While you were away . . . Duke of Edinburgh bigs up Engineering and other things you may have missed

The floods in the north of England and their aftermath were the main infrastructure story of the holiday period, hitting the front pages and TV and radio headlines for days. There were however a few other notable stories of interest to the infrastructure sector over the holidays.

The Duke of Edinburgh and Lord Browne

Just before the New Year, engineers received a high-profile boost to their work and reputation when, speaking on Radio Four’s Today programme, the Duke of Edinburgh praised their vital work, claiming that “everything not invented by God is invented by an engineer”. The duke went on to say that engineers performed such an essential function to society that it was hard to imagine life without them. Warming to his theme, in an interview with former BP chief executive Lord Browne for the BBC’s flagship radio news programme, the duke said that engineers held the key to the future of humanity and its very ability to continue to thrive on the planet.

“The whole of our infrastructure, from sewers to power supplies and communication, everything that wasn’t invented by God is invented by an engineer,” said the duke. "How the world fits as many people onto the globe as comfortably as possible without doing too much damage, I think ultimately its going to be engineers that decide that,” he said.

“The whole of our infrastructure, from sewers to power supplies and communication, everything that wasn’t invented by God is invented by an engineer,” said the Duke of Edinburgh. Engineers, he said, had a key role to play in dealing with the challenges caused by the world’s increasing population. “How the world fits as many people onto the globe as comfortably as possible without doing too much damage, I think ultimately its going to be engineers that decide that,” he said.

His remarks, which were widely reported in the press, concluded by making a plea for the introduction of a Nobel Prize for engineering to bring the profession in line with the profile afforded to medicine, science and literature.

The holiday period also saw the announcement of the National Infrastructure Commission’s first chief Executive in the shape of Department for Transport senior civil servant Phil Graham.

The new body responsible for overseeing important infrastructure projects, chaired by Lord Adonis announced the appointment of Graham, who has previously worked on several key infrastructure projects, including the high-speed rail strategy and the 2012 London Olympics.

Commenting on his appointment, Adonis said: “Phil Graham is supremely qualified to be the first CEO. He has done brilliant work on a wide range of nationally significant projects. He is an excellent public servant and I am confident he will be superb in his new role.”

The National Infrastructure Commission was set up by chancellor George Osborne earlier this year, with the aim of providing independent analysis of the long-term infrastructure needs of the UK. Osborne professed himself to be “delighted” by Graham’s appointment and said that his role would be vital in ensuring that the government received expert, independent advice to the government on the most pressing infrastructure challenges facing the country. 

Elsewhere, Transport for London and the mayor announced the allocation of £148m to London’s councils to carry out improvement works on the capital’s roads and public spaces in 2016/17.

The funding includes £1.4m to transform Bank Junction and, in a move that should appeal to many, £6.4m for the creation of better cycling routes and public space in the West End. Money is also being made available for the West End Project, which aims to transform the area around Tottenham Court Road and Croydon will receive £4.8m, including £550,000 towards its high street improvement scheme.

Annual funding from TfL to the London boroughs helps councils pay for local transport projects set out in their Local Implementation Plans. The total value of the funding is the same as last year. London mayor Boris Johnson welcomed the funding which he said would “transform scores of locations in all four corners of our great city.” London transport commissioner Mike Brown said that Londoners would see the delivery of hundreds of transport projects and real improvements to their local areas as a result of the funding.

Just before Christmas, Wessex Water revealed the seven contractors that will help it deliver its capital programme during AMP6. Five firms will support the delivery of civils work across the Wessex area that includes Bristol and Somerset, with four being selected to provide support with the electrical, mechanical and instrumentation works. Two firms were successful on both frameworks.

The full list of winners was Lewis Civil Engineering, Interserve Construction, Raymond Brown Construction, Dawnus Construction and Nomenca for the civils work and Interserve Construction, Nomenca, Trant Engineering and ACIEM Group for the EMI work. The contract will run until 31 March 2020, with the option of extending the framework into AMP7 dependant on performance.

On Christmas Eve it was announced that Aecom and Pininfarina had won the design competition for the air-traffic control tower at Istanbul’s new airport in Turkey. Airport operator iGA selected AECOM and Pininfarina ahead of Zaha Hadid, Moshe Safdie and three others to design the tower at what will soon become the world's largest new airport. The project marks AECOM's first collaboration with Pininfarina, an Italian car design firm best known for designing Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.

Between Christmas and New Year, Network Rail announced that it was inviting tenders for the £112m contract to rebuild Scotland's third busiest rail station. Glasgow's Queen Street Station handles 20 million passengers a year but this is predicted to grow to 28 million passengers by 2030.

The work will see the main entrance at George Square replaced by a huge glass facade. Platforms will also be extended to accommodate longer trains. Although the tender is being issued by Network Rail, the project will be overseen by ScotRail Alliance, a management team created from senior Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail staff for the purposes of overseeing major projects in Scotland.

Phil Verster, managing director of ScotRail Alliance, said the project would transform one of Scotland’s busiest and most important stations, making it larger and with much better facilities for its increasing number of customers. 

The £112m development will include: -

  • demolition of the nearby Millennium Hotel's 1970s extension above the station;
  • demolition of Consort House;
  • removal of the canopy over the footway in Dundas Street;
  • redevelopment of the station concourse, south and west façades, including reconstruction and extension of station buildings;
  • improved station entrances at Dundas Street and George Square;
  • a 500 square metre glass facade to the George Square entrance;
  • new lighting and public address systems;
  • new ticket office and staff accommodation block;
  • construction of extended platforms to accommodate eight-car trains.

The redevelopment is expected to be completed by 2019.

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