Prototype station for British Rail
Sir: Would you allow me to correct a mistaken impression which is given by your piece about our Maze Hill prototype?
There will be no wholesale replacement of our smaller stations, nor will they be pulled down indiscriminately. In the first place, we do not possess the bulging bank balance which would allow us to indulge such Haussman-like tactics. In the second place, the Southern Region follows a carefully thought out system in dealing with station maintenance and building, methods which have been practised in their present form over the last six or seven years. If, for instance, a station is found to perform its functions satisfactorily now, and seems likely to do so over a specified cycle of years, it will be repaired where necessary and re-painted. You can well imagine that with over 500 stations on the Region, the cost of this alternative alone - disappointingly unimaginative though it may appear to be - runs to a phenomenally high figure.
On the other hand, if the station in question does not function adequately, the buildings will either be improved, or taken down and reconstructed. That decision will depend on the relative costs and benefits. If reconstruction is the choice, the new buildings will be in CLASP (of which Sunningdale and Meopham stations are recent examples), in our own interpretation of rationalised-traditional (Sheerness is to this pattern), or a development of the ideas which we and our colleagues in the traffic divisions have explored at Maze Hill. This choice of building system will depend on many factors - perhaps the two most telling are the local environment, and the type of traffic which we serve.
Your supposition that there are many situations where "a little interior adjustment" of existing buildings could create the same level of efficiency as at Maze Hill is hopelessly erroneous. This sort of understatement may make for slick journalism, but it only needs a little understanding of the situation to demonstrate that the reality is rather different from what you suppose. Why not come along and talk to us, and see for yourself?
I hope that this very brief explanation of our approach and philosophy will convince you that the fears expressed in your Comment column really are without foundation.
N D T Wikeley, regional architect, British Rail, Southern Region
Science teaching equipment
Sir: Clive Baker's comment (DESIGN 286/85) that change in at least a 12 months' cycle is ideally catered for in the LIU/Sintacel system is true, but I cannot agree that this scale of flexibility is not relevant to the school situation. I'm sure that Mr Baker has found extreme difficulty in getting a consensus of opinion from scientists on what constitutes sound management principles for laboratory design or the optimum environment for good creative child/teacher relationships. Even if it were possible to get consensus within one local authority it would not have general application to England or Europe.
We do not believe that there is a perfect solution to a child orientated science environment, least of all in our present position where we are spending our funds on goods which we may have to live with for the next 50 years. Unless more funds are allocated for maintaining and updating public buildings, we must come to terms with the fact that the design decisions of today will through lack of funds become the equivalent of the Victorian problems of tomorrow.
Frank Drake, Department of Education and Science, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1
Sir: Neil Hartwell (DESIGN 287/00) does not seem to be aware of the current LancerBoss production. However, I assume that he is not basically concerned with the commercial aspects of design and production, and I think his observation that competitive equipment is equally riddled with faults is uninformed and lacks comprehension of the problems facing designers developing equipment over a short time scale. Making this remark sounds almost like an excuse, but it is not, it is a fact.
Going on to the specific points raised in your correspondent's letter, I would firstly say that any design is a compromise whether it is the Concorde aircraft or a table knife as nothing is perfect. Everything has some shortcomings, but in the case of the Lancer Boss sideloader, being a phase 2 machine, we feel it has dramatically fewer shortcomings than other systems.
All our container handlers, including the new 2000 series, have traversing cabs, and we agree with your correspondent that the cabs are frequently traversed to the right, which is the best overall operating position in our, and presumably many other drivers' opinion. There are many advantages. First, the forward position cab has better than commercial vehicle visibility for transporting, which consumes more than two thirds of its operating time. Secondly, traversing to the right gives excellent view of lorry or railcar platform, or indeed anything that is below the level of the sideloader platform which obscures the positioning operation on to container locks. It should be appreciated the operator can actually see from the side, and not guess from the top as with a straddle carrier. Thirdly, the cab can be traversed left or right, for example when reversing to check clearances, or whether the gangway is clear.
The swivelling seat is better in theory than in practice, and has been discontinued as drivers do not bother to operate it.
As one would expect from a process of continuous design, the ergonomic lay-out has been modified to make operation even easier. However, we will take your correspondent to task regarding the ability of the driver to look out of the cab window; we fail to see how this can be considered dangerous - it is in common with every road vehicle. Furthermore it is less tiring and fatiguing to look rather than to guess.
The true objective of your correspondent's letter seems obscure to us, and if we can be sincerely of any help to him, we will be delighted to see him at Leighton Buzzard, where he may view and examine current equipment.
G N Bowman-Shaw, Lancer Boss Group Limited, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 8SR