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Letters: Rail projects will bring the UK closer together


Connecting up the HS2 dots

Old Oak Common: Interchange means many will not need to travel all the way to Euston

Old Oak Common: Interchange means many will not need to travel all the way to Euston

In answer to some of the issues raised about High Speed 2 (HS2) in letters (NCE 3 October), one respondent questions Euston as the London terminal as opposed to St Pancras, where Eurostar trains terminate.

Under the proposals, there will be a new interchange station at Old Oak Common and HS2 Ltd is investigating whether high speed trains from the North could connect into trains running to the Continent so there would be no need to use Euston (or St Pancras) for many journeys.

Scotland is far from forgotten in the HS2 proposals. Scottish passengers would benefit from significant journey time savings when both Phase 1 and Phase 2 open, and if present plans by the Scottish government for a high capacity line from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Carlisle come to fruition, it is likely that the gap in the North West would, in time, be closed.

However, just as the motorway network took several decades to complete, a UK high capacity rail network would also need to be built in stages as resources and finances permit.

HS2 would bring fewer benefits to Wales and the South West, but let us not forget that these areas will benefit from the massive £5bn upgrade to the Great Western Main Line already underway.

Over the next five years this will see track improvements, electrification and new trains, leading to increased capacity and significant journey time savings. These areas are certainly getting their share of rail investment.

  • Ed Gardiner (F), Lichfield, West Midlands,




The Crane Gang highlights a serious issue

As a cyclist I was pleased to see Transport for London (TfL) introducing Cycle Awareness training for commercial drivers.

However, I hope that the construction industry takes this more seriously than Ainscough Crane Hire, as shown in the documentary The Crane Gang on BBC recently.

To start with the drivers complained about going on the course, their loss of overtime for a day being more important than a few cyclist’s lives.

Once on the course the general attitude was: “We don’t need training, we’re professional drivers; it’s the idiot cyclists who get in our way that need to go on a course.”

As a civil engineer I hope that TfL doesn’t let these crane drivers loose on the streets of London.

  • Richard Barnes (M),




Problems with public sector procurement

Alan Mordey hit a few targets head on in his criticism of public sector procurement preventing innovation (NCE 26 September). He could add to that the quasi-monopoly purchaser position of the public sector also makes it impossible for new companies to get into the market.

Is it that there are vested interests in this cosy relationship?

Overseas clients are always suspicious when there are no UK customers. This company has bitter experience of this, which is why we are concentrating on privately fundable projects that are not restricted by public sector pre-experience procurement rules.

The rhetoric of innovation is meaningless without public procurers enabling innovations to get applied.

  • Lewis Lesley,




Marvellous display of technical prowess

Mesmerising: The bridge deck is slid into place

Mesmerising: The bridge deck is slid into place

Last Saturday night a major step forward in the Nottingham tram network extension took place when a 1,000t-plus, 70m long bridge deck was rolled across the dual carriageway ring road then moved at right angles into the gap between the abutments and lowered into place.

It was a once in a lifetime experience to watch this. My wife and I managed three hours until 1am before tiredness overtook fascination.

I was really looking forward to this week’s NCE, expecting it to cover the event, including details of the transporters and the problems overcome. When the bridge over the railway station was jacked into place, I was able to proudly share the clear and detailed article with my neighbours.

Is there a reason why the latest achievement was not covered?

  • Peter Davison (M ret’d), 11 Sandhurst Drive Ruddington Nottingham NG11 6HY

(Editor’s note: Apologies for missing the latest bridge slide, but NCE did cover the project’s first bridge launch in depth in its 28 February issue.)




Thames Barrier offers lessons in tunnel design

The issues surrounding the use of an immersed tube tunnel solution at Silvertown are discussed in a recent issue (NCE 26 September). I worked for the consortium on the Thames Barrier construction and was also Technical Approval Authority for the second Tyne Crossing and A3 Hindhead Tunnel.

It is ironic that just a few miles to the east there actually is a London built immersed tube tunnel - the Thames Barrier.

Immersed tubes for the barrier were constructed on site within a cofferdam at the Silvertown side, now known as Thames Barrier Park.

Those tubes fit between each river pier, so that a twin pedestrian tunnel is created spanning the whole width of the Thames.

The Woolwich Reach site was also close to a bend as is Bugsby’s Reach but the Thames Barrier construction took up half the navigable river space for several years rather than months that an immersed tube Silvertown Tunnel crossing would need - so the risk window is greatly reduced.

Shipping through the barrier had to pass between constructed piers where the 61m gap was agreed by Port of London Authority to be no less than the upstream London river bridge piers. No serious navigation incident occurred over four years of construction. It was not until 15 years after opening that the MV Sand Kite struck a river pier in thick fog.

A tunnel boring machine is unlikely to be readily available to the correct diameter for a road tunnel so would need to be commissioned and launched, and reception pits constructed all for a grossly inefficient, minimal drive length.

The rectangular shape of an immersed tube is what a road tunnel demands, whereas a circular TBM shape is inefficient and creates unnecessary spoil to be disposed of.

There are many options for an immersed tube casting yard both nearby and at a distance. Towing over a distance if necessary is not a major issue.

For the Tyne Tunnel a casting yard as far away as Scotland was one option considered. River safety is far less of an issue than the successful Thames Barrier construction. The immersed tube also gives the option of easily adding a pedestrian/cyclist tunnel to one side that the bored tunnel proposal will not permit.

I would listen carefully to the contractors on this issue.

  • Robert Ford (F), 34 Selborne Road, Sidcup, Kent DA14 4QY




Why employees make the best company owners

It is no surprise that the NCE/ACE UK consultant of the decade, Arup, and the global consultant of the decade, Mott MacDonald, are both not only large, but more importantly employee owned.

Neither are under commercial or financial pressures from external shareholders, and so can concentrate on quality products, satisfying clients, and investing for the long-term benefit of their firm.

Their awards also support the government’s stance of encouraging employee-owned firms.

  • David Palmer (F),




Engineers should not just look at profit

A non-civil engineer colleague of mine, while visiting my office, picked up a copy of NCE to read.

Having read this from cover to cover he declared that: “It left me with the impression that there was a major preoccupation among contractors and consultants to encourage the government to spend large amounts of money on infrastructure projects in order to boost their individual turnover and profits.”

This I found a quite depressing observation having been a member of the ICE for almost 40 years.

I must admit that I seem to recall that the ICE once had a vision that the civil engineer “harnessed the forces of nature for the benefit of mankind” and we still need to hold to this philosophy rather than it is for the “benefit of the members” of the industry.

I am concerned that we are in danger of losing the high ground in this important national debate if we are seen to be adopting a tendency of merely concentrating on creating an “infrastructure boom” as a means of up-keeping our professional economic activity.

We need to emphasise the benefits and positive outcomes of such activities for the long-term public good. After all, it is the public who will be paying for these projects, including contributing to our turnovers.

  • Philip Sharp (M), 62 Wildmoor Lane, Catshill, Worcs B61 0PQ



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