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Letters: More for less may leave workers running on empty

The main point:

More for less

Alan Harris’s response to the call for health to be taken seriously misses the real point (Letters last week).

The employer’s responsibility for safety does not require them to hold their employees’ hands, but to ensure that decisions they make take account of hazards which might result and control the consequent risk.

There is a similar level of responsibility for health, including mental health, as there is for physical safety. No-one has suggested that employers routinely take responsibility for ‘clinical care or treatment’, though there are many places where it is appropriate to do so, and has been done.

The main workplace mental health issue is of course stress − the control of which is not “way beyond the limits of normal reason”, just good management. Most engineers do not work on construction sites, and for them personally health is more of an issue than safety.

However, decisions made off-site can have serious consequences for safety on-site, and in the subsequent life of a project. The CDM regulations recognise this and are probably improving matters.

If society asks engineers to personally deliver “More for Less” there are likely to be serious consequences. The quality of work must go down, and then the quality of individual prepared to get onto this treadmill will go down.

Yes, steer clear of personal health − but irresponsible management can have very serious consequences for personal health, and overloaded, overstressed individuals make bad decisions.

  • Paul McCombie (M), head of civil engineering, deputy head of department, Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY


Learning Eurocodes now will pay off for engineers in the future


Despite teaching and tutoring of structural design at universities changing to Eurocodes some years ago, a graduate, lucky enough to get a job with a consultant, is still trained to use British Standards in-house.

Wouldn’t it have been a better investment for the future if the graduate had been encouraged to design to Eurocodes?

Surely any experienced supervising engineer should be able to check and approve a detailed design to Eurocodes and perhaps, in the process, might learn how to use them too. The philosophy is the same after all.

  • Costas Georgopoulos (F),

Look offshore for the best contract

I had serious concerns with William Gard’s line that for the latest round of offshore wind development ‘‘forms of contract will be bespoke and likely based on international engineering forms such as FIDIC.” (News last week)

This stood out in an NCE full of exhortations to do things differently and get more for less. It also followed the description of the likely multiple contract procurement strategy and the need to manage the interface risks between them.

What a shame we do not have an integrated set of international contracts that cover all aspects of a project. Contracts that are readable, flexible and specifically designed to help manager projects and interfaces. Oh, sorry we do. NEC contracts, which have been used successfully in wind farm projects.

We got close to using the NEC for an international offshore wind farm project but things sadly went back to FIDIC on that occasion.

Meridian Energy in New Zealand has woken up to the benefits of using NEC and does so for all its renewables projects. I really hope the UK industry starts from the right place.

  • Richard Patterson, procurement and NEC specialist, Mott MacDonald,

Build bridges towards locals

The comment by EdF’s Richard Mayson on the “understandable reaction to development near their properties” of the people of Cannington gives a false impression (NCE 18 March).

As he states, there is little opposition to the building itself − naturally, as many Cannington people work in the existing power station.

It is not proximity to properties but the effect of EdF’s access proposals on the whole area of Bridgwater and villages extending west as far as Minehead that is at issue.

A key factor is that the 900-car park-and-ride proposed for Cannington will generate so much traffic on the already inadequate A39 and add to the congestion through Bridgwater and on its northern approach road A38.

There is an alternative − as proposed in earlier plans in the 1980s. It is a shorter direct road across fields, starting from the wider area of the A38 near junction 23 of the M5.

Verbal comment during the first part of consultation suggested that such construction − including a bridge across the river − had not been proposed as it would be “very difficult”. It is hoped that this alternative route, which would also obviate other potential problems and reduce impact, is now being investigated by EdF.

  • Val Bannister,

Where is the end of the line for HS2?

Bill Pilkington’s point about connecting HS2 with HS1 (Letters last week) raises a number of questions.

The publicly available information seems largely silent on exactly how trains or indeed passengers would be expected to travel from the HS2 route north of Euston through to the continent and vice versa.

Will all HS2 trains terminate at Euston? This would be disappointing, but the need for a weather-proofed pedestrian link between Euston and St Pancras International would be crucial.

If indeed some through trains are to be ‘allowed’ by those in power at Westminster, how will they negotiate the capital?

The track layout in and around St Pancras already has provision for trains from HS1 to go onto the North London Line (NLL) either directly or via a reversal in certain platforms of St Pancras International.

Such trains could not do this sort of manoeuvre at the future Euston without an additional south to east spur from Euston up onto the NLL although a duplicate capability of this kind would surely not be necessary.

As the mileage travelled on the NLL would be small, a relatively modest initial investment to allow trains from HS1/ St Pancras to access HS2 west of Euston would probably suffice.

  • Alan Fell (M), alanirtonfell@

HS1 must end next to HS2

Far be it for me to pour cold water on proposals for re-vamping Euston Station but surely the crucial issue is not to repeat the mistakes made in the past.

HS2 must terminate next to HS 1 regardless of what our esteemed architectural colleagues desire. Ideally it should be possible for continental trains to proceed on to northern destinations − even if that does mean reversing at St Pancras.

With Thameslink soon being able to cater for the former Midland line medium distance trains, the remainder of the St Pancras train-shed should be given over to high-speed services.

This would probably necessitate the traditional ‘Midland’ destinations being diverted to Euston as was envisaged in the late 1950s − early 1960s when the current layout was being planned.

  • Peter Monk (M rtd),

Digging deeper into the past

I can go a bit further back than Ray Owen (Letters last week) and in the early fifties I was earning a few bob in the evenings digging service trenches to properties in the small village of Holme in Norfolk when mains water was first brought in.

The mark on my spade handle ensured a trench depth of 2ft.6ins. to receive the wrought iron service pipe.

  • Ivan Stimson (F.rtd), Lincolnshire,

Records should be kept for scour

I congratulate you on your Malahide bridge collapse (NCE 18 March) report, which is generally informative and accurate but I do take issue with one statement.

The viaduct is not “unusual in that the piers did not extend down to the bedrock”. Typically short-span masonry bridges across rivers, including long viaducts, are founded on shallow strip foundations, sometimes only just below the bed of the river.

Their stability relies on the river bed being able to withstand scour, either because of its natural resistance or because protection has been installed (such as the failed Malahide “causeway”).

It is vital that bridge authorities understand the nature of a problem that is normally hidden below the river and that proper provision for the inspection, assessment and repair of antiscour works is made.

It is also very important that records are made of inspection data and works carried out since scour tends to be a progressive problem that develops over a number of years, before finally causing a failure at times of peak flow.

  • Brian Maddison, Bridgeway Consulting, Bridgeway House, Technology Drive, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 1LA

A matter of judgement

Shoreham Toll Bridge restoration (NCE 4 March) can be viewed as either a project which did “skilfully and sympathetically restore” the structure or one which displayed “lack of detailed engineering inventiveness” (Letters 18 March).

Members of the local community definitely believe that their user experience has been enhanced as they can now use the full breadth of the bridge deck which is no longer constrained by metal fencing panels or uneven decking.

The civil engineer today has a duty to both deliver to their client the best solution which meets their needs and to enhance serviceability and future use whilst respecting the historical context.

  • Martin Whiting (M), project director, Royal Haskoning, Haywards Heath RH16 1PG

Your views & opinion

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which meansletterslonger than 200 words are likely tobecondensed.

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

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