Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 48

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 48


Friday 12 September 2014

Here are the links for the two sessions of Day 48 of the Public Enquiry

http://www.mixcloud.com/CosmicClaire/day-48a-leeds-trolleybus-public-enquiry-12-sept-2014-first-morning-session/
In the first morning session of Day 48 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Friday 12 September 2014, Mr Richard Caten is cross examined by Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor and then by Mrs Sue Sleeman on behalf of Ms Dawn Carey Jones for South Headingley Community Association who was unable to attend in person.

 
In the late morning session of Day 48 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Friday 12 September 2014, the Inspector Mr Martin Whitehead has some questions for Mr Caten on land acquisition for the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme.  Mr Walton for NGT had no questions for re-examination.  After this, Mrs Riddell gives the first evidence for an Objector against the NGT scheme on behalf of residents at Weetwood Court in West Park, followed by her husband Mr Riddell on the more technical aspects of the impacts and then is cross examined by Mr Walton.  The Enquiry now breaks for a week and resumes on Tuesday 23rd Sept 2014 at 10am.

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 47


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 47


Thursday 11 September 2014


 Here are the links to the audio recordings of Day 47

In the first morning session of Day 47 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Thursday 11 September 2014 Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor resumes his cross examination of Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement and is followed by Ms Dawn Carey Jones for the South Headingley Community Association.

In the late morning session of Day 47 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Thursday 11 September 2014 Ms Dawn Carey Jones for the South Headingley Community Association concludes her cross examination  Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement and is followed by Mr Chris Foren for the A660 Joint Council and then the Inspector, Mr Martin Whitehead before the lunch break is taken.

In the early afternoon session of Day 47 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Thursday 11 September 2014 Mr Walton for the Applicant carries out his re-examination of Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on his Environmental Statement.

In the late afternoon session of Day 47 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Thursday 11 September 2014 Mr Richard Caten of Ardent is examined on his evidence about Land Management by Mr Walton for the Applicant NGT, followed by Mrs Helen Pickering for the Drummonds and Churchwoods Residents’ Association and then by Mr David Graham for First West Yorkshire.  There is a short discussion about programming matters over the examination of Document B-13.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 46


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry
Day 46

Wednesday 10th September 2014


The audio recordings of all today’s sessions are included here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Mr Kevin Leather presents his evidence in chief on the NGT Environmental Statement, is taken through this by Mr Walton for the Applicant and then Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire cross examines him on his evidence.

In the late morning session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire continues to cross examine Mr Kevin Leather on the NGT Environmental Statement.

In the early afternoon session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire completes his cross examine of Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement.

In the late afternoon session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 first Mr Stuart Natkus for Morley House Trust and then Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor cross examine Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement.

Firstly may I express my continuing gratitude to all the Objectors who have, and are continuing to, assist with the recording of the Trolleybus Public Enquiry, without whom the documentation, and indeed my own blogs, would be extremely patchy.  For newcomers to this blog I should like to point out that there is no formal minuting of the Enquiry, no stenographer, and no attempt in any form by NGT, Metro or Leeds City Council to provide documentary news updates of what has been covered in the proceedings.  This is utterly disgraceful and the Executive Board of Leeds City Council should be ashamed of themselves for refusing to make any attempt to do so.  The inadequacy of the BBC in failing their statutory duty to inform the public is not far behind that of LCC.  The Exec Board doubtless rely on the minutes kept by the Promoter’s own stenographer, but one doubts whether these will ever be made public, and I am extremely glad that we have an objective record with the recordings, as I do not believe we could entirely be sure of the reliability of the NGT minutes, to put it as diplomatically as I can.

The examination of Mr Kevin Leather was a fascinating experience.  I shall focus on Mr Jones’s examination as it was a long day with other examinations which made headway, but I shall try to give a broad outline of how the examination developed in the morning.

