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Letters to the editor

The Editor welcomes letters at 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4QX

fax: (0171) 505 6667 e-mail:

and reserves the right to condense.

Lowering the tone

I was dismayed to read further evidence in NCE 4 June of the extent to which the Institution is playing to the gallery in its endeavours to adopt the popular tendency of 'dumbing down' time-honoured practices and standards.

First of all, and according to the DG&S, the traditional and elegant Summer Ball and Conversazione is to be transformed into an autumn disco in order to find more favour with the young and trendy.

Then we are confronted by a photogaph of the ICE staff taking part in line-dancing, a pastime associated more with Texan ranch-hands and the Zulu wars.

After then reading how the NCE has jumped on to the World Cup bandwagon with a series of news items only distantly connected to civil engineering, I turned for intellectual inspiration to the AME Brief, normally a sober source of useful and topical information, only to be confronted by six pages of badly-presented and politically-correct drivel about Local Agenda 21, and the part the engineer can play in its aspirations.

And then it all became clear!.

At long last, and with all the authority of the AME, we are informed of the 'Role of the Engineer', after decades of rumination and untold hours of debate throughout the world.

In addition to having a vaguely-described role in transport, apparently the engineer under Local Agenda 21 is more specifically concerned with crime and the need to 'design out crime'. In addition, the engineer is expected to undertake work connected with 'litter, dog fouling and the management of the highway'! In other words, a cross between a vigilante and a road-sweeper!

Is this what I spent so many years of hard work and study to achieve? Is this why I moved my home and family around the country in pursuit of a career in what used to be regarded as a truly proud and creative profession? Is this the sevice and image I now obtain for an annual subscription of over £200?

It is not surprising that the universities are failing to attract the intellectual talent so necessary for the survival of the profession when we are allocated a place in society described in these terms.

J Stansfield, former county surveyor (Suffolk County Council), 22 Badgers Bank, Ipswich, Suffolk IP2 9EN.

Editors note: A steady decline in popularity of ICE's Conversazione, in spite of the enthusiasm put into it by ICE staff, led to its replacement. As to 'World Cup bandwagon', a £200M new stadium and major upgrading of a nation's transport infrastructure would appear to have a connection with civil engineering.

Summer celebration

Members in the South East, who like me, mourn the passing of the Conversazione and its successor the Summer Ball may like to note that the London association's annual dinner and presentation of the Merit Award is a well attended event on or about the first Friday in July.

An occasion for partners and guests, it is held, with the client's goodwill, at a newly or nearly completed structure of distinction within the confines of the M25. The evening always includes a walkabout or visit and a variety of entertainment as well as the traditional speeches and Presidential Address.

Please contact me if you would like to receive advance information for 1999.

David Hattersley (F), 22 Malvern Drive, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 0JW.

Reviewing the evidence

Your edition of 11 June carried a short paragraph on page 9 about the judge's recent decision in the Judicial Review case over the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. It was not factually accurate and I should like to correct matters.

On 2 June, Mr Justice Sullivan ordered that parts of the Concession Agreement should be disclosed to three named lawyers acting for the Alliance Against the BNRR. The disclosure is to them only and solely for the purposes of the further conduct of the Judicial Review case. No-one else is

to be allowed access to the documents. The case is expected to conclude in July.

The paragraph also records the allegation that the agreement contains illegal punitive cancellation clauses. There are no such clauses in it.

Tom Smith, managing director, Midland Expressway, 20 Eastbourne Terrace, London W2 6LE.

Poor reward

As a graduate of 1997 working as a civil engineer, I must disagree with the headline 'High salaries lure graduates away from the profession (NCE 18 June). 'Low salaries drive graduates away' would have been more appropriate.

The paltry £11,000 to £14,000 generally offered by employers is a very poor reward for four years hard work at university. The norm for starters in many other fields is £15,000 to £18,000, and until civils employers start to recognise that their main asset is their staff, and pay accordingly, then this trend will continue.

Greg Riddle (G),

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