Lord Berkeley

Infrastructure needs its own checks and balances


Lord Berkeley – presentation to All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure, 6 September 2016.


Infrastructure needs its own checks and balances

Lord Berkeley – presentation to All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure, 6 September 2016.

I want to reflect today on the role both of the Institution of Civil Engineers and this All Party Group, sponsored by the ICE.   I worry that there may be a tendency to become the cheer leader for any project that creates jobs, regardless of whether it is the best or only solution, or whether a project needs doing at all.   After all, the ICE is a charity set up under Royal Charter, and I believe it has to be careful to ensure that it is a forum for debate and information, rather than a pressure group to seek to persuade Government to build more roads, for example.


This comes to a head now with several large infrastructure projects at present nearing the point of ‘shovel ready’; Hinkley Point, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, HS2 Phase 1, airport runway expansion and probably many others.


All now take years from the first glint in the eye of politicians, financiers or business; it is likely that, in the decade or more they need to get through all the decisions making processes, the reasons for the project may change, the efficacy or justification, the availability of viable alternatives, or the availability of finance or whatever.


Many of these projects also suffer from an excess of risk which will end up being bailed out by the taxpayer.    I spent time building the Channel Tunnel; we won the competition against bridges and submerged tubes largely because of lower costs and much lower risks, and did not get any government guarantees.


The Thames Tideway Tunnel may have been justified in the early noughties as a means of cleaning the Thames, but that has already happened and the occasional spill of sewage can be mitigated by holding back the storms that cause this by Blue Green technology, proven now but not then.   Surely a project which is estimated to be operating just 2% of the time and putting somewhere between £25 and £75 a year on the bills of 12m households should be reviewed?


Hinckley Point suffers not only from a very high cost but also because its technology is not proven. That is risk indeed and, of course, will end up either with the Government or the poor consumer.  Why not use proven technology on a smaller scale?


As for HS2, that is a project that started as a very high speed world leading one – to show that the UK is best at railways. But the 400kph design is 100kph faster than the European norm for high speed lines and trains, and the difference is reflected not only in a 30 to 40% increase in the capital cost of the trains, but an increase of 20% in operation costs, before one adds in the higher capital costs of building it.


High speed lines do not generally go into city centres on the continent; they use existing, or ‘classic’ lines, to save money and disruption to residents. Why does HS2 think it needs have a special new line right into Euston t soave perhaps a minute or two of time but to the detriment of 17 to 20 years of construction work at Euston with, over several year’s 1400 lorry movements a day though a densely populated London Borough?   They could save £10 to £15 bn by reducing the specification and other changes, and still build it, even if it takes two or three minutes longer to get to Birmingham!


So why do governments and their private sector ‘partners’ insist on going blindly forward even when the rationale for the project has changed or gone away? It cannot be just vanity – the idea of cutting a ribbon in ten years’ time or having it named after you!


What I think it wrong is the structure of decision making. An independent panel of experts could provide an ongoing review of projects as they proceed.  I proposed an independent technical advisor for the Select Committee on HS2, but was told that there was no precedent for this since 1840.  The need for independence is of course clear, as is the need for such a body to be in place for the project life until it is operational.   Who should it report to?  Not the Government, but perhaps the National Audit Office; the National Infrastructure Commission is only six months old and is, anyway, an arm of government. This panel must be free from conflicts of interest, which abound in some of these large projects, especially when they appear to rely on dodgy financial structure to stave off the day when they put their hand out to Government for help.


So I hope that the ICE and other institutions (this is not just a civil engineering problem) and others who want to see projects created and delivered in a cost effective and efficient way can debate how the excesses that we see at present can be prevented in the future.


Tony Berkeley is a civil engineer and a Member of the House of Lords.


7 comments for “

  1. LordBlagger
    06/09/2016 at 9:37 pm

    500 DLR extensions or one HS2?

    The biggest bribe will decide. No other explanation as to why HS2 is even on the table.

  2. 07/09/2016 at 2:21 pm

    If Blagger is right,
    then all of the Overarching –
    [read ‘overshadowing’]

    and Underpinning
    [read ‘underlurking’]

    Contexts & Longest-&-Shortest-Terms-Needs
    of every level of Human-life

    are already immovably stuck in being insidiously-corruptly-destructive
    and in being both self-terminally and Others-terminalisingly Diseased –
    including being through and through
    both Class-
    and Individual-persons

    The similarly ‘stuck-fast’ fact
    that not only are our Constitutions incapable
    of establishing Needs-&-Hows-Cooperative Problem-Solving foundational-&-first-resort
    “Method III ‘No-Lose’
    – methodologically-participatorily-democratic British neighbourhoods
    and international-governance-infrastructures,

    but so are (we) “People-on-the-Ground” also incapable
    of ‘doing’ ‘No-Lose’ Needs & Hows Cooperative Problem-Solving in our respective homes and neighbourhoods..
    Certainly neither “You” nor “all other Powers-that-Be”
    are both “legally-doing” and “publicly-practising”
    ‘No-Lose’ Cooperative Problem Solving.
    (see http://www.lifefresh.co.uk ‘Basics’ page for a “How To” printable guidance.

    If “You” were ”sustainworthily-cooperative”, then all of our Highest and Lowest level Tables
    and Lives,
    would be “Clear; Charitable; and Self-Corrigible”
    and both for Now and for Ever “Sustainworthy” –

    and this current Thames and Institutional-Governance “symptom” –
    {of now demanding [read also COMMANDING] as it is
    our “Democratic and Human and Earthlife-citizens” urgent and important
    Attention, Whole-Attention, and Nothing but our Whole Attention}

    would have been already sustainworthily-resolved long ago.
    JSDM 39B1.

