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Letters: Making the right connection is essential to HS2’s success

The main point:

High speed rail

I agree with Peter Styles that it is essential that HS2 has a direct connection with HS1 to avoid delays and inconvenience to travellers changing trains in London when travelling to the continent (Letters last week).

Regarding the proposed route to Birmingham, I assume that it makes use of the former Great Central main line formation, but I would have thought that a better route could have been found that follows the M1 and M6 motorways to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, that would enable the cities of Milton Keynes, Leicester, Coventry, Nottingham and Sheffield to be linked in to the high speed network.

The provision of a hub in North London, for example in Cricklewood, would enable the HS2 route to provide a connection to HS1, a route to a terminus in London and a connection if required to Heathrow airport. My final point refers to the existing West Coast and East Coast main line high speed services. Will they be retained when HS2 is completed?

Currently I can travel from my local railway station in Wilmslow to London in approximately 110 minutes. If I have to travel to Manchester to board an HS2 service this will add 30 minutes to the proposed 80 minute HS2 journey time from Manchester to London making the overall journey time of 110 minutes the same as I enjoy today.

  • Bill Pilkington,, Mottram St.Andrew, Cheshire


Widening will always be safer than managed motorways

M1 managed motorway

Having just read the article on the M1 Junctions 10 to 13 Managed Motorway scheme (NCE 11 March), there are two aspects which elicit comment.

Firstly I think Highways Agency route performance manager Keith Hutchinson’s assertion that “a managed motorway” solution is achieved in “quicker time” than by widening, cries out to be challenged. At 36 months this is much longer than a number of other recent widening schemes.

Furthermore, if the original contract, as let in 2005 we are told, had been allowed to run it would have been completed by now rather than us having to wait until 2013 for the managed motorway solution.

Secondly, the price for a more economical solution to capacity increase is safety. I assert a managed motorway is less safe than a widened motorway, and this stems from the basis that a motorway or road is more safe with a continuous hard shoulder.

I know that emergency refuge areas are being provided but they are not the same as a continuous safety zone. The trouble is we will not have meaningful statistics for five to 10 years. By then it could be too late for some.

  • John Franklin (F), East Horsley, Surrey, KT24 5BN

Bury pipes deep to avoid frost

With regard to the article “Green and Warm” (NCE last week), I like the almost throwaway remark: ‘With frost penetrating the ground up to 450mm deep we had to lay the pipes at 700mm depth to ensure that they didn’t freeze.’

I recollect a period in the late 1970s and early 1980s when we were researching traffic strains on buried gas pipes in the north of England and we were measuring sub zero temperatures to depths greater than one metre beneath paved surfaces.

I am guessing that if we have a few more cold winters like this winter, and no snow cover, then some of these ground source heat pump installations might be struggling to cope?

  • Ray Owen (M), Dumfries and Galloway,


Steer clear of personal health

I was amazed at Trevor Walker and Paul McCombie’s line of argument (Letters last week & 4 March). The idea that the construction industry should get directly involved in issues of physical and mental “health” of staff on site is way beyond the normal limits of reason.

Do contractors not have enough to do planning and executing work efficiently and safely? Whichever meaning the dictionary places on “health” it was never intended under Health & Safety Executive (HSE) regulations to include considerations of clinical care or treatment.

Do our colleagues seriously appreciate the sea of responsibilities into which they would have us plunge? Who would be responsible for the disturbed foreman chippie who jumps off a high scaffolding after a particularly frank or harrowing tea break encounter group? And what about the office boy’s impending nervous breakdown which the site agent failed to diagnose?

Perhaps Walker and McCombie envisage a post graduate year as a hospital intern as a “must have” for a future engineer’s CV. The industry does not have a good record for improving safety since the introduction of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations. It seems to me that we chartered civil engineers should concentrate on doing what we are supposed to do best rather than dabble in areas where we have no recognised skill.

If firms need to deal with personal health issues then they should employ qualified health professionals not DIY engineer paramedics.

  • Alan Harris (M),


Get HS2 capacity correct first time

Peter Styles was surprised to see a map of the 1947 motorway proposals included in the HS2 report (Letters last week).

No doubt he was also intrigued to see further on in the report the same motorway network still planned to be in use in 2035 with significant parts of it severely congested by then.

What a surprise! Is HS2 about to repeat this feat? The HS2 diagram shown in News suggests that the high speed rail traffic derived from the conurbations of Birmingham, Manchester, Merseyside, the East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle, plus the entirety of Scotland can be accommodated by a single track of railway.

This will be some undertaking. Is it sensible even to plan on this basis, let alone try and implement it? Or, are we going to build a six-track railway through Great Missenden, so that we get it correct from the start?

  • David Myles,, Wingerworth, Derbyshire

When a simple solution is best

The Cambridge Guided Bus route is essentially only the few miles from St Ives to northern Cambridge. To the west of St Ives the vehicle largely shares the highway with normal traffic.

Nor are there any proposals for park and ride facilities in Huntingdon as a nominal start to the route, thus requiring a journey to the St Ives park and ride site for potential users in the passenger catchment to the west.

It makes as much sense, therefore, to drive the rest of the way to a park and ride site in Cambridge itself.

Within Cambridge the guided bus reverts to using existing bus lanes within the highway, where available, plus a new short segregated section to the south of the city centre with an, as yet, unstated delivery date.

A simple new dedicated bus road over the Huntingdon to Cambridge route for conventional bus vehicles would have been cheaper and simpler, yet would have provided as good a public transport service.

  • Richard Lambert (F),

Carbon conscience at a cost to UK jobs

How can EdF argue that the UK should act unilaterally to raise the price of carbon without mentioning the probable “side effects” on industry (NCENews 11 March)?

The UK emits around 2% of total world emissions. Putting up the cost to UK emitters independently surely would see UK carbon production and heavy industry jobs move elsewhere in the world?

For example, will the recently mothballed Corus steel plant on Teesside be even less likely to re-open with higher carbon prices? In the meantime the steel it might have produced will be produced in China or India where I assume there is no carbon trading, and shipped to the UK.

Carbon trading seems to discriminate against UK heavy industry, but it creates a few white collar jobs in the City. So that would be in order.

  • Bruce Latimer (M),

Inspect regularly to avoid disaster

Regarding the article on the Malahide bridge collapse, (News last week), river and sea beds are subject to continuous changes by scour and accretion of material.

Underwater inspection is essential to observe seasonal variations. From experience those authorities who arrange flexible annual inspection and maintenance contracts control the problems within tight budgets.

Those who arrange inspections only in conjunction with other programmes often find that damage is beyond maintenance.

  • M J Meadowcroft,, Tyne and Wear

Lower costs and a happy client

Regarding the Cambridge busway defects report (NCE 11 March), let us all take a lesson from this story. Contractors are focused on the bottom line: profit. In my view, duty to the client can move out of sight.

As I see it, clients without in-house engineering expertise to check designs and supervise major infrastructure purchases are vulnerable.

Maintaining their own engineering team, or employing an independent consulting engineer would, I suggest, produce the happy outcome of improved quality and reduced construction and project costs.

  • Norman Pasley (M),

Mersey gateway to include light rail

May I reassure Mr Simpson (Letters last week) that the proposed new crossing of the Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes (the Mersey Gateway) does include a provision for a future light rail or similar.

  • Ian Hunt

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 becondensed.

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

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