There are times when one wonders where Mr Jones is taking it all, and then suddenly it becomes clear.  He does like to prepare his ground well before he goes in for the kill, and this takes time, but when you get to the point where you can see the big picture you have to stand back in amazement and acknowledge that he knows what he is doing.

The morning began with exploration of Mr Leather’s position in the making of the Environmental Statement and the fact that he relied heavily on the evidence of Mr Ward, whose original Heritage Statement has been supplemented by the new document B-13, an almost 400 page document of which about 300 pages were new, and Professor Purseglove, whom it was elicited has no science degree, and is a landscape architect whose degree was in English Literature, facts which I do not recall having had a lot of attention drawn to them previously.

Mr Leather would not admit that the original HS was defective or inadequate and claimed it was based on best practice, but we were left wondering why such a massive additional document had been considered necessary if this had been the case.

He had not actually done the Environmental Impact Assessment or the Environmental Impact Statement himself and was quizzed on the fact that he is basically an overview administrator of all this rather than a technical expert.

Having laid out these shortcomings, a quite lengthy analysis was entered into by Mr Jones, and I have to confess that I was for a while at sea wondering where he was going with this.  However the argument had to be prepared by laying out the work that had been done on air quality measurements and the modelling that had been derived from that, in the first instance on Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels.  There was a rather large amount of detail on the supposed predictions for that and we were also given extensive reminders of how Mr Hanson’s traffic data modelling had been admitted to have been made with a possible variation of as much as + or – 30%, the park and ride predictions up to + or – 50%, and the local side road traffic modelling had been admitted to be inaccurate.  Further preparation was made with questioning of whether we can really expect the baseline predictions for air quality and emissions not to get worse in coming years as their modelling assumes.

All rather complicated technical stuff which I freely admit I found a little hard to follow in places but necessary when you bear in mind that Mr Jones was building up to a demonstration that the impact of the increased emissions, which it is admitted would be caused by general traffic should the NGT scheme be allowed to go ahead, causing an increase in congestion, had not been properly assessed when it came to how it would affect those ‘receptors’ (people) in the areas where this was expected to peak.

Put simply, all the increased emissions were averaged so as to argue that it would not be a major impact, and yet it was argued strongly by Mr Jones that with such a major degree of variation in the models which Mr Hanson had provided, the impact in local hotspots could not be reliably forecast.

All good stuff bringing the modelling data into question, but this wasn’t the killer blow.  After we had been treated to such marvellous skill with words from Mr Leather as ‘they will be categorised into categories’…  Mr Jones winkled out the fact that among the matters Mr Leather had been discussing with colleagues the previous afternoon when he was unavailable for cross examination was the + or – 30% figure, which apparently he had not been aware of when compiling the data, and had only found out the afternoon before his examination.

One can only take criticism of Mr Jones’s lengthy style so far when you realise that a great deal of time was wasted by Mr Leather over whether the degree of uncertainty of the data was of any importance or not.  To quote Mr Jones ‘It is not a safe basis for relying on the Environmental Statement as being robust when its authors are not aware when giving their judgement of the uncertainty of the parameters’.  At one point the witness seemed to agree with this, and then appeared to change his mind as the Inspector pointed out.

While predictions in air quality had been based on Mr Hanson’s uncertain predictions of traffic flows it was admitted that the probably more reliable data which had been compiled by Mr Gordon Robertson from traffic signalling inputs had been ignored.

When it came to particulates as opposed to the NO2 it was found that only two monitoring stations for these existed in Leeds.  Clearly this is no basis for making any realistic predictions on how these may or may not be affected by changes in traffic volume and flow.  All Mr Leather could say was that it ‘gives a view’ on the situation.  The data that had been used for this was not even the most recently available, coming from 2012 rather than 2013.  We were also given an argument that just because emissions might increase, this did not mean that air quality would deteriorate.  Hmmm….

