Monday, 2 November 2009

Ramsgate Royal Sands Development access and some thoughts on the councils attitude to public safety.

Just a quick Monday morning update on the state of the arches that support the access road to the new development.

These are the ones that the council assure me can support a road on top of them with a forty tonne weight limit.

Click on the link for more pictures all taken in the last few weeks sorry if some of them are a bit blurry, parts of this structure are a bit dark and I should have taken a professional flash with me.

I won’t go into which cracks worry me the most, as doubtless I will get involved in some pointless dialogue about my qualifications, I suggest you all put your civil engineering hats on and make your own minds up.

Anyway have a think about the picture above, take into account that this is a council owned structure, consider for a moment if you owned a structure in this condition in Thanet, what sort of action the council would take to get you to repair it.

Also consider that this structure hasn’t been properly secured to stop people getting into it at any time that I can remember in the last forty years.

This is a prime site in the main leisure area of Ramsgate, where children play.

Oh I should add it has a broken sewer in it that floods the area with sewage when we get heavy rain, anyone else fancy complaining about this I have tried and failed.

The answers I get are along the lines of our civil engineers have inspected it and say it is perfectly safe.

I have just added some pictures from this mornings walk for anyone who can’t get out at the moment click on the link to view


  1. Annonymouse who forgot his passwordNovember 02, 2009 2:42 pm

    Michael, if you make public statements on specific engineering issues, why is it pointless getting into a dialogue about your qualifications?

  2. Oh dear Annonymouse it happens to all of us, the down side being that anyone can impersonate you within the dialogue.

    My object here was to avoid engineering statements and let you make your own minds up from the pictures.

    I have consulted over with this one with several experts, as they are all people that from time to do work for the public sector, I don’t think a naming of names would be a good idea.

    As for me I discovered over many years working within the scientific and engineering world that being an engineer is primarily a state of mind, one of the best explanations of what I mean here is in the book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” something you may benefit from reading.

    Staying with philosophy for a moment (the main qualification here being putting your elbow on you knee and your chin on your fist, otherwise it is just sitting and thinking or possibly just sitting) an engineer could be defined in Kantian terms as someone who approaches problems with a different a priori concept to a non-engineer.

    You may wish to consider the maxim, what goes up comes down.

  3. Anonymouse writes his opinion but expects no one, for example, to question if he has a degree in English.

    I am retired from electrical engineering. I have HNC in electronics and control engineering too.

    My HNC project I decided to design and control a variable geometry wheelchair.

    This involved applying the mathematics of the catenary. (Arch when upside down Noncymouse !) Funnily enough I did not ask a mechanical engineer to do this because it was a matter of applying mathematics which I could do for myself.

    Anyway up. Does Anonymouse understand "Ad hominem fallacy" ?

  4. Michael

    I am looking for an interesting study in USA which looked at the performance of engineers who decided to represent themselves at law.

    I do recall the conclusion on the evidence. Engineers wipe the floor with lawyers (playing the lawyers at the law game) if they can overcome admissibility hurdles and get a showdown in Court. The reason,I recall, was a greater grasp of disciplines of evidence, a priori reasoning and logic.

  5. Reference to Google maps of the area, it looks like the “Give Way to oncoming vehicles” sign is above the arches. If so, you could get a 40 tonne vehicle that is descending the slope pulling up to allow the passage of another 40 tonne vehicle ascending the slope. Presumably they would both be fairly wide, so that the driver of the ascending vehicle would slow right down and apply the brakes a few times while passing the stationary vehicle. The application of the brakes should add some shock loadings to their combined weights in the zone above the arches. Might even have to use the pavement to complete the passing manoeuvre.

    The above scenario is unlikely, but if this is to be the access road for all construction traffic for the Royal Sands Development there should be some heavy loads crossing the arches.

  6. And how is the council going to stop a driver with a load of more than 40 tonnes using the road? Some drivers just disregard or miss road signs like the ones that get stuck under low bridges. There has to be a large margin of error built into the calculations.

  7. At least should this all be pooh-poohed and ignored,which seems to be happening it will not be possible for anyone to wriggle out of responsibility should something happen.Whether that will be any consolation to someone with 40 tonnes of truck and rubble on them remains to be seen.

