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The Jubilee River story - Letter to the President - ICE

30 November 2009

Professor Paul Jowitt

President ICE

One Great George Street


Dear Professor Jowitt,

Firstly, please accept my best wishes on your recent appointment.

On reading your Presidential Address it occurred to me that it may be helpful if I mentioned the following:

In your Address you state It is bad enough when infrastructure fails through natural causes. It is unacceptable that it should fail by neglect.

While I totally agree with your statement, I am concerned that the problem of substandard design has apparently been overlooked.

My village is the victim of substandard design. The 110m Jubilee River project fell apart on first use and led to flooding for the first time since 1947. With 5m in repairs, the substandard design was the subject of a 2.75m out-of-court settlement. The channel is still unable to carry its design capacity and is now the subject of a National Audit Office investigation into repairs that have failed yet again

As an engineer myself (MIET), I cannot understand how an embankment that almost collapsed in 2003 and was then rebuilt in 2004 at a cost of 1.3m is degrading yet again.

My point is that when things do go wrong (as they do), whilst I accept that they may take a disproportionate amount of time and effort to put right, we do not seem to be learning the lessons from the bad experience in order that we may do better next time.

If you or any of your President's Apprentices 2009/10 would like a guided tour along the Jubilee River to see exactly what has gone wrong, by all means contact me.

Yours sincerely

Ewan Larcombe