I lost count of the number of times that Mr Leather said ‘I don’t know’ and frankly his manner of delivery led me to consider whether he is suffering from depression as he exhibits extreme ‘flatness of affect’ to use a technical mental health term.  In other words he is entirely lacking in any expressive confidence and shows no emotion.  He hesitates for long periods in giving his replies and doesn’t speak up.  One may have not agreed with the likes of Mr Haskins or Mr Smith when they were up as witnesses, but at least one could hear what they said.

One trusts that the Inspector is able to follow and understand the technical analysis which Mr Jones subjected Mr Leather’s evidence to as this seems to be crucial to the claims of NGT.  Basically, their predictive modelling is extremely tenuous and highly unreliable it would appear, as has been the case repeatedly with a large number or witnesses.  It takes a long time to lay out the stall when preparing to take this apart, but in the end I believe Mr Jones succeeded in achieving this.  One can imagine that Mr Leather might well feel depressed when you consider his lack of knowledge of the background to how his own statement was prepared.  ‘I don’t know’ appeared to be one of his favourite answers.

There was much more of this, but I will just leave you with a fact that was elicited by Mr McKinnon towards the end of the day.  Mr Leather, and therefore probably his whole team, were not aware that Monument Moor was a part of Woodhouse Moor when they proposed the works that would be required there for the NGT scheme.  One is reminded of a previous witness who didn’t know that the Dales Way began on Monument Moor, a fact we have again to thank Mr McKinnon for.

These are the kind of details which the people who are proposing this scheme either don’t know, or don’t care about enough to bother to find out about, even though they are in the public domain, on Ordnance Survey maps and the like.  But one is reassured that the Inspector clearly shows an interest, and one suspects from the tone of his voice on such occasions that he is not much impressed at this ignorance.

I try not to get too personal about the witnesses for the Promoter, well not too often at least, but the fact is that these people are working for the enemy who wish to permanently mar our beautiful heritage.  So when I see and hear a witness whose presentation is frankly dismal, and who seems ignorant even of his own case (he had to be pointed to paragraphs in his own documents) one cannot help but feel some degree of animosity.  I believe that those who have been present at a reasonable number of sessions at the Enquiry will agree that Mr Leather is probably the poorest witness we have seen so far, and at times one wanted to cover one’s head in embarrassment at his evident lack of competence.

I would urge readers to review the recordings of the day, especially of Mr Jones’s cross examination, to see how an argument can be prepared and then fully actioned.  Slow work at times, but the flimsy nature of the case put forward by NGT is often veiled beneath so much technical jargon and scientistic assumption and presentation, that a layperson could be forgiven for being taken in.  I have to express my gratitude to Mr Jones and indeed First West Yorkshire for taking the trouble to expose the inadequacy of a case which would be catastrophic not only to the local community and its environmental heritage should it be allowed to go ahead, but also to Leeds and its taxpayers.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 45


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry
Day 45

Tuesday 9th September 2014

(Updated blog 11 Sept 2014)
This was a rather shortened day since the witness who was scheduled for the later sections of the day was unavailable. 

The audio recordings of the two morning sessions are linked here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 45 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tues 9th Sept 2014 Mr Max Forni Principal Acoustic Engineer, Mott Macdonald, is cross examined firstly by Mr Walton for the Applicant, NGT and then by Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire on the noise impacts of the development or running of the proposed NGT trolleybus system.

In the late morning session of Day 45 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tues 9th Sept 2014 Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire completes his cross examination of Mr Max Forni Principal Acoustic Engineer, Mott Macdonald, on the noise impacts of the development and running of the proposed NGT trolleybus system.  He is followed by Mr Ian Barraclough on behalf of Headingley Castle and its residents, then Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor, and finally Mr Walton who re-examines Mr Forni on behalf of NGT.

The extremely brief afternoon session is appended to the audio of the late morning session as it is so short and merely covers ongoing programming update and no examination takes place.

There is a certain amount of interesting discussion in today’s shortened sitting, but I think we should acknowledge that however much evidence might have been covered, it isn’t going to be a game changer on either side.  Mr Jones had a little fun examining the methodology which didn’t seem to take into account the cumulative impacts of the works which would be required to take place and this was followed by Mr Ian Barraclough for Headingley Castle. 

