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News from the UK Civils Industry 3rd July 2019

Posted by: Melonie Debenham
Industry News

Highways England uses Minecraft to inspire next generation of engineers 

Highways England has tapped into popular children’s video game Minecraft to encourage the next generation of civil engineers.

Children will use the platform to create dual-carriageways and build three-tier junctions. Created using more than two billion blocks, Highways England’s plans for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme have been created in a Minecraft world. It’s the first time a major road improvement scheme has been built in Minecraft, and pupils at a Bedfordshire primary school were among the first to explore the scheme in game as Highways England put on a morning of taster sessions.

The Minecraft world is taking place alongside a public consultation on updated plans put on show for the A428 scheme between Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Drivers could save up to an hour and a half on their journeys every week using the new 10-mile dual carriageway linking the Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire to the Caxton Gibbet roundabout in Cambridgeshire. Both roundabouts would also be upgraded into modern, free-flowing junctions and a new junction would be added at Cambridge Road near St Neots.

The project would replace the only remaining section of single carriageway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge, tackling one of the region’s most notorious congestion hotspots.

Highways England A428 programme lead Lee Galloway said: “This is the first time a major road improvement scheme has been created using blocks in Minecraft, and we’re excited that local Minecraft experts have had a chance to thoroughly explore plans in the game, visiting sites such as the three-tier Black Cat junction and the new 10-mile duel carriageway.

“The current A428 carries twice the traffic it was designed for and cuts through small communities and villages. Our plans will make a real difference, improving people’s journeys for decades to come and provided economic benefits across the region. By using Minecraft in this public consultation, we hope to engage a new younger audience to see the roads that will shape their region for years to come, and hopefully inspire the next generation of engineers to build them.”

The map was created by Blockbuilders C.I.C, an expert company at engaging young people in planning, the environment and local history using Minecraft. It took them three weeks to build using a massive 2,393,814,525 blocks. For any brave explorers looking to run the entire length of the scheme in game, it will take one and a quarter hours.

Co-Director at Blockbuilders C.I.C Megan Leckie said: “For us it is so important to be engaging young people in these schemes as they are focused on the future. The local young people will be the ones living with the changes for the longest period, so it’s vital they be included.” Full story.

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Gatwick expansion could replace Heathrow as priority 

There is a strong economic case for allowing Gatwick to build a second runway before Heathrow builds its third under a future model where airports become “transport providers”, Cranfield University senior lecturer in airport planning and management Henrik Rothe has claimed.

Rothe leads the Urban Turbine project, a design lead research project pursuing airports' responses to societal changes. He made the claim during his guest appearance on the second episode of New Civil Engineer's podcast, The Engineers Collective.

He said: “In the long-term airports need to reconsider their position within the transport industry. If they become transport providers for people who are flying into a city to take them to the place they want to be, then we are talking about a different model that is probably 20 years ahead.

“The challenge we have right now is that there is a terrible amount of infrastructure around Heathrow which disallows us from thinking Heathrow can be left out of further infrastructure development.

“But if there is an opportunity to check-in at Heathrow and fly out from Gatwick that would be a very smart movement. It would disperse noise and emissions from aircraft without taking business away from Heathrow.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has also already expressed support for expanding Gatwick instead of Heathrow on the grounds that it could boost the UK economy without causing air pollution problems. He says it would be cheaper and quicker to expand Gatwick. Full story.

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