UK Engineering Projects

What a mess! The UK doesn’t seem capable of organising any large engineering projects, including power stations, airports or railways. This is not because of a failure of technology or engineering ability, it is completely the fault of the politicians.

The UK is small and densely populated, which makes it hard to fit in new infrastructure without offending someone but the delays and confusion about all new projects is astonishing. Britain has managed to build things in the past but we now seem to have reached a stage where nothing can be done.

The biggest hurdle seems to be any agreement about what should be built with a significant number of people being happy to stick their heads in the sand and reject any change. This same attitude is evident when global warming is considered, yes something must be done about CO2 emissions but not now.

The current political obsession with private sector funding means that complicated deals and sweeteners are needed to get anything moving, but it would be much cheaper in the long run, and simpler, for the state to invest directly in infrastructure.

The main aim of the government seems to be to put off any decision about anything until “after the next election” and they only act when there is a danger of electricity blackouts or similar major problems.

This reluctance to make a decision about what should be built and how to pay for it leads to stupidly long development times. Hi-Speed 2 is only a few hundred miles of railway but the completion date is 2033, how can it take 20 years to build a railway? The Victorians built over 5,000 miles of track in 20 years and India builds or improves several thousand kilometers a year. These stupid development times also reduce public support for a project as they can’t see any benefit to them.

There needs to be a Royal Commission with a sensible reporting time to take the decisions away from politicians and produce a sensible long term transport strategy. The airports inquiry is on the right lines but not powerful enough and its timetable is set by the political calender and not by efficiency.

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