Certainly the residents of the Castle would be some of the people most directly affected both by the required works and the ongoing running of the trolleybus which would pass in front of the residence once every three minutes.  It may be the case that tree planting ‘mitigation’ would eventually reduce that effect, but there would still be the side road which of course would have to be left free, and it could be that the new short densely planted trees would make it more difficult to see the oncoming trolleybus than the existing tall trees through the gaps in the trunks of which it is possible to see a greater distance. 

I recall going on the motorway in the summer break and noticing that mitigating tree planting had been put in place to help shield views of the motorway as well as buffer emissions.  But one thing I realised, since I rarely travel on motorways, was that the views were monotonous and claustrophobic and that there were almost no longer views through to the further landscape.  More a matter for environmental impact than noise impact, but the loss of the magnificent mature tall trees between the Castle and the Telephone Exchange would be a most upsetting experience for the residents. 

The more I look at the issue, the more I am concerned that views of standard trees with gaps through them, such as here or on the Otley Road in, say Far Headingley and West Park, which allow views through and beyond them would be changed in character if the close replanting which is proposed took place, as the claustrophobic ‘corridor’ effect which I experienced on the motorway would be what eventually grows in.

I can’t help feeling that it is just one more of the endless series of impacts which have not been properly assessed.  A silent trolleybus ~ ‘Silent Death’ as Mr McKinnon later reminded us they used to be called ~ could emerge out of the thick wall of undergrowth and be a danger to both pedestrians and vehicles crossing the trolleybus track.  The fact that both visually impaired and hard of hearing people go to special centres behind Headingley Castle was raised, and the dangers to them from very quiet buses mentioned by Mr Barraclough.  It is an accepted fact that trolleybuses have a higher pedestrian death rate than normal buses.

The subject of habituation to the disruption which might be experienced by residents was covered and Mr Jones in his cross examination pointed out that how people feel about the source of the noise or ongoing disruption is a major determiner of how they might acclimatise or not to it.  For instance, if you hear roadworks near where you live, but you understand that they are fixing a pothole filled road surface that you know needs resurfacing, one is unlikely to feel a great deal of annoyance, or not for very long; whereas if something such as the trolleybus is unwelcome and the works for it are destroying your accustomed mature environment, then the sense of intrusion is likely to continue for a much longer time, and indeed even outlive the works themselves, since the material results would be permanent.  Especially if you are a resident in the sheltered housing near Monument Moor whose pleasant views of Woodhouse Moor would be left permanently marred after having to put up with the highly disruptive and destructive building of a trolleybus track along the south side of Woodhouse Lane:  residents who, due to conservation planning constraints are not able to have the protection of double glazing to reduce noise, as is also the case at Headingley Castle.
 
The safety of the silent or extremely quiet nature of trolleybuses was raised.  It is of course true that they can be fitted with an acoustic warning signal, but there would be a noise nuisance if it were to be used in same place repeatedly, and locations such as Woodhouse Moor and Whitfields are examples of where this might occur.  The residents of the Whitfields would have their lives perpetually disrupted by both the passage of the trolleybus every three minutes as well as the unavoidable klaxon or bell that would be needed for safety warning.  I can't recall if other locations were mentioned, but so called 'shared spaces' such as Millenium Square in front of the Civic Museum and in front of the University Parkinson steps would also be subject to this mixture of danger to pedestrians accompanied by frequent intrusive noise.
The Promoter’s position on all this is that the fine detail cannot be fully predicted at the present time and that all due care would be taken, but as with so many questions around the development of the scheme we surely cannot be expected to take it all on trust, but really need to have it properly detailed in advance.

