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Road pricing is only solution to bottlenecks

It was interesting reading the letter from Stewart Rotherham (NCE 21 October), who advocates unlocking bottlenecks by road building, next to a letter from Peter Lamprell who favours increasing the speed at which traffic passes through central London.

We disagree that the worst bottlenecks or congestion in places such as London can be solved by road building.

While we agree with Stewart Rotherham that the capacity for rail freight could not be quickly delivered, the majority of the congestion is really caused by too many cars. Road building at the most congested points has been shown clearly in recent years to generate extra car travel within a very few years. This in turn creates new bottlenecks and results in further reliance on the private motor car.

Even if road improvements were the solution to unlocking bottlenecks, historically it has taken many years to implement road schemes where the worst ones actually occur. The bottlenecks are usually at points which are 'too difficult' to solve, and in some cases road schemes have taken much more than half a century to not get built at such points. The A1 in Archway Road in North London, is (fortunately) still not widened despite compulsory purchases made in the 1920s.

It appears that the quickest way of starting to solve our traffic problems, particularly to release space for freight, is to start paying for roads as if they were a scarce commodity. To most users of our congested road system this scarcity appears self-evident.

To deliver a scheme to achieve such charging or road pricing requires a common approach from all, particularly in the civil engineering/ transport planning fields and support for our braver politicians (from all parties) and from the press to deliver the solution.

It is however, a central element in the introduction of the road user charging that a reasonable alternative in terms of realistic competitive public transport must be provided for those who reduce their use of the cars.

John Elliott (M), transport & planning manager, Pfizer,

Presidential term too short

What is the rationale behind changing the ICE president every year? Apart from the obvious inefficiencies with such a system, it promotes a lack of responsibility and direction at the top as most initiatives are implemented over much longer periods.

An even more serious consequence is the lost opportunity of having a more permanent high profile spokesman to lead and promote the industry.

If the position of president is seriously intended to be of use to the engineer on the street, and not just a figurehead at Great George Street social functions, a change in this system is necessary.

Richard Payne (M), Flat 5, 84 Worple Road, Wimbledon SW19 4HZ

Agency denies claim

We refer to the article 'Agency Breaches Health & Safety Rules' (NCE 14 October). Unfortunately the article was not factually correct, in particular:

. The investigating officer, Mr Goldsmith, found that 'the actions taken by the National Rivers Authority both before, during and after Mr Ryan's illness (1992/3) demonstrate compliance with Health and Safety at Work legislation'.

. The evidence was such that Mr Goldsmith could not determine 'the cause of Mr Ryan's ill health that started in July 1997'.

It is true that Mr Goldsmith has advised the Agency that there are areas where it is in breach of the health and safety legislation and where it can improve its performance. Many of these actions were already in hand at the time of the investigation and the Agency is continuing with these and taking further steps.

It is not correct that Mr Ryan has made an employers' liability claim against the Agency. Although such proceedings were threatened some time ago by solicitors then acting for Mr Ryan, as far as the Agency is aware, no such proceedings have been issued. Mr Ryan is making an appeal to the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions under the Local Government (Discretionary Payments) Regulations 1996. The appeal is being defended. Mr Ryan's apparent expectation of a financial settlement is without foundation and premature.

Sarah J Lewis, principal solicitor, Environment Agency, Sapphire East, 550 Streetsbrook Road, Solihull, B91 1QT

NEC is best available ...

I am writing in regard to the interview I gave following the first meeting of the Construction Industry Council's newly formed Partnering Task Force (NCE 28 October).

One of the decisions we made was that we would look at the possibility of providing some models that could be used inthe drafting of partnering contracts, and that the lawyer members of the task force would go away to begin looking at this task.

I am sure that the ICE, through its representative on our taskforce, will be more than competent in ensuring that these models will be useful to it as a contract drafting body, in the future development of the New Engineering Contract.

I said that all existing contracts were predicated on dealing with fault and claims for extras within the contract which arose out of the responsibilities of various parties. That was not a criticism, it was merely reflecting the facts of life in the non-Egan culture in which we have been living for so many years.

I believe the NEC, along with the ACA Form of Building Contract, to be the best form available in the market at the moment.

The CIC proposes to establish an industry wide consensus definition of partnering. We also intend to provide plain English guidance on the benefits of partnering and how to go about it, together with some suggested procurement models based on a process where partnering is at its core.

John A Wright, chairman, CIC Partnering Task Force,

... but IChemE led the way

While not wishing to intrude into the private grief within the civil community as to the efficacy and appropriateness of various contract model forms, Martin Barnes goes too far in his reported comment (NCE 28 October) that the New Engineering Contract is the only standard form which actively encourages partnering and the avoidance of conflict.

The reason why there has been a widespread adoption of the IChemE's reimbursable and lump sum model forms has been that, since their inception in the 1970s, they have built into them features which lead to active and meaningful co-operation among the parties to a contract.

They are now widely used outside the process sector for which they were originally drafted (for example, in tunnelling and water contracts).

TJ Evans, chief executive, IChemE, Davis Building,165-189 Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HQ

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