Road spending is not a luxury that can be cut
With regard to your comment on local roads (NCE 2 September) all those concerned with roads funding need to be reminded that these local roads are a fundamental social service used by everybody, including pedestrians, without which it becomes almost impossible to deliver other vital amenities.
- Michael Elliott, (M), Dunblane, Elliottm0742@aol.com
In these times of national expenditure review, some recent reports have put forward the view that we should not invest in any new roads if we have not the budget to maintain ourexisting network.
The truth, however, is that over the last 10, 20, or 30 years we have never had sufficient funds to maintain our road network properly but we have continued, albeit on a small scale, to carry out some capital works tackling problem areas, such as relief roads and missing transport links etc.
Now should be no different. Long planned projects should continue, especially relief to existing communities like Salisbury and Worthing, or help to industry like the Manchester to Sheffield route, or tackling inadequacies such as A14 Huntingdon/Cambridge and heritage preservations such as Stonehenge.
Ministers and civil servants should not use the expenditure review to put such projects in the “too difficult” trays on their desks.
- John Franklin, 11 The Ridings, East Horsley, Surrey, KT24 5BN
Blight of High Speed 2
Marilyn Fletcher poses very interesting questions regarding High Speed 2 (NCE 2 September).
She may not be a civil engineer but I am and I, too, have asked the same questions.
It is a fundamental requirement of all highway authorities to keep roads safe and open and yet NCE has published an article describing one authority’s failure to do so on financial grounds.
NCE also highlights the challenge facing the UK’s rail network in the light of funding shortfalls both in the past and definitely in the future.
How much longer are we going to continue to consider new inappropriate infrastructure when we can’t even maintain what we’ve got now?
The published route of HS2 and the alternative are so inappropriate that it is obvious that nobody has actually visited the area or cares about the local environment or the people that live there.
It looks like someone has just drawn a line from London in a northerly direction and said “that will do”.
The sooner this blight can be consigned to the scrapheap of other ill-conceived major projects that we can well do without the better.
- MA Knight, Aylesbury, Bucks, email@example.com
Rail should hug motorways
Marilyn Fletcher’s letter expressing concern about the impact of the HS2 route through the Chilterns caught my attention (NCE 2 September).
Much as I support the HS2 scheme concept in principle, I am concerned that the high costs and risks of pursuing wholly new routes could bring the project to a halt. Fletcher is absolutely right to contrast the “combined corridor” approach adopted in Kent where the HS1 runs parallel with the M2 and the M20.
I have long advocated this approach because most of our strategic national networks actually lend themselves to it. I have drawn maps to prove this! My solution would be to adopt fresh intercity rail alignments that run alongside the motorway network.
In doing this we would virtually halve the local environmental impacts and use “marginal” land already blighted.
This land will almost certainly be needed in the longer term for motorway widening or service road provision after the capacity released by hard shoulder running runs out. The high speed rail enthusiasts will of course argue that the curvatures will not work in that HS2 would need to divert substantially from the M40 to provide the desired speeds safely. They have a point but I would prefer a new and reliable medium-high speed rail system and can think of plenty of uses for spare land trapped between the road and the railway.
The combined corridor approach may well be much cheaper and offer other efficiencies to the road and the rail providers. New opportunities for private finance also come to mind.
- Howard Potter, Scott Potter Associates, London House, 243-253 Lower Mortlake Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2LL
Last week’s NCE has a very good report on the progress of Thameslink.
However, I noticed that Blackfriars station has only two through platforms while the other two terminate from the South. The design is crying out for a Blackfriars North double-junction to join platforms 3 & 4 with 1 & 2. Then make all platforms bi-directional in signalling terms and any potential operating performance issues will disappear.
While the costs at this stage may be difficult to fund, trying to install it later when the mistake is recognised will be at least five times more expensive.
- Neil Raw (M), Oriel Grove, York
Hands off the regulators
We all know that the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review is likely to have an impact on us all. One outcome of these cutbacks is the effect this might have on our environmental regulatory system and the ecosystem services that this supports. We may be at the start of a regulatory revolution.
Developers, agriculture and industry have long complained about the lack of clarity and how different regulators’ agendas appear to clash.
Others worry that the financial imperatives faced by the government may act to undermine the progress made to date by implementing environmental regulations as well as the future protection of our natural and built environment.
A more holistic approach is needed if a catastrophic diminution of its effectiveness is to be prevented.
Changes are coming. The Cabinet Office’s draft Structural Reform Plan (June 2010) says: “Abolish/bring into departments the majority of quangos and enforce new standards for the remaining”.
These changes, if managed regulator by regulator, with each regulator simply finding around 25% efficiencies, would almost certainly result in a catastrophic weakening of the UK’s regulatory effectiveness.
If a more holistic approach is taken, with the overall regulatory landscape reviewed as a whole, then there is a real possibility
of delivering major improvements at a much lower cost - in other words, a high value, low cost system.
Now is the time for change. However, this needs to be an open and transparent joined up process involving a wide range of stakeholders.
- Dr Stephen Bolt, chief scientist, WYG Group, Arndale Court, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 2UJ
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.