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.
Given the lack of choice in the matter, its a surprise that 6% of the supply chain owned up to the fact that they don't use BIM. The fundamental problem is that BIM is designed for complex and constrained buildings not railways across miles. One can have a "digital focus" and pioneer the latest IT techniques without BIM. The idea that BIM is always correct by default, is completely wrong. The greatest procurement failure with HS2, is the effective prevention of small and micro engineering consultants and contractors, especially those which are based in the locality of the actual route.
Comment on: HS2: Payment may depend on BIM work
The evidence is that using BIM reduces free and fair competition from SME suppliers which drives up project costs. It would be "crazy" to use a building information system for a railway. BIM does not solve problems, people do. Better technical design and clearer communication can achieve far more than expensive computer modelling packages. Stephen Gibson www.wilsham.co.uk
Comment on: VIDEO | London's cycling vision
London have enormous potential for cycling and its great to see leaders start to appreciate the multitude of benefits. Back in 1996 I was responsible for the design of the London Cycle Network Phase 1 across Westminster. It was at a time when cycling in the city was viewed as a extreme sport or a dangerous mode of transport, which should be discouraged. Even though the changes were minimal, any removal of parking to make junctions safer was difficult. Stephen Gibson www.wilsham.co.uk