One has to trust that the Inspector is noting all the shortcomings in the planning of NGT but when you hear the way that he questions some of the witnesses one does have a certain amount of reassurance.  Mr Forni was not made as uncomfortable as some witnesses, but he was rather prone to speaking very quietly, which was unhelpful. Not mumbling like Mr Chadwick, but just so that one had to pay rather close attention to properly hear what he said. However he was by no means the worst witness for NGT.  If you want to hear a contender for that honour I would suggest that you skip ahead to tomorrow’s recordings and listen to Mr Kevin Leather general environmental specialist responsible for production of the Environmental. Statement (ES).  The fact that his cross examination will probably run to at least three times the length of that undergone by Mr Forni is indicative of the much greater importance in the greater scheme of the Environmental Statement.  I will leave you to judge the Inspector’s tone with Mr Leather, but one of my co-objectors commented that he, the witness, would have probably gone home and had a stiff gin after being roasted over the coals for the whole day in the manner that he was.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 44


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 44


Friday 5th September 2014

Links to the audio recordings for this day follow here.  I am currently a little behind with the material at present so I am hoping that I shall be able to catch up with writing commentary when we have a break.

In the first morning session of Day 44 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Fri 5th Sept Cameron QC commences his cross examination of Paul Turner, Commercial Director of First West Yorkshire

In the late morning session of Day 44 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Fri 5th Sept Neil Cameron QC continues his cross examination of Paul Turner, Commercial Director of First West Yorkshire, on matters around First’s response to the NGT proposals.

In the afternoon session of Day 44 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Fri 5th Sept Neil Cameron QC concludes his cross examination of Paul Turner, Commercial Director of First West Yorkshire and is followed by Gregory Jones QC who makes a short re-examination of Mr Turner.



Monday, 8 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 43


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 43


Thursday 4 Sept 2014
Links to the audio recordings for Day 43 are shown here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 43 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thurs 4th Sept 2014 Neil Cameron QC, counsel for the Applicant NGT cross examines Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire from the TAS Consultancy on his evidence, dealing with matters around the viability of the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme.

In the late morning session of Day 43 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thurs 4th Sept 2014 Neil Cameron QC for NGT concludes his examination of Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire, focussing in this section largely on operation matters comparing buses with the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme.  This is followed by a short section of questions from the Inspector.

In the early afternoon session of Day 43 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 4th September 2014, Gregory Jones QC re-examines Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire on his overview of the NGT trolleybus scheme.


In the late afternoon session of Day 43 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 4th September 2014, Gregory Jones QC examines Mr Paul Turner, First’s regional head of commercial on operational matters comparing NGT trolleybus to the existing bus services, some of which have run continuously since the 1950s


If the previous day was a fascinating in depth look at the problems with trolleybus, today’s examinations began with an immensely complicated examination which I frankly found very difficult to understand.  I will acknowledge that Neil Cameron QC for NGT did seem to make some headway against Mr Chris Cheek’s case, but I rather had the feeling that this was not a substantial as it may have appeared. 

For example it may well be that a trolleybus has certain advantages such as less vibration from its drive train than a diesel bus, or that if it has priority at traffic lights then it will be more reliable, but these are isolated factors which are only part of the big picture that the NGT witnesses keep telling us that we should look at ‘in the round’.

Or is it not the pot calling the kettle black for NGT to find and criticise Mr Cheek’s decision not to include quality of bus stops in his model because he didn’t think it was significant enough, when the level of assumptions taken by them are vastly greater in extent, not only on this kind of small detail, but on the very basis of claimed public demand for a trolleybus, such as the extremely detailed analysis of the Stated Preference (SP) tests we have seen.

The SP research and its methodology was strikingly absent from Mr Cameron’s cross examination.  Yesterday Mr Cheek had aimed an extended and withering blast onto this when examined by Mr Jones, and it would seem to be a cornerstone of the case against NGT, but unless my mind wandered off for a nanosecond or two, I don’t recall Mr Cameron making any attempt to retrieve it.  If he didn’t, isn’t it obvious why?  That he would rather move on as fast as possible from the subject and hope the Inspector forgets about it as he nitpicks over minor flaws and legalistic technicalities.

