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LETTERS: Tell Railtrack we have the skills...

Railtrack is to be applauded for seeking out better ways of delivering its major projects (NCE June 3). It is also to be applauded for having recognised that, as major projects are the sum of many parts, improvement in delivery might better be achieved via the integrated management of the whole. Railtrack's term for this is programme management.

What is distressing, certainly for many ACE members, is Railtrack's assertion that the skills and experience necessary for the effective discharge of this function are largely unavailable.

While programme management skills may not be much in evidence in the UK, it does not mean that UK consulting engineers do not possess this capability. Many engineering consultancy companies operate globally, deploying a wide range of skills as and where they are needed. It is a simple matter of demand and supply. In the past when programme management has been offered to clients there has been little interest.

We would like to see a more positive approach, where Railtrack and its suppliers, as represented by the ACE and CECA, collaborate to develop new work methods and systems. Consulting engineers and contractors would then have the opportunity to organise their resources appropriately, thus providing Railtrack with a much more impressive choice of companies from which to make their selection.

This experience highlights the importance of dialogue between major clients and the construction industry - not just on a project by project basis with individual suppliers, but also on short, medium and long-term strategy with the industry as a whole.

Without such dialogue trust will be slow to emerge and suppliers will be frustrated in their attempts to satisfy clients' needs and exceed their expectations.

Andrew Tetley (F) chairman, Transport Panel, Association of Consulting Engineers, Alliance House, 12 Caxton Street, London SW1H 0QL

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