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Letters: Stop sniping at High Speed 2 - it's too important a project

The main point:

High Speed 2

NCE has published several letters regarding the High Speed 2 (HS2) report published last month. All of these lettersraise objections to the scheme outlined in the report.

However, your correspondents have obviously not read the report in any detail, since all of their points are discussed and considered in detail.

If they had taken the time to look before commenting, they would find that the options for London terminals, links to Heathrow and HS1, route, etc, are carefully considered and rationally assessed.

HS2 would be a highly valuable addition to our national infrastructure. Ill-informed sniping and comment are likely to scupper the scheme before it ever begins, given the pressures on public expenditure.

I have absolutely no link to HS2 or indeed to the railway industry. But like many other readers, I have experienced the frustration of carrying out a detailed study only to have the findings ignored by decision-makers with ulterior motives. This must not happen with such an important project.

  • Andrew Shimmin (G), water division, Mott MacDonald, Demeter House, Station Road, Cambridge, CB1 2RS

Alan Fell and Peter Monk (Letters 31 March) are right to beconcerned about connections between HS2 and the Channel Tunnel.

The answer is to make the new tunnel between Old Oak Common and Euston join the West Coast Main Line west of Camden Junction, allowing through trains to use North London Line via Primrose Hill.

The bottleneck through Camden Road station needs widening, but has for a long time. Through trains can bypass St Pancras, but might usefully stop at Ashford in Kent.

  • David HT Smith, 25 Grange Road, Shrewsbury,SY3 9DG

Further to the correspondence on the need for HS2 to be connected to HS1, I understand that the initial view of the HS2 Development Team was that the demand for direct travel will be limited, as borne out by the experience of the regional Eurostars.

I am not surprised that there was limited take up of the regional Eurostar services as the journey time from Manchester to London Waterloo was around four hours which, when added to a change of train and a further two hours to Paris, made an overall journey time from Manchester to Paris in excess of six hours.

Compare this with a direct link journey time of three hours from Manchester to Paris, which is comparable to the air travel time.

  • Bill Pilkington,


Assertion is wide of the mark

Highways agency

In response to John Franklin’s assertion that a managed motorway is less safe than a widened motorway (NCE 25 March), I must point out that this is not supported by the available evidence.

Comparing safety risk on managed motorways against widened motorways is problematic as managed motorways are a package of three traffic management measures, while widening only provides additional capacity.

The Highways Agency has some 10 years of successful operational experience of two of the three measures, MIDAS queue protection and controlled motorways, which have demonstrated reduced safety risk by about 30%.

As well as introducing these two measures to sections of motorway, for example the M25 between Junction 10 and 16 and to the M20 between Junctions 4 and 7, we are also installing them as part of widening schemes, for example on the M1 between Junctions 25 to 28 and the two schemes on the M25.

The third measure is dynamic hard shoulder running and this has been in operation for over two years and is only operated at peak times when, by definition, the motorway is congested and speeds are relatively low.

Monitoring for the first two years of the M42 pilot shows very good speed compliance and lane discipline resulting in a reduction in personal injury accidents from an average of 5.1 per month to 1.8 a month.

  • Brian Barton, Highways Agency, Federated House, Dorking, RH4 1SZ

NEC contracts not suitable

Like Richard Patterson (Letters 1 April), I too hope that the UK wind farm industry starts from the right place in preparing its contracts.

However, I am not persuaded that the NEC form of contract is such a place. Wind farms are systems-based plants, not civil engineering works.

As I explained recently to the Kings’ College Construction Law Association, the NEC lacks many basic features that are necessary for a contract to deliver a systems-based plant and a far more appropriate form of contract is the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) form − available as a lump sum, target cost or cost reimbursable contract.

Although drafted primarily for process plants, the IChemE forms are equally suitable for complex systems, where the need for testing individual elements of the plant, followed by testing of the completed plant, and testing the performance of against contractual guarantees of performance are all provided for within the conditions of contract. Certificates issued by the project manager at each stage provide clarity.

This contrasts to the NEC ECC, where the works information must deal with many commercial aspects of the testing regimes as well as the technical elements or many additional ‘Z’ clauses must be drafted.

The IChemE forms are published in both UK-specific and international formats − the latter being equally usable in a non-UK ‘domestic’ contract as well as in a truly international contract.

  • Gordon H Bateman (F), The Spinney, Upper Warren Avenue, Caversham, Reading, RG4 7EJ

A mind’s eye on efficiency

In “The Main Point” (Letters 1 April), Paul Macombie continues with his arguments in favour of mental health being a recognised health hazard within the industry and states that More for Less will have serious consequences.