Other problems such as potential for congestion from articulated trolleybuses, the massive and uneconomic cost which would be required for the infrastructure, and not least the problems with passenger preferences for seats, were entirely overlooked and ignored. This latter especially could be a serious problem for NGT if it went ahead, as when it came to thinking about which bus stop to go to, conventional or trolleybus, that will be a major determinator for many if they realise that would not be able to get a seat on NGT and does not seem to have been either acknowledged or addressed. 

It was not surprising to hear Mr Cameron attack First’s motivations and attempt to tarnish their image.  Mr Paul Turner, local head of Commercial for First did something to defend their reputation when he later came into the witness box and stated that First had been realigning their policy away from being strictly shareholder profit driven, and backed up the rationale behind this in explaining that profitable routes such as the A660 allowed the company to maintain the less profitable.  If revenue from a route like the A660 were reduced due to passengers being poached by NGT, and their services consequently cut, then the less profitable routes would suffer as a result.  Simple economics.  And this harks back to Mr Cheek’s point about the likelihood of the 28 and 97 services being reduced as these would be the most vulnerable to loss of passengers.  Many people, myself included, will take a 28 or 97 from the city to Headingley as if it were a 1 or a  6 and barely notice the difference.  But if the trolleybus took 60% of the passenger traffic from the A660, then the passengers who do actually travel on to Adel or Guiseley would probably not be sufficient to justify the service at current levels and thus it would become less frequent.  And so commercial and community benefits coincide.

There was a lot of detail I simply don’t have time to go into, but I will list some of them, questions by Inspector on how hybrid buses work, which was some welcome information, the proposed First New bus for Leeds, and faster ticketing methods.

The general feeling amongst objectors was that Mr Turner was solid in his knowledge of his evidence and was successful in retrieving some of the ground that may have been perceived to have been lost in one or two places by Mr Cheek due to the sophistry involved in the examination against him.  But I only have time for a short blog today, and it was hard fought all day on both sides.  I can only recommend a close listening to one of the most difficult days I have heard so far if you want to be able to make more detailed judgements on what went on.  In summary, Mr Cameron seemed to avoid the difficult stuff, and stick to distracting us with less important material of immense and confusing detail that might give the impression of turning the field against First, but which in reality was secondary to those major battles that NGT are tacitly admitting they have lost by the simple action of not coming back to fight over them, but rather leaving  them well alone.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 42


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 42


Wed 3 September 2014

On Day 42 of the Public Enquiry we got deep under the bonnet of the NGT scheme.  Mr Chris Cheek, a specialist consultant for First Bus was on the stand all day, first with the completion of his examination by Gregory Jones QC for First Bus and in the afternoon by Neil Cameron QC for the Applicant NGT.

Audio recordings of all the day’s sessions are linked here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 42 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Wednesday 3rd September 2014 Gregory Jones continues to examine Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire on the viability of the NGT trolleybus proposals.

In the late morning session of Day 42 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Wednesday 3rd September 2014 Gregory Jones concludes his  examination of Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire on the viability of the NGT trolleybus proposals.

In the early afternoon session of Day 42 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Wednesday 3rd September 2014 Neil Cameron QC commences his examination of Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire on the viability of the NGT trolleybus proposals.

In the late afternoon session of Day 42 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Wednesday 3rd September 2014 Neil Cameron QC continues to examine Mr Chris Cheek, expert witness for First West Yorkshire on the viability of the NGT trolleybus proposals.
This was a fascinating and extremely in depth analysis which we were shown today. 

I’ve made copious notes on the cross examinations which I shall have to seriously condense if I am to prevent this from getting too long!

In short, for the first half of the day Mr Cheek continued to take the opportunity to cast serious doubts upon the NGT proposals.

He detailed a series of shortcomings demonstrated for trolleybuses in general shown in the Price Waterhouse report on the Wellington trolleybus system, which is now to be replaced.

