Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 14

               Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 14

                           May 21   2014

Today saw a new witness sit behind the desk on the left hand of the Inspector at the Enquiry.

Links to audio recordings of each of the day’s sessions are below with brief descriptions of each session.

My thoughts on the days proceedings follow after the links.

The first morning session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21 2014. Mr John Henkel, acting director general of Metro takes the stand as a witness for NGT.

Neil Cameron examines on behalf of the Applicant NGT.

The late morning session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21 2014. Mr John Henkel, acting director general of Metro continues as a witness for NGT. Cllr Barry Anderson (C. Adel) cross examines.

In the early afternoon session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21, 2014, the cross examination of Mr John Henkel, Acting Director of West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority continues from Mr Malcolm Bell, Mechanical Engineer.

In the final afternoon session of day 14, May 21 2014, Gregory Jones QC cross examines John Henkel, Acting Director of the new West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on the legal advice that has been taken by NGT and how this has affected their consultations, amongst other matters.

John Henkel is a much different witness to his predecessor Jason Smith.  A much older man to start with, former director of Metro and now acting director of it’s successor the WY Combined Transport Authority, if I have that correct.  It was elucidated in the final session from a question by Gregory Jones QC that this was the naming as it stands.  Previous posts of the audio had the ‘Metro’ usage as throughout the Enquiry that is the appellation that has been applied.

He is also more measured in his responses than Mr Smith.  In the session with Mr Malcolm Bell questioning which I witnessed I had the feeling that he was somehow dodging a fair amount of what seemed good questions.  Indeed the Inspector agreed at one point that Mr Bell was asking good questions, which is probably as close as anyone can expect to a compliment as we are going to get out of Mr Whitehead.

Perhaps it is the team of six legal experts behind him and his numerous years of study and practice at his art, but when Gregory Jones begins his questioning, it is as if scales fall from our eyes and we see through the fog which surrounds a witness to the truth of their meanings.

The legal advice, or ‘legal analysis’ which Metro (as then was) had  seemed to be somewhat in question as to its proper status and there ensued a long interchange about anti-competitive behaviour. Mr Jones posited that there would be the suggestion of the absence of a competitive market if head to head competition were not to be allowed, and of course the prioritisation of NGT over regular buses on roads which both share for long sections of the route surely has to raise such a question.

First had not been found to have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and yet to use a phrase I found amusing, Mr Jones suggested that NGT had tried to ‘play the man and not the ball’.  The instance of this was the NGT documents which mention ‘the reasons for the (First’s) objections’.

Mr Jones took particular offence at this on behalf of his client, because he asked whether there was any suggestion of his client’s reasons being improper, not true and therefore dishonest?  He argued that such comments in the NGT proofs should be ignored by the Inspector as they were clearly an attempt to tarnish First’s reputation in front of the Enquiry.

We then followed with a searing examination of the financial risks involved in the scheme if it were not successful in gaining enough revenue to pay for itself over a six to eight year period.  I cannot urge my readers strongly enough to listen to some of these sessions from Mr Jones on the audio player links and ask themselves whether the NGT and former Metro team have any credibility left at all.

We were left by the end of the late afternoon session with a strong impression of the immense financial risk for the city and people of Leeds involved in engaging in such a project.

An amusing sideline I discovered today was a web forum called ‘Skyscraper cities’, where Tbus, a group of trolleybus aficionados and lobbyists hang out.  Someone had posted a link to this blog for which I thank them.  Someone a couple of posts on called this blog ‘massively biased’.  Well I had to laugh.  I am a resident of Headingley and I am giving my views on the insane trolleybus scheme which would devastate a string of conservation areas and damage communities and environments both sides of the river.  And I am largely reporting on how I see the progress of the Enquiry.  What these kind of people mean when they say something is biased is that it doesn’t conform to what they want and expect of us.  The fact that communities all along the route are saying ‘No’ and withholding their consent to this is a factor which cannot be ignored, no matter how much the people with minds of metal and wheels try to persuade them otherwise.  It is something that these proponents cannot compute in their heads and so they continue to seek to impose their madness on us all.  For I do genuinely believe it is a kind of madness which the proponents of this are suffering from, believing that it is acceptable, and that it can be calculated and justified on the basis of a cost benefit analysis, to destroy whole green environments which have evolved over centuries.  Or to tell people that they will just have to live with the fact of this intrusion in their lives and get used to it for the benefit of the control freaks who put it there.

All along so far we have seen shortcomings in many aspects of the proposals, most especially consultation and that really sums up what this is about.  Having a plan they wish to impose which has not in any way been consented to.

Before I close I will just trail a piece I am anticipating posting during the half term break next week.  If you have read other entries in my blog before those on the trolleybus you may have noticed several on the subject of the history of possibly Headingley’s most famous literary former resident, Professor JRR Tolkien, who lived in several different houses along the A660.  I believe strongly that the eco-ethics which are embedded throughout his works can inform our discussion of how we wish to frame our future.  Many of the trees along the A660 which were Victorian or older plantings will be trees which Tolkien knew as he went up and down along that road.  For those of us who take a special interest in his works this is an opportunity to feel a connection with him through his well known love of trees.  But the greater insight is the recognition of the continuity of the life within our local environment.  To seek to destroy so many trees and so much of the history which they embody and have witnessed is a disregard for the entire community along this road.  Headingley deserves to have some low level Tolkien tourism, there is still enough context left hereabouts to get a strong feel of the history of this local Shire, and how it might have been ninety years ago, but if the trees were cut down and all the roads enlarged that would be lost.  I am reminded of Orwell’s 1984 in which history is rewritten so often that no-one knows what it originally really was, and what is worse, no-one cares.  Let us not ever become so detached from our roots that we do not care about what was here before us and how we relate to it.  The threat of NGT is the threat of a mindset which cares not about these things, only about quotas, and statistics, and how these can be used to manipulate the world.

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