Thursday, 12 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 22

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 22

June 11 2014

The Enquiry was taken up today with cross examining the evidence of Mr Paul Hanson who is responsible for the traffic modelling used in the NGT case.  The lengthy introduction of the case with Neil Cameron QC taking him through began on the previous day and continued until about half way through the early afternoon session, when Professor Peter Bonsall for the North West Leeds Transport Forum took up the cross examination of the Statement of Case for the remaining one and a half sessions of the day.

Audios of all sessions are linked below, and my commentary follows at the bottom of these.

In the first morning session of day 22 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 11 2014, after a long preamble about late submission of documents, Mr Paul Hanson, expert in traffic modelling continues with his summary Proofs of Evidence under the guidance of Mr Neil Cameron QC

In the late morning session of day 22 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 11, Neil Cameron QC continues to take Mr Paul Hanson through the immensely complicated modelling process for traffic, buses, cars and people as it relates to the proposed NGT trolleybus system.

In the early afternoon session of day 22 at the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 11  2014, Neil Cameron QC concludes his introduction of Mr Paul Hanson and his evidence regarding traffic modelling and is followed by Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies who begins to examine the entire  modelling structure upon which so much of the Applicant's test depends.

In the final session of day 22 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, June 11 2014, Professor Peter Bonsall continues to examine the traffic modelling of the NGT system as it is presented and proposed by Mr Paul Hanson.

The evidence today was immensely technical and to be honest, as a layperson, I don’t really understand a lot of it as it was presented by Mr Hanson.

However, this problem is almost entirely relieved by the fact that Professor Bonsall, Emeritus Professor of Transport studies does, and went through it with a fine toothed comb drawing attention to a huge number of inadequacies and failures in methodology.

I would of course recommend listening to the second part of the early afternoon session and the final session in its entirety to grasp the full extent of this, but I will pick on a few points which were the most accessible to me.

For a start, the Professor established that without other tools to back it up, significant parts of the modelling, especially of claimed economic benefits were not fit for purpose. 

As something of a student of non verbal behaviour and communication it was quite interesting to watch how defensive Mr Hanson’s body language became for a substantial section of the cross examination.  Hands pressed together in front of him, even held in front of his face, as his voice became almost inaudible at times, and most obviously, he frequently paused giving no answer, looking, dare I say, almost imploringly to the Inspector as if he was begging to be let off, which I hardly need say, was never going to happen.  This was one cross examination where a webcam livestream would have been worth having, but you can doubtless pick up something of this from the long silences on the audio recordings.

Since so much of the evidence examined today was of a highly technical nature I will concentrate on one example which is one which affects me on my own bus journeys, is highly relevant to the whole of Headingley and which I think is easily understood.

The evidence claimed that people in the zone from Shaw Lane to Queenswood Drive would be likely to travel to the Headingley Hill NGT stop to go into town.  Professor Bonsall asked if this stop was not nearest for anyone in this area and it was agreed that it was not.  So we are left to answer why it was chosen?  Even were the NGT route to be implemented, the nearest trolleybus stop for this area would be at Wood Lane.  However for most people in a large part of this area the nearest bus stops would be either on Queenswood Drive or Kirkstall Lane.  The idea that someone living between the cricket ground and Queenswood Drive would walk the best part of a mile so that they could access the ‘higher quality’ of a trolleybus rather than wait a few minutes for a no.56 or 19 bus is not credible, and the Professor demonstrated this to my satisfaction at least, being the kind of bus user that he was describing.

It is about a twenty minute walk from the junction of Queenswood Drive and Kirkstall Lane to St Michael’s and a few minutes more to Headingley Hill and I rarely walk that distance.  The buses that go from here to town via Cardigan Road are extremely frequent and there is a choice of two routes, one via Hyde Park and the University, the other via Burley Road.  No-one from this area would walk that extra distance to Headingley Hill, especially in the winter, for a trolleybus which cost more, as it could well do, and on which one would have to stand.

Mr Hanson had all sorts of models claiming that people would balance all these different factors and make the shift to the trolleybus, but he had to admit that the modelling on examples such as this one had not been done as well as it might.  More likely got it completely wrong.

There was one example which Professor Bonsall drew attention to which had been in error until he and his colleagues at the NWLTF drew the attention of NGT to it.  Mr Hanson replied that he thought it was something his team would have picked up on shortly even if others had not brought their attention to it.

This is immensely sloppy thinking and if only half of the examples detailed by Professor Bonsall are as he said they were, then the NGT modelling is in big trouble.  And I’m inclined to think that the Professor has a rather better score than 50%

The last couple of hours of this day are the kind of material that really repays close listening.  It is telling that a retired professor in this somewhat recherch√© subject is prepared to focus his considerable skills and lifetime experience on this subject which he seems to understand better than his quarry.

A point that had occurred to me but which I didn’t really know where to apply was the fact, returning to Headingley Hill stop, that this location is not close to a centre of population but is rather on the edge.  People get on the bus at St Michael’s / Original Oak or the Arndale Centre.  There is a bus stop on Headingley Hill, but it is not one that gets massive use.  Simply put, to design a stop for this location is not smart thinking.  It would involve longer walks to the stop than people are used to.  It would be a poor efficiency stop.

A question that the reader and listener will have to ask themselves is whether this is mere incompetence or whether Mr Hanson and his colleagues have purposely attempted to back engineer their models to fit the desired results.  As always, you decide, after listening to the cross examination.  I couldn’t possibly comment.

 As with so many factors in this whole scheme, we see again and again how poor the planning and preparation has been, flaws and holes being picked in it left right and centre.  Professor Bonsall still has several more hours of examination left, and one suspects that he may well save the best for last.  Mr Jones QC has not yet examined this witness either.  Between these two gentlemen both at the top of their respective professions I would not like to be in the shoes of Mr Hanson having to face examination on what has already been demonstrated to have many shortcomings.

For those who may have missed the video I made of the social impact the trolleybus scheme would have I include the link again today.

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