Skip to content
ICE Community blog

West Midlands and Wales showcase innovation during presidential visit

29 September 2023

ICE President Keith Howells admired civil engineering projects across the regions during site visits and annual awards ceremonies.

West Midlands and Wales showcase innovation during presidential visit
ICE President Keith Howells gave a speech at the West Midlands Annual Awards.

My visit to the West Midlands and Wales, accompanied by President’s Future Leader Rachel Hayden, began with a site visit to the almost completed University Station in Birmingham.

This project is a much-needed improvement to a seriously overcrowded existing station which serves Birmingham University and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The main points of interest included:

  • the offsite manufacture of many of the building elements;
  • the constrained working area bounded by the operational railway and the Worcester and Birmingham Canal which limited access and working space; and
  • the presence of an Iron Age fort on the site which demanded frequent archaeological interventions.

Because of the constrained site, a novel temporary monorail system was put up to help place the sizeable precast elements of the station building in position.

The project included platform improvements and a new access route between the university and the hospital via footbridges over the canal and railway lines.

It was further complicated by the fact that it was funded by nine parties, requiring collaborative decision making and working.

Thanks to Amanda White of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Mike Gardiner of VolkerFitzpatrick and John Hine, Clare Mills, Peter Richardson and Owen Wilson of Mott MacDonald for showing us around.

The site visit was followed by a lunch meeting and Q&A session with the local Early Careers Network.

Then, we had a workshop and discussion session with a range of professionals to look at decarbonisation and transport issues in the West Midlands and consider how these could be improved.

west midlands awards
The region celebrated civil engineering achievements.

The West Midlands Annual Awards and gala dinner in the evening was hosted by ICE Council member, Yvonne Aust, with speeches from local ICE chair Vicky Bache, me and our guest speaker, Professor Danielle George MBE.

Dinner was followed by the awards ceremony which celebrated the achievements and innovative solutions of the local civil engineering community, as well as presenting awards to individuals for outstanding achievements.

A big thank you to Jo Barnett, ICE regional director, and her team for making all the arrangements, and to Yvonne and Vicky for their sterling performances on the night.

Next stop: Wales

The following day Rachel and I travelled to Cardiff, where we were met by another of my Future Leaders, Lucy Davison.

We joined ICE Wales Cymru in their annual celebrations of engineering achievement in the country.

The awards dinner, hosted by local radio presenter Eleri Sion, was a lively affair and again showcased some great projects, several of which had embraced nature-based solutions to tackle issues of flooding and erosion.

A huge thank you to Peter Burns, chair of the ICE Wales Cymru Committee, and to Keith Jones, ICE regional director for Wales, and his team, for making all the arrangements for what was a very successful evening.

  • Keith Howells, president 2022/23 at Institution of Civil Engineers