Tom Keighley

Member Article

Engineers and academics debate future of regional infrastructure

Regional infrastructure needs one cohesive plan, coupled with reforms in philosophy and consumption habits, if we are to ensure future sustainability.

That was one of the key outcomes of the Great Infrastructure Debate, hosted by Newcastle University and presenting a panel of speakers from across industry and academia to air their views.

Five areas of infrastructure were set up for debate, including establishing a renewable energy mix, flood prevention, establishing a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, increasing resource efficiency and increasing connectivity through transport infrastructure.

All areas were framed around the question: “What infrastructure do we need to prioritise to develop the region’s potential over the next thirty years?”

As the case for each area was put forward by the speakers, the audience, including engineers and industry professionals, were involved in discussion around the topics using Crowd Wise, a newly developed participative method for decision making.

The audience ranked each area of infrastructure according to their perceived importance, with the consensus voting model intended to give each participant incentive to engage with others, in the hope of persuading them to rate their preferred option.

Introducing the debate, Richard Coackley, President of the Institution of Civil Engineering, said the Government was right to prioritise infrastructure focus, but needed a coherent plan as to how growth could be financed and implemented.

We spoke to Richard, and Stephen Larkin, regional director of the ICE; here what they had to say here.

Tony Quinn, director of major projects and assets, talked to the audience about renewable energy and the importance of making it cost-effective. Listen to what Tony had to say here.

Elsewhere in the debate, Laura O’Toole, a member of the Traffic and Transport team at Jacobs, presented her argument for the importance of transport infrastructure.

She pointed out that despite the likes of Teesside Port accounting for almost 60% of import and export activity in the country, infrastructure in the North East pales in comparison to other areas.

Edward Bentley, researcher with the Power Engineering group at Northumbria University, put forward his argument in favour of focusing on electric vehicle charging networks.

He said: Estimates vary, but some sources suggest that oil will cease to flow freely within 30/40 years.

“Given our present dependence on fossil fuel powered vehicles for mobility and distribution, the future will either hold a radical rearrangement of our transport arrangements or else a non-fossil-fuel-based system – the Electric Vehicle is one solution.

“To encourage the adoption of Electric Vehicles in a timely fashion, and incidentally to support the new Nissan battery plant in Sunderland, a charging infrastructure should be created in the region.”

The event was set up in partnership with ICE North East, The Great Debate, the Living Laboratory, new economics foundation, RCE North East/NECTER and Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham Universities and was facilitated by Dr Caspar Hewett, director of The Great Debate.

Richard Coackley was in the North East as part of his tour of the regions, to promote the importance of infrastructure.

As part of his visit, Richard went on to meet Professor Paul Younger of Newcastle University, to discuss Geothermal Energy and the prospects for deep heat in central Newcastle.

This evening he will go on to present the New Tyne Crossing with a special Robert Stephenson Award at the ICE North East’s annual dinner.

Richard said: “The New Tyne Crossing is a great example of excellence in civil engineering and infrastructure upgrading.

“The result of the second tunnel is better quality of life for thousands of regular drivers of this route who now spend less time in traffic and more time doing the things they want to do.

“This is the beauty of civil engineering and why I have dedicated my life to it - it adds real value to society.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

Enjoy the read? Get Bdaily delivered.

Sign up to receive our popular North East morning email for free.

* Occasional offers & updates from selected Bdaily partners

Our Partners

Top Ten Most Read