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Your leader (NCE last week) states that I 'suggested after the Heathrow Express trial that' [the New Engineering Contract] 'was not suitable for underground works'. My argument is that tunnelling requires a continuity in thinking through all aspects of design and that many of the recent problems in tunnelling have stemmed from fragmentation of this process. The main hiatus has occurred between design of the 'works' and design of the scheme to achieve the 'works', ie between product design and process design, to use language familiar to manufacturing industry. It was therefore particularly unfortunate for the NEC to subdivide management from design and then to state that the design function should be complete by the time of tender. For tunnelling, both these pieces of advice are simply wrong and liable to entrench the practice of fragmentation.

I approve the simple phraseology of the NEC (probably for reasons similar to those which provoke complaint from lawyers) and consider the several options for payment to be generally well constructed.

It is as a basis for procurement strategy for tunnelling that I find the NEC defective. If I am told that it was not intended to serve this purpose, then I would argue that it was misguided to issue a document advocating such a departure from tradition without accompaniment by a comprehensive guide as to the manner of its use. This would include, as I also suggested, a 'health warning' in relation to the special conditions for tunnelling, including the continuity between design thinking and management and the vital matter of risk sharing - which are both inadequately treated by the NEC.

Sir Alan Muir Wood (F), Franklands Bere, Court Rd, Pangbourne, Berkshire RG8 8JY

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