Thursday, 22 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 15

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 15

May 22   2014
Today’s Enquiry continued for most of the day with the cross examination of Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the former Metro, now subsumed under the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority, by Gregory Jones QC on behalf of First West Yorkshire who are one of the principle objectors to the trolleybus scheme.

Mr Jones tightened the screw on Mr Henkel slowly but deliberately and while it may at first not have been clear where he was taking the questioning his position was built up systematically and in time it all fitted together and the plan became clear.  If you can spare the time all of Mr Jones’s sessions with Mr Henkel will bear a close listening, but if you have little time or are simply impatient the first quarter of an hour or so of the final session of the day will show you the destination for which the course had long been set, although the more of the earlier stages of the examination you have followed, the greater will be your appreciation of the denouement.

Commentary on this follows below after the links to the audios and brief descriptions of each session recorded.

In the first morning session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 15 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to examine John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority (formerly Metro) who is responsible for operational factors with respect to the NGT system.

In the late morning session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel of the West Yorks Combined Transport Authority about operational matters which relate to both NGT and First Bus.

In the early afternoon session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on behalf of First West Yorkshire, his client, and suggests that the Applicant had made serious allegations against his client which were untrue (to use Mr Jones words).
In the late afternoon session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on behalf of First West Yorkshire, his client, and demonstrates that no meaningful engagement had been made by Metro towards First West Yorkshire despite knowing about First's Objection and new transport proposals, although suggestions had been made by the Applicant to the contrary.
Professor Peter Bonsall follows working around transport as a system which needs to be viewed holistically while NGT works against that.  Following, Dr John Dickinson for Weetwood Residents' Association begins his questioning for the last few minutes of the day and will continue in the morning.

The case developed by the Counsel for First West Yorkshire is so extensive and widely ranging that it can at first be a struggle to grasp the whole picture, but Mr Jones is not shooting in the dark, he is, if you will pardon the mixed metaphors, more like shooting fish in a barrel.

The emerging evidence which Mr Henkel struggled to keep under control was that Metro had done nothing to approach or respond in any meaningful way to First’s new transport proposals or their Objection to the NGT scheme.  This has become something of a pattern with the consultation processes which have been minimal, half hearted and often late, followed by approaches attempting to make it look as if they had been engaged from the start and that it was the fault of the objectors, whether it be First or others.

I have to be careful what I say in a public piece of writing, but unless I am very much mistaken, what happened this afternoon, and if I have got it wrong I am sure someone will correct me, Mr Jones established that Metro had not been acting in good faith towards his client, but that, as he had built up the case earlier, they had actually imputed the intentions of First in a rebuttal.  This was covered yesterday when Mr Jones asked the Inspector to strike from the rebuttal the sentence or two in which ‘the reasons for the [First’s] objections’ were referred to.  He asked why the Inspector should need to look at First’s motivations and that to suggest so was to impute improper and dishonest intentions.  Now Metro have been caught suggesting that it was not their fault that no engagement or consultation took place between the bus company and itself.  When the email and letter documents were brought out in the last session it was demonstrated that Metro’s attitude had been lacklustre and half hearted towards consulting First in any meaningful way.

The Mr Henkel that we saw yesterday answering firmly was reduced today by the later stages to monosyllabic replies after being put on the spot by Mr Jones about the veracity of Metro’s assertion that First had hampered development by not supplying data when they had never refused to co-operate and NGT seemed to have no interest in approaching them.  The Inspector even at one point had to ask Mr Henkel why he had apparently a few minutes earlier said the contrary to what he was now saying.

I am no legal expert but after reviewing the final section of Mr Jones’s examination I can’t help feeling that this witness has been at least to some extent discredited.  He was vague about dates, meetings weren’t properly minuted and so on and so forth.

So far the only witness who has come through with any apparent integrity is Mr Robertson the Traffic Signalling technical expert who was on about two weeks ago now.  All the rest have appeared to prevaricate in various ways, were either unable to answer the questions or showed what seemed false confidence in their projections about this scheme.

The questions from the Inspector have become somewhat more searching in recent days.  It is of course right and proper that he should maintain a strong degree of insouciance to the public, but one cannot help reading into his manner when he shows what appear to be some emotion of concern.  Some Objectors have been chastened and rebuked by the Inspector, although this has reduced recently as the participants have fallen in with the expected manner of proceeding, but I believe we can take good heart at the fact that he seems a detached and independent observer.  With so much detail things can remain hidden for a while, but the general picture is emerging and the Applicants are not doing well by most understandings.  To have it established, so far as I can understand, that they have given misleading evidence and even slurred First is a monster black mark against their case, or so it would at least seem to the uninitiated layperson such as myself.

I would invite any of the Tbus enthusiasts who I have encountered on ‘Skyscraper Cities’ who are so critical of Objectors to engage with me here on my own page and get beyond making stock cliché remarks about ‘Nimby’s’.  For unclear technical reasons I appear only to be able to post short replies on that page and don’t have the time anyway to be surfing forums as managing the audio uploads and writing this blog is sufficient load for me at present.  But if any of those who are so critical of me in their own little pond would care to engage with me on my own turf with a couple of hundred Objectors and local residents watching, I should be happy to engage.  All comments are moderated and I will not tolerate the kind of remarks I have seen on their page.  Courtesy is de rigeur or your comment will be deleted.

I should be curious to see how the Tbus enthusiasts would deal with the sort of shenanigans that Mr Jones and his team have so adeptly exposed.   I have said that I have to be careful what I say and I don’t wish to be accused of libel, but Mr Jones would not say some of the things he has done if he did not have the confidence that he was on firm ground and that his opponent is not.  There have been bad and less bad days for the Applicant, but this one appears to possibly be the worst for them so far, unless I have entirely misread the situation.

I should give some attention to Professor Bonsall’s questioning which followed.  Lower key, but homing in on important implications of the scheme.  Getting to the heart of the matter he draws attention to the fact that transport generally should be considered as an holistic system and that having a prioritised transport scheme which shares space with other users goes entirely against this understanding.  Indeed he went so far as to establish, or at least strongly argue, it would appear to me, that having a two tier system like this would actually be counterproductive and be detrimental to the overall holistic functioning.  (A curious resonance here is with the debate about 'net neutrality' where prioritised customers would be favoured.)

I would add to that that things like ‘distinctive brand identity’ and ‘smart new livery on the trolleybuses’ are really irrelevant to what is at issue and are mere candy floss designed to distract.  Fortunately it appears that there are enough intelligent and perceptive people about who are willing to call this out in all its various forms, that objectors should feel that we do indeed have a realistic chance of fending off this potential catastrophe.  But what do I know?  Check out the recordings and make up your own mind

Friday 23rd of May is the last sitting before the Bank Holiday and Half Term.  Dr John Dickinson for Weetwood Residents will continue his examination in the morning and will be followed by Mr Bill McKinnon, Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association.

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