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Letters: Your views and opinions


Water shortage? What water shortage

Water: Claims that Britain lack resources could be exaggerated

Water: Claims that Britain lacks resources could be exaggerated

Regarding Paul Street’s recent viewpoint (NCE 26 September), where did the UK’s increased water demand come from?

The 1990 Water Facts reported public water supplied in England and Wales as rising from just over 10,000M litres/day in 1961, through 14,904M.l/day in 1974 to 17,243M.l/day in 1989/90. We now know that those figures were not particularly robust but by 1996-97 the Environment Agency (then the National Rivers Authority) reported a distribution input of 16,366 M.l/d.

By 2002/03 that had dropped to 15,394M.l/day, according to water regulator Ofwat with a further drop to 15,356M.l/day in 2005/06.

Distribution input in 2009/10 was 14,594M.l/, according to Ofwat’s Service & Delivery report.

I have not been able to access more recent national figures. Whatever, an estimated 800M.l/day increase on current supply will not need much more than some tweaking of bulk movement and perhaps some realisation of storage schemes that have been sitting on company books for decades.

The references to Sudan and Syria are at best tiresome. While landlocked Sudan might have particular deficiency problems, South East England and Syria have vast raw water resources on their coastal doorsteps.

  • Barry Walton, (F rtd), 59 Primmers Place, Westbury, Wilts. BA13 4QZ


High Speed 2

HS2 needs a clearer vision

I agree with Ken Head (NCE 26 September) that the connectivity between High Speed 2 (HS2) and High Speed 1 (HS1) is vital. When we are planning infrastructure for generations to come, we must base it on a vision of the nation, not just London, directly connected by high speed rail with Europe.

With a new HS2 debate on funding, political support, leadership and the value of time on trains versus capacity, it is time to re-examine the route.

The London end of HS2 should be a connection with HS1 at Stratford at an interchange with Crossrail, London Overground, London Underground and Docklands Light Railway. Stratford is now part of central London thanks to the Olympic Park, Canary Wharf and further planned docklands development.

From Stratford HS2 should strike north leaving London by the M11 route to Cambridge ( a high tech hub worthy of direct connection to Europe) and head to Scotland with branches to Birmingham and from Leeds to Manchester for much needed trans-Pennine capacity.

Add a loop to an expanded Stansted or a new Thames Estuary airport and the high speed framework will look sensible on the high speed rail map of Europe and offer far more value than the high cost route currently on offer.

  • Nicholas Gibbs (M), 7 Yew Tree Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2LX



Subs for the unemployed

Stuart Nisbet’s letter (NCE 26 September) made very disturbing reading and I hope the ICE has already approached the government to get unemployment figures corrected.

False data has no place in our profession and why should it be any different for others?

Massaging statistics has no place in government and professional bodies, such as the ICE, can help change that by publicly dissociating itself from “spin”. If the ICE had waived Nisbet’s subscription until he became re-employed, there would be the same income as will have resulted from his ejection. Such an action would have helped his employment prospects as well as his morale and retained an experienced member within the ICE.

The Benevolent Fund could be revised to be more fit for today’s world, by for example providing internet access to distressed members as CVs are expected to be emailed.

  • Michael Ryan (M),



Benevolent Fund supports engineers

Stuart Nisbet, (NCE 26 September) refers to the ICE’s zero tolerance of zero income. I would like to reassure him that we do support our members who have little or no income.

We have a concessionary rate which is available to all members earning less than £12,000. In addition to this, the ICE Benevolent Fund exists to provide advice, support and financial assistance to those in need who are either current or past graduate members, technician members, associate members, Members, or Fellows of the Institution.

All applications to the Benevolent Fund for financial assistance are means tested; their donors would expect no less. This means that all household income and savings are considered.

Then, should the total of the income and savings fall below the Benevolent Fund thresholds (which are more generous than the Department for Work and Pensions), a grant would be awarded to the applicant, which includes the payment of the ICE subscription fee.

In addition to this, the Benevolent Fund also uses the information provided to identify whether applicants are eligible for any state benefits which they are not currently claiming.

If any member would like to be considered for support, the Benevolent Fund would be delighted to send them an application.

  • David Lloyd-Roach, director of membership, ICE, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA




The experienced can hold back future leaders

Brunel: Leading from the future?

Brunel: Leading from the future?

I was very interested in Alan Mordey’s comment that the essence of being an engineer is experience which seems to me to contradict his earlier praise of early engineers who by definition had little or no experience to rely on (NCE 26 September).

In my view experience is valuable but does not equip one to move into the future as a leader. Leadership based solely on experience could be labelled as leading from behind - not a very exciting prospect.

Leading from the future or from the front demandsthe ability to counteract ambiguity, uncertainty and the risk of failure.

These are not attributes associated generally with experienced people but are of those charged with emotion and the ability to respond through action to create professional excitement and satisfaction.

The righting of the Costa Concordia illustrates this point. Without these intangible qualities in the engineers I wonder if anything would have happened.

One wonders if these intangibles are welcome or understood in many areas of the profession.

  • Ivor G Richards OBE (M), managing director, Richards, Moorehead & Laing,



What’s wrong with public transport?

As I write this letter, I am travelling from my office in Fetter Lane, London EC4 to the All Parliamentary Light Rail Group fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

I am on the third leg of my journey, sitting in the comfort of a mobile free environment in a First Class saloon capable of seating 47 with about 25% occupancy, have just been given some lunch and have paid £25.10 for the one way fare.

Journey time for this leg is just over 2 hours. The first leg involved a 10 minute walk to a bus stop to get the 91 bus to Euston. That second leg took about 15 minutes. When I get to Manchester I will use Metrolink to get to the conference.

I have no issue with the third leg of the journey as it gives me the opportunity to either work, relax, sleep or eat.

I have no issue with public transport in London, the advent of the Oyster card making it even easier to use than before. I have no issue with Metrolink, which is more widespread now with the advent of the Phase 3 extensions.

But Manchester is still way behind a city such as Zurich, where one doesn’t even think about using anything other than its extensive urban transport systems. Birmingham and Leeds are crying out for better urban systems and Liverpool, Sheffield, Tyne & Wear and Nottingham all have systems to build on.

But if it is capacity we are after on the inter-urban routes, then whatever happened to the incremental outputs Railtrack considered 10 years or so ago, which sought to pick off quick wins?

Within this there is a host of other schemes which could be implemented, which would add capacity, and which I suspect have more robust business cases than High Speed 2.

  • Paul Dawkins, head of service, engineering advisory, GHD, Level 6, 10 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BR



Hyperloop would help UK travel

Like JK Edgley (NCE 26 September) I am sure many other readers were intrigued by the Hyperloop idea.

Edgley puts forward some cogent arguments for using this idea for High Speed 2 instead of over ground rail. After all, no matter how well engineered the latter is, the technology has probably nearly reached its limits.

Furthermore, the service would still be subject to the vagaries of the British weather as well as the usual physical hindrances - thefts of cables, etcetera.

A capsule, in a totally controlled environment, preferably without conventional rails, would probably be safer and more comfortable.

So, instead of getting on the high speed rail bandwagon, just as it’s slowing down, why not be clever enough to start a new one? Who invented the Hovercraft, the Jump Jet, Concorde?

  • Jim O’Rourke (M retd),


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