  8. Annonymouse (still can't remember the password)November 02, 2009 9:12 pm

    Richard Card 16:56 I wasn't expressing an opinion, I was asking a question, which Michael has kindly answered. Also I'm quite happy for you to ask if I have a degree in English.

    Your "Noncymouse" comment in relation to the mathematics of the catenary only serves to support my thoughts on the anal retentiveness of some engineers (armchair or otherwise) to the exclusion of all other relevancies.

    P.S. I trust your catenary calculations take into account altitude and geographical location, both of which may have an effect on its form. Or wasn't that in the formula!

  9. 40 tonnes appears to be repeated throughout the recent posts, yet unless I’m mistaken the only signage indicates “No Construction Traffic”. If this is the case then apparently the great, good and experts in their fields have no concerns relating to the loading of the arches.

    Just a minor point but one I feel should be noted.

  10. I've found the password!

    Richard Card 16:56

    Apologies, I forgot to address the Ad Hominem question you asked. I have to be honest with you, it's not an expression I'm too familiar with and as I have only a vague recollection of it's meaning I thought it best to respond with an authoritative quote from the net:

    An ad hominem argument is an argument which links the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of a person advocating the premise.

    Actual instances of an ad hominem argument are relatively rare. Ironically, the fallacy is most often committed by those who accuse their opponents of ad hominem, since they try to dismiss the opposition not by engaging with their arguments, but by claiming that they resort to personal attacks. Those who are quick to squeal "ad hominem" are often guilty of several other logical fallacies, including one of the worst of all: the fallacious belief that introducing an impressive-sounding Latin term somehow gives one the decisive edge in an argument.

  11. I think it should be noted that a 40 Tonne limit is a gross figure spread out over 5 axles. The maximum weight per axle is 10 tonne per load bearing axle, increasing to 11.5 tonnes on a drive axle.

  12. @ Annonymouse 14:42
    I can't speak for anyone else, but there is a sense of satisfaction in reaching retirement age after a career in engineering without being accused of causing harm to anyone. To be safe, if you signature appears on any document accepting responsibility for a design, installation, procedure or product, you should keep your professional liability insurance paid up for 15 years after retirement. If retired you should only advise in vague terms of “I would not ....” making sure you don't leave yourself open to any legal proceedings.

    It is possible to have frank technical discussions amongst trusted peer groups, but how much exposure do you allow yourself outside these groups ?

  13. I hope you will excuse me just making a few general comments here rather than replying to every individual commentator.

    The forty tonne limit is the normal limit for uk roads i.e. not limit specific to this structure.

    The give way to oncoming vehicles signs relate to two things that look like traffic calming road furniture, but in fact cover two weak areas where there are unbricked voids near the surface.

    This is not to be the construction traffic rout for the site, I have had various conflicting answers from the great and good on this one, to the question; if the arches are safe for any vehicle, why bring the construction traffic through the café culture?

    I did attempt to calculate a safe load for the arches but two variables pretty much defeated me, one being that they are constructed from Victorian house bricks of varying harnesses and the other being the lower levels of the structure which is a complex mixture of arches and unbricked or partially bricked tunnels.

    The various computer programs I found for calculating the stresses in viaducts assumed they were made from either engineering bricks of uniform hardness or from one type of stone with uniform characteristics. They also assumed the viaduct was built on a level solid foundation and not a maze of tunnels and a damaged sewer.

    My calculations on the upper arched viaduct only, based on engineering bricks come out about 18KN m (squared) the brackets are because blogger doesn’t have a facility for mathematical notation, about 9 tonnes for each square metre, as a static load.

    One question that I have been asking the great and the good about these arches, is; assuming the new development is expected to last about 100 years and the main PSV access is via the viaduct, will it continue to be viable access for this period, or will we the taxpayers have to cough up megabucks at some point to repair it?

    Brushing against 23.19s points, I should like to make it clear here that I always present my views as those of a shop assistant, and noting in the anonymous comments the style of at least one eminent expert, this is one other way of avoiding litigation.

    The main consideration here however is that this road is intended to be the main access to the new development and everything else in the Marina Esplanade, main sands area for busses and coaches.

    Parts of this incline road have collapsed before, in relatively recent times, these collapses happened without any warning and came as a complete surprise to the civil engineers involved.

    It is a collapse involving several busses full of people that worries me most, based on the very unscientific premise that several busses often arrive at the same time.


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