On the other hand, in the Viewpoint column, the government’s chief construction adviser makes it quite clear that our industry is not as efficient as it must become for a number of reasons, which he lists, and that we must change.

Having spent over 50 years in the industry, I cannot say whether my mental health has been affected. I can say, however, that having worked on all five continents, we have a lot to learn and could do things better for less.

  • Brian Miller (F), brian miller []

Tram’s waste of energy

The Edinburgh tram scheme has involved diverting existing underground services to clear the route for the tram tracks. The extent of the work and the unpredictable nature has clearly led to time and cost overruns.

The track construction involves a massive concrete slab below the track and the total reconstruction of the roadway. All far from lean.

Had trolleybuses been adopted all this work, and much inconvenience, could have been avoided.

While the tram scheme is said to be” green”, it will be a long time before the greenhouse gasses emitted constructing the track will be recouped by using green electricity.

  • David Neale (F), 48 Alnwickhill Road, Edinburgh, EH16 6LW

Another case of déja vu?

I read with interest the various articles on “delivering more for less” including news that we are seeing a return to long tender lists with lowest price tending to secure the work.

I note that six construction trade bodies have joined forces to lobby for the creation of a national standard for prequalification documents. It could be a good idea but will be entirely dependent upon those in the various companies and organisations who make use of the results. Haven’t we been here before?

Firstly, BS 5750 Quality Assurance, later ISO 9000. This should indicate that any accredited organisation has the appropriate procedures in place and resources to undertake work in their accredited field. Did this solve our pre-qualification problems?

We then had railway works requiring link-up approval, the Construction Line for (nearly) all local authority works and RQSC registration to undertake steel bridge works. All of these accreditations are necessary to prequalify on any client list.

We have to maintain the systems, pay for audits and spend the time administering the various schemes. Each time another scheme is introduced we lower the value of the previous accreditation we attained.

Perhaps some of the target 20% savings could be made if all clients used a National Prequalification database, but, as I said earlier, we have been here before.

  • John Riddle (M), 99 Snells Mead, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, SG9 9JH

Safety for the designers

Having recently completed the [CIRIA-HSE] major hazards in construction survey, it prompted me to write about the lack of training courses available to designers on design safety and hazard elimination/reduction.

It is true that Thomas Telford runs a course on CDM for Designers but the two other primary construction training providers − CIRIA and the Construction Study Centre − have no public courses on this subject matter running this year and I have struggled to find any other organisation that runs such a course.

So I ask myself, why is this? Is it because the current economic climate has shrunk training opportunities within companies or is it that most designers already know all about design safety and thus have no real need for such courses?

  • Ed Davies (G), Cardiff, Health & Safety

Unhealthy lack of knowledge

In response to the letter from Alan Harris (NCE 25 March) I would like to express my extreme concern over his lack of understanding about the ‘health’ element of Health and Safety.

I wonder if Harris is aware that for every worker killed on site, 14 workers are dying from an asbestos-related disease, not to mention the further 500 dying each year from silicarelated cancer, nor the many thousands of workers suffering other severe disability as a direct result of work on a construction site.

I wonder also if Harris has considered the impact of a seemingly fit person operating a crane that actually has undiagnosed diabetes and could lose consciousness imminently.

It is imperative that if Constructing Better Health (CBH) is to improve the work-related health of the construction industry workforce, that these issues are taken seriously.

It is indeed not the intention for managers to be assessing a worker’s health − far from it. CBH is working with suitably qualified occupational health professionals to do just this, and put ‘health’ back into health and safety.

  • Wendy Stimson, occupational health director, Constructing Better Health, B&CE Building, Manor Royal, Crawley, West Sussex, RH10 9QP

Your views & opinion

NCE welcomes letters from readers. We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letterslonger than 200 words are likely tobecondensed.

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

Readers' comments (1)

  • HS2 and Severn Barrage- Mr Shimmin can make his point: maybe his own "detailed studies" were better/less controversial.

    HS2 appears designed to satisfy selfish demand (not a need) for slightly faster travel by a limited few, at the expense (amongst others) of another swathe of virgin countryside.

    It pays no attention, and it is correct to criticise, to speedy connections between services, whereby as many have pointed out, much travel time is lost. Not to say frequent frustration at poor connections.

    There are miles of abandoned rail beds, including East-West links, which could be reopened and help to revitalise other parts of the country than overblown routes to London.

    Capital projects should focus on reliable renewable energy, starting with the big Severn Barrage, which at present is going through the worst of an Engineer's fears, death by "study". We BADLY need clean energy resources, not faster ways of using them up. Rgds, JG

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