High cost of supply of right hand drive vehicles, high maintenance costs of both vehicles and overhead cables were shown to be problematic.  Where such systems had an abundant hydro electric supply, as in Canada, or where there is an existing system, he acknowledged that there could be value in retaining them.  But with the continuous advances in hybrid and battery bus technology, it would be risky and inflexible to introduce a trolley system in Leeds.  Also because it would be the only system in the whole of the UK, there would be a strong probability of difficulties with maintenance supplies and low volume costs.  The installation of a ‘micro-fleet’ of trolleybuses was a serious weakness.

The potential for nightmare congestion in the event of breakdown or accident was identified by Mr Cheek with respect to articulated trolleybuses and said that the industry view on articulated buses had changed considerably in the last decade and that most operators would be unlikely to renew a fleet of ‘bendy buses’ since problems had been identified, chief amongst which were preference among passengers for having a seat as opposed to standing.  They might be suitable on long wide roads, but the narrow old world streets of North Leeds were not suitable.  Hence he also identified that the scheme was poor value for money due to the fact that so much needed to be spent on infrastructure to make it function.

Simply put, as a layperson it is clear to me that Metro is attempting to shoehorn NGT into a shoe which is too small.  I am reminded of the fairy tale of Cinderella when the Prince came with the glass slipper and her sisters tried to squeeze their own large feet into it, and if I recall correctly some of the more gruesome versions of the tale have the sisters cutting off their toes or their heels in order to be able to get their feet into it.  This is an apt metaphor when you think that Leeds City Council would sacrifice some of the finest and most mature heritage in order to fit in this inappropriate system.  The only difference being, that we do not want to cut off any part of our community in order to be able to shoehorn the trolleybus into our streets, but would have it imposed without consent, fitting the established community to the newcomer, not adapting that to the established conditions.

The assault on the NGT proposals continued with a lengthy analysis of the Stated Preference (SP) test which the Promoter used to justify their choice for a trolleybus.  Mr Cheek was scathing about their methodology.  Regular listeners will recall that Professor Bonsall made a very detailed and lengthy examination of Mr Chadwick over this when examining the business case.  Mr Cheek drew attention to the unrealistic, and I would say, biased, nature of the test methodology in showing a bus which went out of service in 1990 (which would have been in service 1970-1990) against a brand spanking new bus.   Apparently it had been agreed that this survey should have been redone, but it was not, because, as Mr Chadwick said, it was considered a disproportionate expenditure. 

In view of this, Mr Cheek suggested that in respect of the fact that £10million had already been spent, and that potentially £250million might be, a few thousand or even tens of thousands of pounds would have been money well spent if it clarified the likely preferences and demand from the travelling customers upon whom the success of the project relies.

This was a lengthy examination, but it was vital to clearly demonstrate the atrocious methodology in order to fully rid us of any belief in the assumptions of the SP test or the notion that they could provide a valid model, and fully hammer the nails into its coffin lid.  Mr Cheek went so far as to say that the assumption of these bus comparisons was ‘Not a credible assumption.  Not a remotely credible assumption.’  The gap shown in the survey would simply not exist.  ‘It is completely false and the idea that that gap will remain in force for 30 years…. Words fail me.’

Having listened to quite some few hours of examination on the subject of this SP test, which if I recall correctly, even by their own criteria did not prove a clear preference for trolleybuses, it seems fairly clear to me that the basis on which this test was made is a total fantasy.  I have some experience of the scientific method from my degree, and it is obvious to anyone with scientific training, and indeed any sensible layperson of average intelligence, that the kind of comparisons that were used are bordering on the scientifically fraudulent, or, to be kind, at least incompetent.

The onslaught continued with Mr Cheek stating that NGT had exaggerated their assumptions and thereby produced unreliable and speculative data which could not be supported by actual evidence, again bringing the methodology into question.

