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Letters: More robust kerbing could have prevented Oxshott rail crash

More robust kerbing could have prevented Oxshott rail crash

I read about the mixer truck rail bridge smash (News last week) and noted that costs of increasing the strength of parapet walls was likely to be a major issue in not proceeding with preventative works.

These high costs wouldn’t be necessary if an alternative option were employed to prevent the vehicle from reaching the parapet in the first place.
Currently, most bridges have bullnose kerb faces as they are more difficult for vehicles to mount – it could be feasible in a number of cases for these to be replaced by “Titan” kerbs of the sort used in petrol station forecourts, for example.

The option and their weight may be supportable, subject to the usual checks and design modifications.

  • Dave Murphy, project engineer, Scott Wilson,]

I read your article on the Oxshott rail crash with interest (News last week) but believe your contributors are missing the point.

The concrete wagon clearly punched through the masonry parapet. What is required is improved continuity – particularly horizontally – in order to mobilise the whole mass of the parapet wall.

This is something that can be very simply (and relatively cheaply!) effected.

  • Ian Hunt (F),

I was interested to see Messrs Harvey and Hobbs’s solution to the brick parapet problem (News last week).

In the mid 1960s when worries arose concerning a brick arch overbridge with no footpaths and increased heavy traffic we installed full height kerbs and insitu concrete backing with a cork and bitumen discontinuity immediately in front of the parapet.

The kerbs and the insitu concrete backing were dowelled into the road surface, thus avoiding any excavation of the road surface or, more importantly, any possession of the rail track.

I put this principle of dowelling full height kerbs to good use in the 1970s as back stops to trailer slots in the extensive RO/RO and container parks at Felixstowe Dock & Railway Company. The minimum height of kerb face above the running surface has to be 225mm to be effective.

With 44t HGVs now on the roads, I would now consider using Treif kerbs as the fronting to the insitu concrete protecting overbridge parapets.

  • Peter Stebbings (M),

I read with interest and some irony, but most particularly envy, the report on the Oxshott rail crash.

Fortune smiled on the timing of the crash, which resulted in remarkably few injuries, presumably due to the low carriage occupancy at that time of day.

I note the train was an eight-carriage unit. Now, I do not doubt the need for eight-carriage units between Guildford and Waterloo but, as a veteran of the Trans-Pennine rail service linking Newcastle and Leeds with Manchester and Liverpool, and serving Manchester Airport, I wonder whether, had the accident occurred at a similar time of day on this route, such a fortunate outcome would have transpired.

On a good day, we have three-carriage units on this route, more generally two-carriage units. Gross overcrowding is the norm, not just at peak commuter times, but throughout the day and night.

Perhaps however, on the balance of probabilities, there is a good case for arguing that a concrete mixer is less likely to hit a two-carriage train than an eight-carriage train!

I suggest that we do not make the politicians aware of this particular statistic when it comes to consideration of the future capacity of our railways.

  • Andrew Shaw,


White finger ride

With reference to the article on grinding the road surface for highways maintenance (NCE 21 October) I have just travelled the section of the A12 in Essex that has been used in the trial.

My experience was that there was a definite reduction in road noise and the car ride was smoother but by the time I came to the end of the section my fingers were tingling due to the high frequency vibration that seems to be transmitted through the steering wheel.

Next time I’ll wear my anti-white finger gloves.It’s a good idea but I think there is a lot of refinement still needed.

  • Doug Hunt, chief technician, Construction Materials Department, Sandberg,

Population density and high speed rail

You recently ran a couple of articles on high speed rail proposals in Brazil and the United States (NCE 4 November), with a small comment in the title about “procrastination” in regard to the UK proposals.

As the use of this word, as opposed to, say, “consideration”, implies that you feel that there are readers who are attracted to the notion that the UK should follow these examples, I suggest that the following list of population densities in terms of people per square kilometre may be of interest.

  • Brazil: 28
  • California: 84
  • Ohio: 107
  • New York: 155
  • France: 114
  • Germany: 139
  • England: 395

Could it be that we in the UK should be focusing our energies and finance upon shifting large numbers of people over short distances, rather than worrying too much about moving a few people at very high speeds over long distances?

  • Peter Wiltshire (M), resident of the Chiltern Hills,

Masterplans are for all genders

I am writing in response to the article “Masterplanning must be for everyone” (NCE 28 October).

Good masterplans require inclusive public participation and engagement and some cultures are better at this than others. But surely the writer cannot be purporting that the needs of females in public spaces can best be anticipated and understood by female masterplanners?

Good contextual, site specific, masterplans should be gender blind and meet the needs of all male, female, young, old, able-bodied, disabled, etc.
As well as these social and economic factors, a masterplan should be informed by the environment on many levels.

It would be wonderful to see less of the stock “off the peg” block plans and broad brush movement corridors which do not respond to the environmental characteristics and the more subtle demands of the place. Using the gender platform could undermine this message.

  • Lindsey Whitelaw, director, Whitelaw Turkington, 33 Stannary Street, London, SE11 4AA

Baywatch to visit Horse Guards

I note the fine temporary Olympic venue in Horse Guards Parade for Olympic Volleyball (NCE 4 November).

The image shows the construction of a 15,000 venue packed with spectators. It is always good to see optimism at this stage, indeed it is surely part of the presentation to a potential client.

In view of the poor attendance seen on television at some of the recent Commonwealth Games events, one wonders if it is hoped that many of these spectators will be aged “Baywatch” followers, hoping to glimpse Pamela Anderson?

  • David Haynes (AM), 22 Fairhope Avenue, Lancaster, LA1 2LY

If you look, it’s all in the contract

In the mid 1970s, a Construction Industry Research & Information Association meeting considered a requirement that variations be priced before being implemented.

It was quickly recognised that the standard forms already contained requirements for pricing, if not in advance, then soon afterwards. The problem was a failure to use them. The difficulty has always been threefold:

  • The client is given an estimate on bill rates, with no allowance for delay and disruption. If this estimate were doubled, it might be in the right field and many inessential variations would be withdrawn.
  • The contract administrator will rarely put his foot down.
  • This approach is needed: “Details of cost and delay are required in four weeks; otherwise your claim will be considered withdrawn.” There will be howls of outrage and four weeks will stretch to eight, but details will be produced.

In the absence of details recorded at the time, these things are only assessed when everyone who knew the facts has moved on and the volume of contract files has become unmanageable. Argument is always fiercest between those who don’t know the facts. Perhaps these things
have improved, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • Mike Keatinge, Highbank, Marston Road, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 4BL

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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