News from the United Kingdom

August 2005 » Editor's Comment
On July 4, while most of us took a holiday and celebrated our independence from Great Britain, Antony Oliver, a British peer, who is the editor of New Civil Engineer, a weekly independent magazine read by the 56,000 European members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was busy answering my questions about the state of civil engineering in the United Kingdom (U.K.).

On July 4, while most of us took a holiday and celebrated our independence from Great Britain, Antony Oliver, a British peer, who is the editor of New Civil Engineer, a weekly independent magazine read by the 56,000 European members of the Institution of Civil Engineers, was busy answering my questions about the state of civil engineering in the United Kingdom (U.K.). My intent for interviewing Oliver simply was to expand my perspective by learning the civil engineering issues and happenings of another country, to ascertain whether U.S. challenges are shared, and what the U.K.s individual concerns entail.

Sadly, London, where he works, became the target of the deadliest attack in Britain since World War II. Suddenly, all eyes are on the U.K., as the global community empathizes with the people affected by this terrorist act.

I hope that Olivers comments below about hot civil engineering topics are enlightening to you and, that in some small way, publishing them honors our British colleagues as they work through this difficult time.

As in the United States, transport is big news here. Car congestion in and between our cities is a big problem. The emphasis is how to do this without constructing major new motorway schemes, first because of the potential for environmental damage, second because of the fear of attracting more traffic, and third because of the cost.

Despite a long-discussed national transport strategy, the government is still very reluctant to take cash away from schools, hospitals, and welfare to pay for transport infrastructure. That said, cash is being spent ... However, it is miniscule compared to government spending in total.

London has just taken the lead with congestion charging. This rose to £8 [$14] a day today from £5 [$9], and the money is being put into buses. [Vehicles driving in a designated charge zone in central London during defined hours have to pay a daily congestion charge. The mayor hopes the system will cut congestion by up to 15 percent and raise at least $228.5 million per year for the capitals transportation system.]

Also, the government has proposed a national road user charging scheme to tax and control car use. Bold stuff, but maybe politically impossible. É The railways are soaking up the majority of public cash. The railways are still hugely inefficient and costly.

Water is hot because the latest round of Asset Management Plans have been agreed by the water regulator, allowing some big investment programs in clean and dirty water to kick off. É Also, there are 300,000 km [186,411 miles] of sewer in the United Kingdom -- only 389 km [242 miles] renovated last year. Weve also got major shortages of water.

As is evident by Olivers commentary, it seems that, similar to the United States, there is plenty of work to do, yet funding challenges abound. Waste management, energy production, and environmental management during urbanization are other topics hot on the civil engineering communitys very full plate. Of course, since last months tragedy, I suspect that security may become a topic of more focus, as it has in the United States since the tragedies of Sept. 11. On behalf of all of us in America, we wish our British counterparts well in their future endeavors!

P.S. Join me in Baltimore during Sept. 15-16 at The Best Firm To Work For Summit! Go to www.BestFirmSummit.com to learn more and to register.

Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.
editor@cenews.com


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