Philip Alexander - there are lots of things we do not agree on but on this we absolutely do. I fully agree with your analysis of hyperloop.
Hyperloop is in the realm of Science Fiction right now. It might be possible but not with today's technology and materials. I am sure most engineers share this view but unfortunately, real engineering expertise is not appreciated enough by the corporate (or political) elite for our voices to be heard.
I also agree that the idea of connecting the airports and building a second runway at Gatwick is sound and makes much more strategic sense than a 3rd (expensive) runway at Heathrow. Unfortunately this choice is driven purely by politics - a sad state of affairs.
James Wren - as an engineer working in infrastructure on large scale Rail projects, I can tell you that it is highly likely that Designers / Site Engineers did point out that the project is over-running a long time before anyone took action. It's the normal course in today's society run by accountants and lawyers - lowly engineers raise concerns, management ignore them until they can't be ignored anymore. And then blame the engineers / installers / anyone they can other than themselves for the delays.
It is also a symptom of the lack of technical expertise in the construction sector (especially in client organisations). Sure - there are LOTS of highly qualified and competent people but there not enough of them to deliver all the work efficiently. This also tends to dilute their inputs to the point where they don't feel it's worth delivering good work anymore.
The sad part is...I don't see this getting better any time soon. There is a severe lack of accountability in our field, staff retention rates are low (especially on large scale infrastructure projects) and good engineering practice is often only followed on paper.
Comment on: Bryden Wood calls for open source construction
This is already being done to a limited extent in various areas of the industry. For example, Network Rail have a set of standard detail drawings which can be used almost out of the box provided some conditions on ground conditions / spans are met. While this is a good idea in principle, the standard designs require significant modifications more often then not.
Furthermore, despite R Annet's comment, modular designs are a real thing and used on a wide-scale in the building structures sector.
I feel open source designs would bring significant benefits to engineering and would allow continuous improvements to be made. However, engineers will still be required to sign designs off for local site conditions and constraints.
Comment on: ICE President interview | Andrew Wyllie
Congratulations to Mr. Wyllie for the new role.
However, what I am reading regarding Mr. Wyllie's view of gender equality and diversity is worrying. According to the Women's Engineering society, in 2017 only 15.1% of engineering graduates were female. One would expect this number to reflect the percentage of graduate jobs offered to female candidates as well. Being proud that "more than half of Costain's graduate intake was female" doesn't sound inclusive or fair to me.
One key point missing from Mr Wyllie's agenda though is the fact that the "art" of engineering in general is currently going through a slow and painful death. Technical-minded, practical engineers are rare to come by and most engineers my age (late twenties - early thirties) are so disenchanted with the profession that they go into management or completely different work fields.
I am a huge sucker for technology as long as it makes people's lives better (and the current implementation of BIM in the UK really doesn't...but this is another discussion) so getting a more diverse range of skills into the ICE is a big plus in my book. However...capable design engineers are also needed to make this work and nobody seems to have a solution for this issue.
I see comments along the line of "scrap HS2...vanity project..." on many threads on the topic and I am very disappointed to see engineers making these comments.
HS2 isn't about saving 10 minutes to get to Birmingham. It's about providing an alternative rail route connecting the major UK cities, from London in the south all the way up to Edinburgh and Glasgow. A rail journey on HS2 from London to Edinburgh would be comparable in total travelling time to flying while being (in theory) cheaper and a whole lot more sustainable.
Most importantly, HS2 would provide an alternative route to the WCML / ECML. Only (ignorant) people who don't travel by train are unaware of the very frequent incidents which, even if they are localised and don't take long to fix, cause huge delays across the whole route. This is due to congestion and will not be solved by upgrades to the existing infrastructure - new routes are needed.
HS2 is about building resiliency in the current UK rail infrastructure with the added benefit of cutting down on North-South travel time. It is a piece of strategic infrastructure that has been over-politicised for electoral gains - very unfortunate.