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Letters: Multi-purpose crossings should be given serious consideration

The main point:

The new Forth crossing

Over recent months there have been a number of articles in NCE on the proposed new Forth and Runcorn bridges to be built to relieve the nearby existing road bridges.

It has struck me how we do not think ahead, or think laterally. Only road crossings are being considered − although possibly with light rail in the case of the Forth crossing.

This seems short-sighted. Both the proposed new Forth and Runcorn bridges are parallel with Victorian rail bridges which are increasingly difficult and expensive to repair. As these rail bridges are on important main lines they will, at sometime in the future, need replacing.

The obvious answer is to build the new bridges with a road deck above a rail deck. This would increase the cost of the road bridges, but be less than the cost of building two bridges.

In addition, tidal power generation could be incorporated into some of the bridge piers, either as axial flow turbines cast within the pier structure or as propeller turbines on the ends of the piers. There would be then be three income streams to help recoup the bridge cost.

Our successors will think we were very short-sighted and profligate in our use of resources if we do not utilise expensive structures in several ways.

  • Deryk Simpson (M), 6 Upper Broom Way, Westhoughton, Bolton BL5 3YG


Help is available if you’re struggling with new regime

European Union flag

Your report on the survey showing that two-thirds of engineers do not feel confident using the new Eurocodes (NCE 11 February) underlines the fact that engineers need to bite the bullet, invest the time and money and make full use of the education and training resources that have been developed on their behalf. Eurocode ignorance is not bliss.

While it will require investment of resources, simply doing nothing is not an option. BS8110 has already been withdrawn and is no longer being maintained, and so will soon become outdated and not conform to current best practice.

Recognising that the transition from British Standards to Eurocodes is a major event for engineers, The Concrete Centre has developed a range of resources to assist with the familiarisation and use of Eurocodes.

These include a dedicated website − − a series of “How to” guides, guidance handbooks such as Economic Concrete Frame Elements to Eurocode 2, the publication of Concise Eurocode 2 and the provision of training courses and seminars throughout the UK.
We understand that it is difficult and will require time and money, but engineers should not ignore the new Eurocodes, and nor should they be intimidated by them.

  • Andrew Minson, executive director, The Concrete Centre,

Atkins is as ready as it can be

In reply to Alasdair Beal’s query regarding the proportion of Atkins engineers who are competent to design in Eurocodes (Letters last week), the answer is that not all engineers, despite the training each has received, will be competent to design to Eurocodes on their own.

However, every UK office doing bridge engineering has sufficient team leaders who are competent in Eurocode design to ensure that their teams can deliver a design safely and economically.

This situation is little different to that under the current BS5400 regime − not every new graduate is competent to design on his or her own without supervision, so supervision is provided.

In addition, our team leaders and their team members are supported by a cohesive Bridge Engineering Network which provides technical support, training and knowledge exchange across the whole of Atkins internationally.

So we are as confident as we can be that we can move to Eurocode delivery without falling foul of many of the problems that others state are insurmountable.

  • Chris Hendy (F), head of bridge design and technology, Atkins, Woodcote Grove, Ashley Road, Epsom, Surrey KT18 5BW


Road widening is a no-brainer

Do we want our rural motorways festooned with urban clutter? Did anyone ask us? The managed motorways article (NCE last week) indicates that there will be 60 full-width (ie 45m) sign gantries between Junctions 10 and 13 of the M1.

Is this environmental desecration what the public wants, or is it just easier for the Highways Agency than “grasping the nettle by the hand”, having a public inquiry, buying some land for widening and putting more blacktop down − the only real increaser of capacity.

Who says £6bn spent mainly on electronics is better value for money for road users than widening schemes which self-evidently are? Come and look at our widened stretch of the M1 in Derbyshire, compare it with M42’s gantries and see what you prefer. It’s a no-brainer.

