Engineers must become more confident and innovate more to solve infrastructure problems, London mayor Boris Johnson said last week.
Johnson said modern engineers have less confidence and optimism than their Victorian predecessors and said he would back ideas that were truly ground-breaking.
“If we think back to what the Victorians did, we should have the same confidence as they had,” he said.
“In terms of optimism and the willingness to try new things I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
“They built the first tunnel under the Thames. They were the first guys to say ‘why don’t we put a railway in a tunnel and see if that works’.
“We need brilliant ideas like that and I’m very, very willing to look at it and support it if it makes sense. Think of Brunel, think of Stephenson - think of the brilliance of those engineers, their optimism, their can-do spirit. And by the way, I apply that argument to aviation
Johnson called himself an “enthusiast” for such forward thinking visions, and said that spirit was displayedin plans for a “hyperloop”
high speed rail alternative proposed by US-based entrepreneur Elon Musk.
“I’m quite an enthusiast,” said Johnson. “There’s some guy in California who’s come up with a gigantic, subterranean peashooter that fires you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour or something. Let’s look at it.”
Johnson was speaking at the London Infrastructure Summit held last week by business lobby group London First.
Others at the event warned that London was in danger of slipping behind its competitors as a forward-looking city.
London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark Valerie Shawcross said that broadband internet was a problem in her borough to
the extent that film download times exceeded three hours in some areas.
“It’s not just broadband,” responded Bechtel head of urban development Jason Robinson.
“I would widen that to smart cities. London has a massive opportunity but we are poorly lagging behind other cities when it comes to being a smart city.”
Robinson added that a city’s operation and maintenance could be assisted by its inhabitants via the use of smart apps in real time to feed information to a central source, and pointed to cities like Rio de Janeiro as examples.
Johnson said London was setting the tone with initiatives such as the scheme launched last week to allocate vouchers worth up to £3,000 to businesses to help them get faster broadband.Engineers ‘lack confidence’