  3. MilesJSD
    12/09/2016 at 12:49 pm

    “Nobody else” seems to be concerned, Lord Berkeley;
    so let me take your final paragraph and try to sketch some of its “shadows” :-

    “… That the ICE and other Institutions
    (this is not just a civil engineering problem) …”

    The 1948 NHS (National Hospitals & Illnesses ‘Sector’)
    was offered this same seriously big “All-Together, please” Scenario
    from the United Nations 1978 in the form of
    {“}…Human Health & Wellbeing are henceforth Matters that require other Sectors outside of the Medical and Hospitals to engage,
    in ‘health-&-wellbeing-building’
    (NOT as patients but as persons and people) **** {“}

    but both it and all other UK Constitutional and Governance Powers
    “deliberately” and ‘in camera secret’
    ‘spin-doctored’, ‘strawman’d’, ‘altered’ and ‘simplified’
    that Worldwide-Agreed “Health-building” [as distinct from “Illness-curing”] Declaration
    by sweeping it all under the pre-established UK-historical “Primary Medical Care” monopoly *****.

  4. 14/09/2016 at 12:07 pm

    The Real ‘but Hidden’ Task, is that we each and all need to NOT “debate”
    before we have
    1. cooperatively* shared all possible information

    2. at every ‘level’ of the People, Nation, and Governance-Edifice ‘equally’
    (a) co-operatively conversed about that Information

    (b) focally-conversed about each major context of that Information

    (c) co-operatively listed the problems and the focal Big-Problem

    (d) cooperatively discussed all of the above, using both
    (i) an all-round ‘comprehensive’ Thinking methodology such as the six-thinking-modes **; and
    (ii) a ‘No Lose’ Needs & Hows Recognition and cooperative problem-solving methodology such as the ‘Method III*** .

    (e) Upwards ‘funneled’ all of that for the nation-wide media to publish it ‘verbatim’ to the Public.

    (f) Had the Democratic Public’s, the constitutional Civil Services’, Academias’,
    Judiciaries’, and All NGO’s, findings, will, and help, verbatimly used as the Governancial basis and agenda for moving forward first in to a Public-Debate as a result of which –

    (g) ensured that the final Decision-Making Parliamentary debate can be commenced and concluded in the form of (h) >

    (h) the publicly-monitored writing of a Bill or Bills for the Legislatory process to be begun, and completed as Acts by the Judiciary and ‘delivered’ as Regulations and ‘Law’ by the Civil, Police, and Military Services.
    That is how Democracy should be upskilled and enabled to ‘work’,
    as our own British
    [and no doubt also International] advance into Participatorily-Democratic and Longest-Term-Sustainworthy Progress.
    And ‘by the way’ – a civilisation distorting both the Human Mind and the Earth’s Finite Lifesupports
    is neither “cost-effective” nor “efficient”
    and therein the human-being “needing” more than one-human-living is
    “neither personally-efficient nor civilisationally-cost-effective”.******

    * Cooperatively = as opposed to Competitively
    [Cooperativity also ‘pre-needs’ ‘decentralised’ Participation
    before, and more-so than, centralized ‘top-down’ Dictation, Direction & Directivity].

    ** Dr Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking ‘Hats'”.

    *** Prof Thomas Gordon’s “Parent/Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Training” [copy a 5-step Method III practical guidancer from the ‘Basics’ page in http://www.lifefresh.co.uk .]

    **** The “Declaration of Primary Health Care” by the UN World Health Organisation 1978 ;

  5. MilesJSD
    20/09/2016 at 3:52 pm

    {Final part of my above)
    ***** UK Medical & Individual-Capitalism Governance further malfeasantly [bad-governance] ‘cheating’
    by hijacking the UN WHO new heading-term “Primary Health Care”
    and erecting it in place of the concealed de facto
    what-continued-to-rule-the-roost in practice and to the effective exclusion of holistic-health improvement
    and of health-building
    as ‘persons’ NOT as ‘patients-under-treatment and medical-control’ in the longstanding
    but ‘health-building-clumsy and actually inhibitive’ monopolistic sector, the “Medical Control and Treatment of Illnesses – as ‘The National Health Service’ “.

    ****** Lifesupports = both Bio- (Living and ‘Renewable’ or ‘Self-Renewable’)
    and Non-bio- (Non-living and Non-Renewable); this Civilisation is irreversibly extincting the Bio-; and ‘one-way’ Destroying the non-bio .
    Surely therefore we have to do more and better and more highest-priority proactively,
    than merely “hope” that our “Institutions”
    and “others”
    can “debate”
    how such “excesses”
    can be “prevented” in future:-

    but in what “future” – we don’t have a democratic-unanimity, nor even a publicly agreed “consensus” Future Strategy, do we ?
    In 2010 there was not even a PM-chaired Future Strategy Committee, so the Media reported.

  6. Howell of Trent Valley
    03/10/2016 at 7:17 pm

    “What I think it wrong is the structure of decision making”

    If it were the retail trade distribution networks, there would be several new university disciplines, with complex language and definitions to go with it.
    Perhaps there are not enough civil engineers with that kind of literary skill, whereas in the Dsitributive trades there are.
    It is not just a matter of language, but first of identifying the problems and then giving them names

  7. MilesJSD
    06/10/2016 at 11:01 pm

    My ‘reply’ to Howell, not published, simply said
    (“) If your analysis is complete, then all we need to start doing is utilising, from bottom to top and back down again, the ‘No Lose’ Method III of Cooperative Problem Solving.(“)

    But I also added that
    (“)Since our Constitution and our Governance people are “closed” to such advances, we “at the bottom” should be “outside-of-the-box” starting it in small ‘togetherness’ sub-neighbourhood groups;
    but so far are somehow “top-secretly” prevented from so doing.(“)

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