  • David Myles,, Wingerworth, Derbyshire

We don’t need another airport

I am puzzled why people are putting effort into proposing a new airport in the Thames estuary.

When I look into my crystal ball to see the future for Heathrow I see:

a) the increased cost of fuel combined with greater environmental consciousness resulting in no long-term growth in air travel by UK residents;

(b) a decline in the number of international transfer passengers as a result of the increase in direct flights between North America and the rest of the world as more long haul planes enter service;

(c) a reduction in passengers using Heathrow. Another airport for south-east England is inappropriate because it will be less accessible for the majority of people living in the south-east than the existing airports.

Improving the rail access to Heathrow from the rest of UK, starting with a good rail link to Reading (and hence to the south-west), would be a cause more worthy of support.

  • John Ratsey, 56 Okebourne Park, Swindon

High speed rail lines must link up

I was surprised to see a map of the 1947 motorway proposals included in the report on HS2 (NCE 4 March) but then, on reading the report, the lack of joined up thinking became apparent.

The proposed route and configuration at the Birmingham end seem sound enough, though the requirement to cost justify the Parkway Station near the National Exhibition Centre is not as the need for this station is self-evident.

The proposed new station in central Birmingham, however, is not so obviously justifiable, but it does make clear why the city has been so dilatory over the Eastside regeneration.

So, while Birmingham Eastside should end up like a dog’s dinner, the London proposals are more like a dog’s breakfast. The tardy proposal for a link with Crossrail demonstrates that we have no overall rail strategy and that the proposed terminus at Euston is absolutely wrong.

The glaring error, however, is the lack of a direct link to HS1 and the Continent. It is not just the citizens of Birmingham who will be deprived of this but the whole of the Midlands, the north of England, and Scotland.

Alternative solutions abound − for example St Pancras could be further adapted to become the London terminus for HS2 alongside HS1 with local services diverted to Euston and King’s Cross.

The best solution, however, must be to link up HS1 directly with HS2 and while the report states this to be self-evident, it is not part of the recommended “strategy”. Without this direct link to the continental network we cannot say that we even have a strategy for high speed rail.

  • Peter Styles, Kingsbury,

Shoreham shows our worst side

Shoreham toll bridge seems to be the butt of some inappropriate accolades by starry-eyed judges in yourreview of the Historic Bridges and Infrastructure Awards(NCE 4 March). The terms used include “structural modelling”, “skilfully and sympathetically restored” and “a radically improved user experience” − whatever that means.

Let’s get pragmatic − it’s an old timber staithe built by practical tradesmen to a form which we now find attractive. Now look what 21st Century “engineers” have done.

New timbers standing out like a sore thumb; unsightly and unnecessary clumsy steel clamps which appear to be a ponderous development of the Neanderthal jubilee clip; no attempt to distress new timber to match the old; a fundamental change to the elevation.

Is this lack of detailed engineering inventiveness and skill the best that today’s engineers can come up with? The new works are a travesty. The “Old Man” must be laughing in his grave.

  • Geoffrey D Thornton (M), consulting engineer, Ivy Farm, Little Hucklow, Buxton, SK17 8RT

Mental health needs due concern

It was good to read Trevor Walker emphasizing “health” − the forgotten aspect of health and safety (Letters 4 March). Even some of the Institution’s own literature treats “health and safety” as a singular noun, and the public certainly does.

It is important to think again of safety and health as separate issues, both of which should be intrinsic concerns of good management.

Much progress has been made on construction sites over the past 15 years, as respect for safety has led to a stronger sense of co-operation, mutual responsibility, and teamworking. A proper concern for mental as well as physical health is still needed, and this must exist alongside an intelligent and imaginative concern for site safety.

Paying lip service to health and safety is dangerous, because people think they can fill in a form, put it in a pigeonhole, and stop thinking about it. If short-sighted individuals place too much emphasis on doing more for less, mental health especially will be jeopardised.

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

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 tobecondensed.

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

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