Thursday, 8 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 6

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 6

May 8  2014

On Day 6 of the Public Enquiry the cross examination of Dave Haskins, Project Director for NGT, continued apace with sessions of questioning from several private objectors as well as groups.  Cllr Barry Anderson (C. Adel), Dr John Dickinson and Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies, Peter Bonsall, Mr Haig, retired chartered engineer, and Chris Longley of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Dawn Carey Jones, Secretary of the A660 Joint Council.


While a wide variety of topics were covered throughout the day, the subject of the limited nature of the consultations that had taken place was a matter that was returned to by most of the questioners.  Chris Longley brought expertise from the Sheffield Supertram which challenged the position of Mr Haskins.  The subjects of prioritisation of trolleybuses over other traffic and the uncompetitive nature of this prioritisation were sore points of contention.


To follow all these in detail it is necessary to listen to the audio recordings which our team of objectors has been putting together and

which I am privileged to compile on my   site.


Today’s recordings



A major feature of the Enquiry which is emerging is that the amount of questions is vast, and while the Inspector is quick to limit anyone who questioning is not focussed or if it is in danger of becoming repetitive, clearly the fact that an almost endless stream of new questions on each subject just keep emerging is of interest.  Mr Haskins seems to be another big picture man like Martin Farrington last week, as we have become accustomed to his stating that such and such a question would be able to be answered by another gentlemen who would come after him.  I heard someone joke that it would be fascinating to wait until the final day when all the questions which had been passed down the line would be answered by the last witness!


There seems a strong prospect that the Enquiry will run beyond the initially proposed 30 days over six weeks.  Mr Whitehead the Inspector hinted today in something he said about the matter that this was becoming a stronger possibility by the day.


Another matter relating to the administration of the Enquiry is something I am slightly speculative about, but which seems a reasonable ground for such speculation.  The Programme Officers have a little office just over the hallway in which they have computers, printers etc and an audio feed from the microphone system in the Enquiry room.  It may just have been rumour, but someone suggested to me that the Programme Officers were recording that audio feed.  I would be surprised if they were not, and in my view the Inspector would be unwise not to take the opportunity to do so for his own reference.  This is only right and proper and I believe he should do so. However the Council has done nothing to take advantage of this and request use of it for public information.  But now it is too late ~ it would be a loss of face for them to do it now, a repeat of the consultation responses release climb down which they had so strongly resisted. It would be a poisoned chalice for the Inspector to allow his own copy to be used as it might be interpreted either way ~ on the one hand he could be accused of favouring the objectors in assisting us with our request for official audio recordings, and on the other of deliberately trying to defuse the situation and getting the Council off the hook.


This should be dealt with cleanly and openly by the Council, but it is not, and probably will not, so we the people have to do their job as they are negligent of their duties of transparency to the citizens.


The entire Enquiry is a fascinating battle of wills and it is very interesting to rub shoulders with so many erudite and learned people.  We on the objector’s side are trying not to get over confident, but it is hard not to when the questions are so sharp and so many, and the answers all seem to be so evasive or complacent.  Mr Haskins seems to assume that we will all accept and bow to his expertise, but there are a host of experts who challenge his assessment of his own skills and his suggestion that some of these matters were simply not worth consulting about and that he was quite justified to go ahead with the trolleybus scheme rather than seeking a wider consensus on what might be acceptable to the citizens of Leeds.


These are just my own views.  I would urge anyone with any interest in the future of our beautiful city to spend some time listening to the audio recordings so as to be able to reach their own conclusions as to the pros and cons of the whole affair.


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