Director of independent civil engineering consultancy - Wilsham Consulting www.wilsham.co.uk
Comment on: Collaboration is the key to value for money
Where is the evidence that "Collaboration is the key to value for money"? The reality is the complete reverse. Long, cosy national frameworks result in bloated, safe, uncompetitive and inherently uncompetitive project delivery. Frameworks and projects should be split up, so far as possible and then competitively tendered. To achieve a competitive and successful bid, a company needs to minimise overheads, produce innovative solutions and drive up quality so the client still comes back (as the next job is not guaranteed). Frameworks allow "teams" to be lazy, passing the buck and playing politics to an extent that minds fail to concentrate on efficient delivery. When one does not need to justify actual competitive value and instead measure performance by "benchmarking" a client in time looses their understanding of actual / potential costs. Look at the EA and HA and Water Industry. Why would collaboration only happen between companies which are artificially joined? Collaboration happens often at best by teams which retain a sense of the importance of quality, independence and efficient delivery, without the politics. My advice to the Government, the HA and EA, is invest time and energy into breaking up the cartels of incumbent inefficient frameworks and programmes and turn to free and fair competitive tenders of projects. Lets hope the Highway Agency see's right through the folly suggested by Mark Hansford. If you manufacturer the same item, then the bigger the industrial scale and for the longer the period, the more efficient the product. The civil engineering industry is however nothing like manufacturing. Every site and solution are often unique. Bigger is not better.
Comment on: Keeping flooding at the top of the agenda
The real hope is for the Government to completely transform flood defence spending, into far more cost effective community led flood projects, where independent professional consultants work with the local community to mitigate flooding cost effectively. This would help Vince Cable on many fronts. This would enable the EA to take a regulator only role and not project manager role in flood mitigation. The inefficient national frameworks would be redundant. At my company (www.wilsham.co.uk) we typically find we can have client water projects delivered for 60% less that the prices provide by national frameworks, with greater service levels. Key - is the lower overheads associated with small companies, increased innovation and greater competition.
The solution is for DNO's to obtain the professional advice of independent civil engineering consultants. DNO's will then be able to understand the complex flood mechanism risks and opportunities to mitigate them in the most cost effective manner. Every site is unique, with different potential approaches. The problem in the past was where DNO's bypassed independent professional advice and went direct to contractors and flood product manufacturers, who have their own vested interests to sell certain "solutions". Or they relied on the emergency services and EA to help them.
Comment on: Letters: Defending the regulators
I note Ian Aikman's criticism of my suggestion that consideration should be given to reform at OFWAT such that it more effectively considers the long term sustainability and financial value of projects by water companies. It is a shame he fails to make any case or justify why not. In his public profile on Linked-in he states that he has undertaken paid work last year for OFWAT in the provision of expert analysis. Many could consider this a vested or commercial interest potentially to defend a client, not the provision of independent views, for which is the purpose of NCE open opinions. In such a situation it is appropriate professionally to confirm such a direct link when views are given. The fact is that sustainable drainage solutions and CSO treatment measures are used across the world successfully to reduce the type of problem experienced in London. The opinion "no one has come up with a radically different solution which has been costed and shown to have a better long term outcome" is exactly the type of response which confirms the problem. There are viable and more cost effective alternatives, but without genuine commitment from OFWAT to support funding these, there is only "one horse in the race".
Comment on: Thames Water unbowed by fresh super-sewer claims
The problem in London, like many cities, is that drainage system evolved, from rivers and streams being buried and then overflows from septic tanks been connected to the surface water system. This resulted in a large catchment which is a combined system. During periods of extreme rainfall the system cannot cope. The fundamental and long term sustainable solution is clearly to increase separation between foul and surface water, so far as reasonably possible. It cures the illness, not just treating the symptoms. The super sewer, condemns Thames Water bill payers to a legacy of high electrical costs in pumping water. The issue for Thames Water is that dealing fundamentally with the problem requires complex design and investigation (and potential considerable disruption). Whereas the super sewer is a simple design solution, just with an exceptional construction cost. The real problem actually lies with OFWAT in that its fails to understand what makes an efficient return for the tax payer. It assumes that a low design/investigation cost and high construction expenditure (as per the super-sewer) is the most cost effective approach. Thames Water as a private company, within the rules set by OFWAT, then has every right, or one might suggest responsibility, to maximise the financial return enabled for its shareholders.