Letter : Engineering a better brake by design

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The Independent Online
From Mr Ian Rowland-Hill

Sir: Christian Wolmar's article about inadequate brakes on Turbo trains concludes with a quote from a BR driver: "There is no doubt that there is a fundamental design problem." ("Ex-driver says train fault was clear from start", 22 February.) Now, I could be wrong, but my guess is that designers weren't allowed anywhere near the braking system, and that what we have here is yet another example of inadvertently putting down design when what we really mean is, "There is no doubt that there was a fundamental failure of engineering."

While some may think that this is merely semantics, it actually touches on one of the great issues of today - our consistent failure in some areas of manufacturing to produce world-class goods. Many people have suspected for some time that the reason why we have failed in some areas of manufacturing is the consistent failure to integrate engineering and design at the earliest stages in a project's life. This relationship should then be maintained right the way through to the end - including measuring the effectiveness of the project.

In education, training and some key areas of manufacturing practice, we have separated engineering and design skills and lost out. Where they have been integrated (Rovers springs to mind), we have been successful.

We can have a debate about this, but until we build teams where design, engineering and marketing can work together, our production of Turbo trains will continue to reflect the overall inadequacies of a key sector within manufacturing.

Yours sincerely,


Chief Executive

Design Business Association

London, WC1

22 February