The main point:
Now that the Haiti earthquake starts to fade from the headlines may I comment on aspects of the media’s performance, which I think was deplorable.
To start there was a ghoulish bidding up of the final death toll and then the media decided that the story was the tardy response of the world community.
Only slowly has it been revealed that the main port was unusable and that the international airport had only one runway and no taxiway, limiting the number of flights which could be handled.
Far from being a slow response, I was amazed to hear that the US had been able to provide a fully stocked hospital ship with 500 medical staff ready to sail in less than a week.
That leads to the next question. How many journalists have gone to Haiti, and how much aid did their arrival delay?
Similarly, what was the UN secretary General and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton doing there? They were not adding to the aid efforts, just getting in the way.
Shouldn’t there be an agreement before the next major disaster strikes that only a limited number of journalists go, leaving the overstretched transport infrastructure for the emergency aid.
- JT Fulton, 3 Martello Park, Poole BH13 7BA
May I thank all RedR’s Patrons and supporters and many of your individual readers for their fantastic response to RedR’s appeal for Haiti.
As NCE reported, RedR members are already being placed into disaster relief teams and your generosity means that RedR can now start a vital programme of longer term support for the relief and reconstruction work.
Five years ago this month I was in Sri Lanka and I know from those personal experiences in the aftermath of the tsunami how important it is to place and to develop the right skills on the ground to make sure that the momentum of the immediate relief phase is translated into effective reconstruction.
We are at the start of a long road in Haiti and your tremendous support means RedR can hit the ground running to make a real difference. Thank you!
- Robert Hodgson (M), chairman, RedR UK, Lower Beer, Uplowman, Tiverton EX16 7PF
I am a recently retired chartered civil engineer, and also a chartered surveyor. I have worked extensively all over the world, and I have also carried out charity work in Ethiopia and Kenya.
I applied some time ago to join RedR and while membership has not been refused, I have been told many different reasons why I cannot be considered.
I guess the underlying question is my age of 64, although, like many others at my age, I am fit and well and more importantly willing, able and experienced in working with different cultures under difficult conditions.
I think it is a shame that people like me are excluded from carrying out voluntary work free of charge, at a time of life when we have the time and experience to do this.
- Roger B Johnson, email@example.com
Editor’s note: There are a huge number of ways that engineering experience and expertise can be valuable to the RedR organisation without having to travel to disaster zones. Do get in touch with RedR to find out more about membership and how you can help to support its activities.
How cooks’ salt came to Royal Navy rescue
The shortage of road salt on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall became so acute during the January snows that a local manufacturer of culinary sea salt had to help out.
The Royal Navy’s search and rescue helicopters at RNAS Culdrose were ice-bound inside their hangar until 300kg of salt from local company Cornish Sea Salt solved − or should that be dissolved − the problem.
Another Cornish company, the charity Shelterbox, was making good use of its 4x4 vehicles on the icy roads, which helped to ferry medical staff to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro and delivered meals-on-wheels to the area’s isolated villages.
Hopefully there was enough salt left over to season them!
- Eleanor Knowles, St Austell, Cornwall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wind power doesn’t add up
I do not know if Parsons Brinckerhoff is correct about short-term operating reserves (NCE 17 December). I am more concerned about meeting lulls in wind output over several days and am not comforted by Peter Hinson’s claim (NCE 21 January) that wind always blows somewhere.
With 33GW installed wind capacity (10GW average) David Mackay (Sustainable Energy − Without the Hot Air) calculates we would need 1,200GWh of stored electricity to fill a design lull.
Storage of this size is not on the horizon. Wind is not a standalone source: it needs matching virtually megawatt for megawatt with something reliable like gas.
Frankly, I believe expansion of offshore wind to 33GW is foolish. Personally I would accelerate development of tidal barrages and turbines and expand the nuclear programme to keep electricity costs down.
- Richard Balmer (M), 79, Links Drive, Solihull B91 2DJ
John Franklin (NCE 21 January) writes sensibly about transferring water from the Severn to the Thames catchment area as a cost-effective means of providing the Thames Basin with a sufficient water supply. A solution already exists.
The bed of the Thames & Severn Canal and of the Stroudwater Navigation can be used for this purpose without the need to drive a new pipeline through the Cotswolds, with all the environmental issues that would ensue from such works.
The Sapperton canal tunnel through the Cotswold Hills, at 3.5km long, has more than adequate capacity − as has the rest of this canal system − for the provision of up to 240Ml/day.
Pumping at the 28 locks is needed, but the total construction costs can be shared between the two projects.
- Neville Nelder (M), email@example.com
I share in Richard Lucas’s despair at the attitude of successive governments to engineering and manufacturing (NCE 21 January).
However, it seems that present politicians intend to redress the balance and focus their destructive attention on large British banks and breaking them up. So it may soon be difficult to use even a British bank.
Of course, the large French, Spanish and, perhaps, Chinese banks will be allowed free rein in this land of the short-sighted.
Yes, get involved in politics, but it will be a long uphill struggle.
- Peter Borrows, firstname.lastname@example.org
HS2 should not carry freight
When High Speed 1 (HS1) was built I recall reading articles in NCE detailing how our politicians insisted that it was engineered to carry freight as well as high speed passenger traffic.
French TGV routes, which only carry passenger traffic, had to have their standard design modified considerably, at great cost, for HS1.
This involved cant problems to cater for the widely different speeds, large passing loops, and power and signalling problems where freight was planned to join HS1.
I have a suspicion that HS1 is not using this freight facility. I certainly have never seen one freight train using it, and if it is not, what a waste of money. For High Speed 2 I suggest that it is not necessary to incur the cost of providing for freight traffic that can quite easily use the freed up existing rail routes, as seems to be the case in Kent.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of reducing the processions of HGVs on our motorways by using a Birmingham railhead.
- John M Roe (M), email@example.com
All ears over Storey’s Gate
So 2009 was officially the worst year ever for UK construction (NCE 14 January). I think the membership, even those lucky enough to be still in employment, would agree wholeheartedly.
And now the ICE, which budgeted £1.9M to refurbish its office purchase at 8 Storey’s Gate, hopes the membership will support expenditure of more than £5M on the refurbishment (and now, not in three years’ time) the most expensive of three options considered.
“We need to explain this to members,” says vice president Peter Hansford. I’m all ears.
- Ralph Swallow, Fluid Structural Engineers & Technical Designers, 21 St Georges Road, London SE1 6ES
Why the price is not right
I would like to highlight some of the issues regarding 8 Storey’s Gate. In August 2009 this building was purchased and a budget of £1.9M was set for refurbishment.
The options for refurbishment now range from £3.73M to £5.19M. The article implies that by spending the largest of these sums then £2M will be added to the value of the building.
Why is there no attempt to return to the original budget? Why is it necessary to spend £5.19M to add £2M in value? When is the ICE going to come clean and say they got it wrong?
- Martin Cooper, 454 Bath Road, Saltford, Bath BS31 3DJ
John Franklin rightly draws attention to the advantages of transferring water from the Severn to the Thames (NCE 21 January).
He is perhaps aware that the local Group Against Reservoir Development will be including this with other considerations in its representations to the public inquiry scheduled for next June.
I have also submitted a representation in support of a Severn transfer and of course there may be others.
- Barry Rydz (F), firstname.lastname@example.org