded planning processes” were used to get the Olympic Park up and running in less than seven years. This included testing, commissioning and trial events etcetera.

Why can’t we use the same approach for the Thames Estuary airport to get it functioning within, say, 10 years. After all, we know how to solve the environmental, ecological, geological and archaeological challenges, as has been done at the Thames Gateway Port, and half the fast transport links (like High Speed 1) are already in place.

The Olympics show what can be done when the willpower is there.

● John Franklin (F), 11 The Ridings, East Horsley, Surrey KT24 5BN


Having a daughter, Julia Bleasdale, contesting both the 5,000m and 10,000m in the Olympic Stadium, I have had ample opportunity to roam the Olympic Park.

The build quality of the civil and structural engineering, including temporary structures, is particularly outstanding, and finishes and details equally so.

The last opportunity for the public to visit the Olympic Park will be during the forthcoming Paralymic Games, after which the dismantling teams will takeover the site.

● Jim Bleasdale (M),


I note that not all of the consultants involved in delivering the various venues for the 2012 London Olympics were given a mention in your article on 12 July.

Cole Easdon Consultants provided the Transportation Plan for both the Lee Valley White Water Centre as well as the Equestrian Centre at Greenwich and yet we were not listed.

Come on NCE, don’t just mention the large consultancies, give the smaller consultancies their due respect, especially when transportation was one of the major matters of consideration relating to the individual venues when planning was being granted.

● John Easdon (F), managing director, Cole Easdon Consultants,

Editor’s note: It has been a struggle throughout the Olympic Games’ preparation to credit the huge number of firms involved in the delivery of what is clearly a set of world class venues. NCE hopes to redress this over the coming months so if you have been involved in the work please email details to

Time to get tram projects on track

What dismal reading the report on the Edinburgh Tram, with all its endless contractual and public utilities problems, makes (NCE 29 July). Construction started in 2008 and the first trams will not come into public service until 2014. The last British tramway to come into service was Nottingham in 2004.

Contrast this with France where it usually takes about two and a half years from start of construction, including services diversions, to inauguration of the new tramway.

New tramways came into service in 2010 in Toulouse, 10.8km, and in 2011 in Angers, 12.3km, and Reims, 11.2km.

To date in 2012 lines 3 and 4 of the Montpellier Tramway, comprising 21km of new route length, came into service in April. In June, Brest Tramway, 14.3km, was inaugurated, as also was 11.2km for Orléans Tramway Line 2. Dijon’s 18km tramway is due to come into service in two stages by the end of this year and Le Havre Tramway, 13km, should come into service in December.

In 2013 Tours Tramway, 14.8km, and Paris Tramway T7, 11.2km, are due to be inaugurated. The cost of building these tramways and extensions, including supply of trams, is modest by comparison with Britain and is typically in the range €25M to €35M (£21M to £30M) per kilometre.

  • Graham Jellett (M), Tyne and Wear,


Taken for a ride over cycle track?

I found it interesting that £1.5M has been spent on a cycle track bridge[by Devon County Council] (NCE 9-16 August). If a similar project had been planned in my area we would have considered that, unlike trains, cycles can go up and down quite steep gradients.

Therefore our design could have been a zig-zag path on each side of the valley with a modest bridge across the stream at the bottom. To demonstrate the historic link with the railway the bridge would have been constructed with sleepers.

This scheme would have blended into the landscape, been environmentally friendly and been somewhat cheaper at, let’s say, £30,000. Perhaps I’m missing something.

  • Nigel Hopwood (AM),


Counting the cost of poor controls

Initially I was saddened to read the pejorative comment of Mark Hansford about “Department for Transport bean counters” (NCE 29 July), but then amused when it was followed by the article about the shambles of the Edinburgh Tram project, with a 30% cost increase for a 42% reduced track length and currently three years late.

The history of large construction projects in this country almost exhibits a total lack of any fi nancial controls, with a litany of excuses for cost over-runs. So let’s have much more control to save tax payers money, and if these people are considered to be “bean counters”, then it tells us a great deal about how little regard the construction industry has for fi nancial accountability.

  • Richard Walker (retired), Flat 1 Hyltons, 56A Red Lion Street, London WC1R 4PD


Russky Island Bridge is pure vanity

I enjoyed your item on the amazing Russky Island Bridge (NCE 9 August). However, you don’t mention that this great piece of engineering is actually a billion dollar vanity project by Vladimir Putin, designed purely to impress the world at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok.

Since Russky Island only has a population of 5,000 the cost benefit ratio of this project must actually be negative.

  • Jim Walker (M) 48 Laycock Lane, Keighley BD22 0PN


Collaboration key to water issues

I am pleased to see that interest in the ICE’s State of the Nation report continues. In response to David Birtwistle’s letter (NCE 26 July), it is important to clarify the ICE’s position on the concept of a “water grid”, water transfer and interconnections.

The ICE stated in the report that a national water grid and/or long distance bulk water transfer are not panaceas for the water security issues the UK faces. That is not to say that they could not be designed and constructed, but more a case of them being economically and environmentally undesirable.

As the ICE points out in its report, the transfer capabilities the UK requires should take the form of short interconnections between adjacent water supply areas. These may occur in a series of supplydemand rebalances in which water is provided through a displacement chain.

Birtwistle is right - this will be challenging. However, the ICE believes that water companies can be incentivised to share the investment in the infrastructure required and trade water in a manner that is mutually beneficial.

This collaborative approach, which includes government and other water users, is fundamental to meeting the UK’s water security challenges.

  • Michael Norton (F), chair of water expert panel, ICE, 1 Great George Street SW1P 3AA


































































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