Friday, 16 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 11

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 11

May 16  2014

Day 11 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry began with about a quarter of an hour’s discussion between the Inspector, Mr Whitehead, Mr Jones for First West Yorkshire, the bus company and Mr Cameron for NGT, the Applicant for the Transport Works Order, about the planning of the time for objectors to cross examine Mr Jason Smith, Highways Engineer and designer of much of the detail on the proposed trolleybus route.

The summaries of each of the three sessions are with the links to the audio recordings of today’s Enquiry.  Much important ground was covered today, but perhaps there will be different assessments of what it all really meant.  To be frank, there was some of this which I felt to be profoundly disquieting, and my commentary on this follows below the links.

In the first morning session of day 11 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 16 2014, Mr Jason Smith, Highways Engineer is questioned by Deborah Fahey from the Whitfield Avenue area of Hunslet, a pedestrian precinct which NGT plan to penetrate with a trolleybus route section.

In the late morning session of day 11 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 16 2014, Chris Foren, Chair of the A660 Joint Council, cross examines highways engineer Jason Smith for NGT on detailed aspects of road design, with especial emphasis on safety for bicycle users.

In the final session of day 11 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 16 2014, Gregory Jones QC returns to cross examine Mr Jason Smith Highways Engineer Designer for NGT, the Applicant for the Transport Works Order, covering much ground, and exploring the limitations of the NGT system in comparison to conventional buses.

After the gentlemen had discussed the order of proceedings and they had been decided upon, the first objector to question Mr Smith was a young lady from the Whitfield Avenue area of Hunslet, Deborah Fahey, who was clearly new to this kind of thing.  Since I was not actually present at the time I am especially grateful to my colleagues who have been managing the recordings for me to process and upload, so that I was able to at least listen to what was said.

The radical disconnect began with Ms Fahey’s first question, or I should say rather with Mr Smith’s reply.  The question was ‘Why are you putting a trolleybus route through our community which is a pedestrianised precinct?’  To which the entirely bland reply was that there had been a choice of four different routes and they had chosen this one for the least disruption.  Not for the residents of Whitfield Avenue I would venture.  The other three potential routes don’t pass through the middle of pedestrianised communities.   Mr Smith carried on for fifteen minutes detailing all the technical reasons why Whitfield Avenue had been chosen, while, presumably Ms Fahey sat feeling she was disconnected from this world of technical jargon.   

What it seemed Ms Fahey was asking was 'Why are you doing this to us?'  The human impact is not something that can be measured but is clearly immense.  Simply put, the residents of Whitfield Avenue are in the way and the Council are saying, 'Tough'.

If you would believe Mr Smith or any of the NGT promoters, Hunslet would be improved by the presence of trolleybuses passing through every few minutes.  With six minutes between trolleybuses in each direction, there would be a forty five foot articulated trolleybus passing through this pedestrian precinct once every three minutes.

If it is possible for blood to boil and run cold at the same time then that is what was happening in my veins when I listened to all this.  As a fellow objector who had witnessed this live said to me later, ‘They wouldn’t dare try to get away with something like this in north Leeds.’

I have seen photographs of this area at the Plans Panel Review days in the Council Chamber.  Whitfield Avenue is not an enriched environment which benefits from character or heritage.  But I’ll bet there is a strong sense of community.  And the people promoting this scheme pretend that they will enrich the environment there by planting a few box grown trees here or there and giving the place some new paving or a lick of paint.  In the meantime their personal space would be penetrated by trolleybuses once every few minutes.

Leeds City Council and NGT are attempting to hold this community in a condition of being totally subject to their domination and influence.  They wish to usurp the community space in an area which has few benefits or local resources other than that space itself.

The litany of callous disregard for the natural rights of this community was crowned with Mr Smith’s reply to Ms Fahey’s question about how would joyriders be prevented from using the dedicated trolleybus road through the Whitfield Avenue area, especially during the night hours when the trolleybuses would not be running.  He simply replied that there would be signs and prohibitions and that if people broke those restrictions that would be a matter for the police.  Ms Fahey responded that of course she thought that everyone would of course be a law abiding citizen.   

You don’t develop communities by creating opportunities for the more undesirable elements in society but by strengthening and developing those features which are most positive.

This is frankly the worst kind of social engineering.  Grandiose schemes are planned which attempt to impose thraldom on those citizens who are least prepared to know how to defend themselves.  Ms Fahey’s courage in coming forward and speaking for her community is to be admired and respected.  She was clearly emotional and holding down anger but she maintained her cool remarkably well.  The outcome of this encounter was, to me at least, to demonstrate that the planners have no concern for people or their communities and believe that they have the power and right to impose what they wish on people who are already at the lower end of opportunity.  To them, people are no more than means to ends, a tool to be exploited who has no value except what can be taken from them through that exploitation.   

All people have value simply as human beings.  It is not the case that some people deserve natural rights more than others, or that some have the right to take them away as is being attempted here under the guise of ‘utilitarianism’, the moral excuse for justifying oppression of the powerless by the powerful.

A society which treats people as expendable in this way has become morally bankrupt.

A point made later in the day by Mr Jones in his cross examination of Mr Smith curiously gave an insight to the way this works.  He elicited from Mr Smith the fact that he had not been involved in the decision making process of whether to go for a trolleybus system or something else.  So he was saying that he was ‘just following orders’.

The verdict of the Nuremberg trials included the statement that ‘just following orders’ was no excuse to abandon conscience, that everyone should take moral responsibility for their behaviour.   

What has been detailed about what would be inflicted is in my mind a clear human rights abuse.  I had a letter published in the YEP last year in which I raised the question of human rights over the draconian attempt to inflict this on the population without our consent.  For my trouble I was likened to the Taliban by Cllr Richard Lewis, one of the driving forces behind the attempt to coerce Leeds into taking on the wasteful and damaging trolleybus.

And just before I finish I will draw attention to a fact which a friend mentioned to me today.  With respect to my blog last night giving my views on the attempt of Metro to create a biased system which they could control and take advantage of, when Dave Haskins gave the talk at Leeds University on 18.10.12, he said that the trolleybus is part of an attempt to re-regulate buses in West Yorkshire, and that “the politicians are up for it.” 

In my eyes this is truly a little scary.  Under the guise of better regulation they are actually attempting to build a corporate domination with their own brand (they keep talking about distinctive branding), which would be achieved by tilting the playing field to their advantage while still allowing a disadvantaged competitor to limp along in order to provide the illusion of a free and competitive open market.

Scratch the surface and there are endless hidden agendas being attempted with the trolleybus.  But one simple fact remains with me from today ~ that Leeds City Council cares not about a community which it intends to eviscerate, and that this is disgusting and inhuman.

The Enquiry resumes on Monday 19th May at 2pm for a session in which Mr Bill McKinnon of the Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association will cross examine Mr Smith.

No comments:

Post a Comment