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Skipping the obvious

Richard Thompson's article on the implications of the Government's integrated transport White Paper (NCE 6/13 August) follows the trend of so many commentaries on this subject in looking for 'high-tech' solutions to the road space issue. Why is it that no one seems interested in improving the management of our roads, particularly our primary roads and main feeder roads?

I accept that in the longer term we must seek 'high-tech' solutions to assist us, and the recent announcement concerning the future role of the Highways Agency in regard to network management is to be applauded, but this still seems to focus only on an information technology approach. What is wrong with simply making sure that our key roads are not unduly obstructed by illegally parked vehicles, or builders' skips, 'inactive' public utility trenches, etc.

Why in particular should builders be allowed to place skips, materials and other rubbish in the road, for their convenience, but to the detriment of everyone else? Why do most local authorities allow all these activities which reduce the capacity of roads and create major hazards at the same time? Why indeed, when it is generally possible to prevent most of these activities within existing legislation and at relatively little cost.

My previous experience in the City of London encourages me to commend such an approach for universal adoption by local authorities. This could make a significant impact on the movement of traffic and the safety of all road users. We must crack down on all who seek to unlawfully obstruct our roads. We must also press for the immediate introduction of section 74 of the New Roads & Street Works Act - 'Charge for occupation of the highway where works unreasonably prolonged'. This section was not enacted with the rest of the Act as it was intended to see how the other sections of the Act affected the performance of the public utilities; we now know the answer, very little. The situation must be addressed now.

I trust that more will be done to improve the general management of our roads now, while we await the more difficult, but inevitable 'high- tech' future. It is a great pity that there are fewer of the old fashioned municipal engineer managers around today to ensure that certain 'low-tech' concepts are pursued. But in the haste to create the new 'green' environmental departments in the public

sector, we seem to have lost sight of some of the simple principles of infrastructure management.

Roy Aylott (F), 5 Barnfield Road, St Albans, Herts AL4 9UF.

Earning status

The letters pages to NCE seem to have been taken over once again by people bemoaning

their lack of status as civil engineers and their 'low' rates of pay, and seeking the Institution's help to increase both.

What chance have they of 'harnessing the great forces of nature for the benefit of mankind' (or whatever our charter says), if they cannot organise their own careers to satisfy themselves?

As Peter Knight said (NCE 11 June), status and pay are not related. If they were, nursing would be a more lucrative job. Pay is determined by the money your employer can make from your services and the scarcity of your skills. This is something graduates should bear in mind. Until they have acquired measurable experience in a field that is in demand, they are a common resource, and cheaply priced accordingly. No doubt under this Government's policies, highway bridge designers will soon discover the same message.

Status is a more complex animal. The status of a profession is a myth, as it depends on each person's view of the worst member of that profession whom they have come across. Personal status cannot be bought, nor can it be acquired by law, as Chris Brown suggests (NCE 4 June). Like its close relation, respect, it must be earned. In any case the respect of one's peers is a much better reward than personal status.

In my view, the only radical reform which civil engineering needs is for all those people who don't enjoy the wonderful variety and feeling of achievement which our profession gives, or who cannot manage on the pay levels quoted in the recent survey, to buy grey suits, and become accountants. It is easier to change yourself than the rest of the world.

David Hanson (M), 79 Thornby Drive, Kingsthorpe, Northampton NN2 8HA.

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