A particularly sharp accusation he made was that Metro wanted to regain control of public transport and that the TWAO was their means to gain this legal control, so that a trolleybus system had been necessary since now that the tram had been dropped, it was the only legal way to do so.  I know for a fact that Dave Haskins, Project Director of NGT said about two years ago, that Metro was ‘up for it’, when it came to regaining complete control of public transport in West Yorkshire.  So, the trolleybus has been chosen not because it is the best solution, but because it gives the political power to the local authority to get into the public transport game, at least in Mr Cheek’s view, and I am inclined to believe him.  Why else would such a problematic and expensive system be chosen?

We have seen, again and again, that the Applicant failed to make proper consultations with local residents who would be affected (eg, Thursday 17th July late afternoon session)
http://www.mixcloud.com/CosmicClaire/leeds-trolleybus-public-enquiry-day-35-july-17-2014-late-afternoon-session/ 
or that, as I believe I clearly demonstrated in my own cross examination of Mr Thomas Walker earlier that afternoon, the photomontages have been purposely doctored to suggest more positive connotations to the trolleybus.  I would myself, as a qualified Art Therapist with a training in the scientific method, would suggest that this amounts to falsifying evidence, and we are perilously close that that scientific sin with the deeply flawed SP test.

Again and again, Mr Cheek highlighted the extremely risky nature of the proposals.

When it came to cross examination by Neil Cameron QC it would seem that he worked very hard to demonstrate that the demographics not only could work, but that they supported the scheme.  There were problems with the data in that First has been reluctant to disclose its passenger data on the basis that it would be commercially sensitive, and so the results of their own forecasts could not be properly substantiated, but I have to admit, that while I am confident with the standards required for good scientific method, this advanced statistical section left me with my eyes glazing over as a fog descended on my brain.  As Disraeli so famously said ‘There are lies, damned lies and statistics’.

It may be that some of the statistics claimed by NGT on demographics are sound, but even if the available population which might use the trolleybus is correctly estimated, all the other problems remain.  And those demographics must be questioned as Mr Cheek did with the claims that users of Burley Park station would walk (mostly uphill) to NGT stops rather than use the train as they have previously done. 

Simply for Mr Cameron to rely on the fact that the scheme has reached the point that it has and argue that all the requirements set by the DfT are thus likely to have been met is not really sound in my own view, but rather a legalistic view which seeks to avoid taking account of the many practical realities (of which I have not exhausted the list, so I would urge listeners to catch his two morning sessions) and just force it through on formalities.

A brief attempt at scraping the barrel occurred when the objection to the visual pollution of the overhead wires came up.  When asked of his qualifications to make this judgement, Mr Cheek replied ‘I know what I like’.  And so do most people.  But Mr Cameron asked if he had any qualifications to make this judgement, which I found somewhere between amusing and laughable.  Simply put, most people don’t like the prospect of overhead cables.  It is an acknowledged downside of trolleybuses, and yet his judgement that they were unsightly visual pollution was called into question.  Well, I myself am qualified in the subject of visual perception and aesthetics, and I can say confidently that the intrusion of overhead cables is unaesthetic for various reasons such as impeding open views of trees, sky and local architecture.  That it creates a feeling of confinement and even probably claustrophobia in some sensitive people.  That frankly it is obvious and that anyone who calls such a view into question should have themselves questioned as to why they believe so.  I am reminded of Mr Haskins, who apparently likes standing on buses, likes maps with North pointing to five o’clock, and who apparently prefers cloudy winter skies and bare trees to blue skies and trees in full summer leaf.

The obligatory attempt to cast aspersions on the motivations behind First’s objection of course had to be endured.  The end to a long exchange was simply that in Mr Cheek’s view it is ‘Not a good scheme’.

If you can find the time to listen I can highly recommend an absorbing few hours.  The difficult bit on demographics was in the early afternoon session mostly, and if anyone wants to comment on this I should be interested.  However, in the light of all the clearly demonstrated, and frankly, obvious, downsides and risks to the trolleybus scheme, I would bear Mr Disraeli’s opinion in mind and treat that argument with a generous measure of caution.