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Raising the profile

Penny Marshall

Put the civils backdrop into the foreground.

The growth of the ICE’s “This is Civil Engineering” campaign, which involves placing huge banners on civil engineering sites across the UK telling the public what the project is and how the community will benefit, gives me occasion to reflect upon the messages we convey about our industry.

I imagine it’s the same in most regions, but whenever you see the North East featured on TV, the imagery behind the story usually features a view of one of our iconic civil engineering structures such as the Tyne Bridge, Transporter Bridge, Royal Border Bridge, or Angel of the North.

The North East proudly boasts the likes of George and Robert Stephenson, William Armstrong and Timothy Hackworth among its sons. So it is fitting that our engineering heritage should play such a strong role in our regional identity.

As engineers, we understand the role that our predecessors played in shaping our landscape, and we must try and help others to understand
that too.

In the North East, our recently launched Historical Engineering Works guide is the latest in a series of leaflets aimed at educating people about the value of our industry, and increase understanding and appreciation of what many take for granted.

But as we continue to develop new and exciting civil engineering projects, we need to raise awareness of the work that we are doing now, and the contribution it makes to our economy and quality of life.

“This is Civil Engineering” promotes the value of that which is being created, and our annual Robert Stephenson Awards celebrate that which is new, but perhaps we need to shout louder about our achievements.

Newcastle has recently been voted by readers of the Guardian and Observer as the best UK city to visit.

The city and the wider region are rightfully proud of the culture, nightlife and shopping. But, I wonder just how popular the city would be without its beautiful structures, blending architecture and engineering, new and old.

While creating iconic vistas, the bridges of the Tyne, Wear and Tees also form important parts of our regional infrastructure, alongside such developments as the Tyne Tunnels and Metro transport system.

The second Tyne Tunnel opened three years ago and has made a huge impact on transport in the region and its increased capacity is helping greatly during a period where extensive upgrades to the A1 are leading to motorists altering their travel habits.

The Metro carries over 38M passengers yearly, yet we are more likely to hear about what is wrong with our transport networks, than take the time to celebrate what they achieve.

The Institution’s Royal Charter requires us to “foster and promote the art and science of civil engineering”.

We need to ensure that we retain the creativity that characterised the work of some of the great engineers of the past, and celebrate not only our iconic structures, but also the innovation and engineering upon which the city and region are founded, and which contribute greatly to our quality of life and the economy.

  • Penny Marshall is ICE North East regional director

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