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ICE Vice President Robert Mair champions HS2 in his maiden House of Lords speech

Lord Mair was announced as an independent crossbencher in October 2015, following a recommendation from the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Lord Mair used his maiden speech to champion HS2.
Lord Mair used his maiden speech to champion HS2.

A world-renowned civil engineer with extensive practical and academic experience, he is now the Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Civil Engineering at Cambridge University.

He began his maiden speech by talking of his time running an engineering consultancy, advising London Underground during construction of the new Westminster Station and associated tunnels for the Jubilee Line Extension in the 1990's. He pointed out the 'challenging' foundations of Big Ben, constructed in the 1840s, and described the Victorian engineers, 'wonderful in so many ways' as having been 'adventurous - some would say brave'.

Lord Mair told the House that modern geotechnical engineering has offered us a greater understanding of difficult ground conditions and ground behaviour. The methods for estimating settlements caused by tunnelling which were deployed in the construction of the Jubilee Line Extension are now widely adopted on projects across the world. They are also due to be used on the proposed HS2 rail network, an infrastructure project which he also championed in his speech, alongside Crossrail 2.

He drew on the findings of ICE's flagship State of the Nation report from 2014 which concluded that not one of the UK Infrastructure sectors analysed was 'fit for the future', an assessment backed up by the World Economic Forum's 28th place ranking in the world, of the quality of the UK's infrastructure. He urged the House to consider the wider benefits that modern, fit-for-purpose infrastructure could deliver to the UK economy, even if the immediate contruction costs are 'expensive'.

Aside from the economic benefits, he was also keen to let the House know that technological advances in construction techniques, and the advent of digital innovations, would reduce the cost of delivery and maintenance.

"…the digital revolution affecting all areas of our lives brings dramatic changes for infrastructure. This means much smarter infrastructure. We will be able to understand exactly how a building, a tunnel, a bridge, or a railway line is actually performing during construction, and throughout its lifetime. Also, we will know how to prioritise what needs to be replaced and when, and how to manage it all much more efficiently."

"This will lead to more economic design, reduced costs and greater efficiencies, both in the capital cost of construction and in the subsequent operating costs. All of this will be of great benefit to HS2."

There are few more qualified than Lord Mair to offer recommendations on major rail projects. Specialising principally in tunnels and underground construction, he is known for the introduction of new techniques and has acted as consultant on many high profile engineering projects all over the world.

In the UK he was closely involved with the design and construction of the Jubilee Line Extension for London Underground and with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (now HS1). He is also a member of the Engineering Expert Panel on Crossrail, Europe's largest civil engineering project.

He now heads a major research group at Cambridge University and recently established the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction. The Centre was funded by both the Government and Industry, and is pioneering the innovative use of the latest sensor technology in construction.

You can view Lord Mair's House of Lord's speech on Parliament TV (12:56)

National Needs Assessment

As the voice of infrastructure, ICE is leading a coalition of business, academic, environment and industry experts to produce an independent 'National Needs Assessment' (NNA). It will be published in the autumn and provided to the NIC to feed into its own National Infrastructure Assessment.

As part of the National Needs Assessment (NNA) call for evidence we have been hosting a number of events throughout April to ensure we can engage with the entire infrastructure community. These events will test and challenge some of the written submissions, but also give attendees the opportunity to engage in the wider debate regarding delivery of infrastructure in the UK.