Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 25

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 25

June 17   2014

Day 25 of the Public Enquiry saw the completion of the examination of Mr Paul Hanson on the modelling of traffic flow and demand for the proposed scheme, and when this was completed, Mr Neil Chadwick came on and was taken through his evidence on the business case by Neil Cameron QC

Links to the audio recordings of all sessions are given here, and my commentary follows below that.

In the first morning session of day 25 of the Public Enquiry the examination of Mr Paul Hanson with regards to his modelling of traffic and demand for the NGT trolleybus scheme is continued by Dr John Dickinson of the Weetwood Residents' Association and completed by Mr Nigel Sleeman, a private objector.

In the late morning session of day 25 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 17 2014, Neil Cameron QC re-examines Mr Paul Hanson on the subject of traffic and demand modelling which he carried out for the applicant, NGT/ Metro.

In the early afternoon session of day 25 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 17 2014, Neil Cameron QC takes Mr Neil Chadwick, responsible for the business case of the NGT trolleybus scheme, through his statement of case and proofs of evidence.

In the late afternoon session of Day 25 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 17 2014, Neil Cameron continues to take Mr Neil Chadwick through his Statement of Case concerning the business case for the NGT trolleybus.

The cross examination of Mr Hanson which was completed today continued with a large number of technical questions, some of which I don’t really understand.  However I will draw attention to some of those which I did.

An absurdity which Dr Dickinson speedily drew attention to was the assumption that some residents of Weetwood and West Park were expected in the modelling to choose to travel to Bodington Park and Ride, which amounts to a journey of a mile or so out away from the city in order to be able to use the trolleybus, when there would be a stop either at West Park or Far Headingley that they could walk to.  There is a three mile catchment area for these Park and Rides, but to include residents who would be travelling backwards did seem to be over egging the pudding in terms of adding projected demand.  This on top of the fact that there is a 50% uncertainty about that projected demand which has already been stated.  I would feel that adding a questionable extra demand might be a way of bolstering the uncertainties.  It sounds like flimsy ground for the modelling to a layperson.

Related to this the issue of Stourton Park and Ride was also referred to, in that it has been stated that this is expected to be used by drivers coming off the M1, but ‘behavioural’ issues were stated to affect this.  One is reminded of the fact that it has been said elsewhere that the longer the car journey, the less likely that a driver is to use a Park and Ride.  This would clearly affect motorists coming off the M1 and may be part of the ‘behaviour’ referred to here.

One might be surprised to find that after all the detailed examination of Mr Hanson and his model that has taken place over the last few days, a private objector could still find points which had not yet been raised.

For instance, Mr Nigel Sleeman raised the issue of modelling around the University front which would be ‘pedestrian dominated’ ~ a term which some of us still find problematic, as is the use of the area itself.  Mr Hanson admitted that his model was not of a sufficient resolution to look at the detail of how local access would affect the running of the trolleybus.

Modelling on other routes has not been addressed by Mr Hanson and he stated that the choice of the overall strategy to focus on the A660, (and the merits of this case) had been taken by Mr Haskins predate his involvement.  He stated, fairly enough it has to be accepted, that he did not know why this was so.

He was not aware of any other modelling work that had been done, on for example the Meanwood Road, or Mr Farrington’s ‘wish list’ choice of  looking at modelling which would go towards improving the Outer Ring Road.  ‘Tidal flow’ models had also never been looked at to his knowledge ~ that is where a lane is given to the dominant stream of traffic depending on whether it is morning or afternoon rush hours. 

There does appear to have been a remarkable focussing on the A660 right from the early stages.  On has to ask whether the decision to go with the present scheme was predicated on focussing on what could be done on one route, rather than of need to better manage traffic citywide.  As many know, the Kirkstall Road which has had a great deal of widening and development, is still as much of a nightmare as ever, and I haven’t even seen at first hand what it is like beyond the Kirkstall Viaduct where it narrows considerably. 

Mr Hanson accepted he had not been asked to look at or model any of these other options such as the tidal flow which was called an ‘intelligent’ model by Mr Sleeman.  He was not required to answer Mr Sleeman’s joking final point that the model that had been applied was thus ‘unintelligent’!

In response to a question from the Inspector Mr Hanson stated there was a limit in the model of how far people would walk for public transport of one and half kilometres (a little over a mile), but that this was a top limit and that the average might be 400 metres, just over a quarter of that.  He suggested that people might walk longer for a better service, but I would suggest that that would be highly variable, dependent on time of year, time of day, weather and so forth.

The morning was completed with the re-examination of Mr Hanson by Neil Cameron QC for the Applicant and he took the opportunity to argue that the shortcomings in his modelling and its assumptions which had been brought to light in recent days was not significant.  The reader can come to their own conclusions in the light of listening to the examinations and his responses.

The early afternoon session began with an interesting discussion raised by the fact that the Applicant had made what appeared to be inappropriate correspondence with a Mr Charlie Sunderland in the Department for Transport, and which suggested that the Enquiry was addressing issues about DfT procedures which it was not, and was at no time in its jurisdiction.  The detail of this can be heard in the beginning quarter of an hour of the early afternoon session.  It would appear to have been a black mark against the Applicant, who clearly should not be engaging in any correspondence with the DfT which relates to the NGT scheme or the Public Enquiry, and it was made clear by the Inspector that anything of this kind should in future be channelled through him.

The afternoon was then taken up after this with the introduction of Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the NGT business case and he was taken through this by Mr Cameron.  I have to confess that a large amount of this causes my eyes to glaze over as endless document references are referred to.  I am relieved that not only do we have the specialist knowledge of Professor Peter Bonsall to dissect all this, but that he will be followed by the acute examination of Mr Jones, both of whom have demonstrated themselves adept at winkling out shortcomings and making them accessible to the layperson.

A problem which I have been finding more and more of late, and which compounds the difficulties in understanding this complex field is that the witnesses have taken to speaking with quieter and quieter voices.

It may be the case that individuals vary in the volume of their speech, but with few exceptions, and particularly of late, the witnesses have either spoken very quietly, or have failed to properly speak into the microphone provided.

There are several things about this.  Clearly it is not satisfactory that the witnesses should not be well heard, although the Inspector is not best placed to experience this problem, since he is, along with Mr Cameron, the closest person to the witness chair.

There have over the Enquiry been a fair number of requests for the witnesses to speak up, some from those who are hard of hearing, but this has not been confined to those individuals.  I am myself concerned that what they say should be picked up by my audio recorder, not just for myself, but for the concerned listening public and indeed posterity.

One has to question whether the witnesses wish for their voices to be heard and one might even ask if it is their intention to obfuscate the recordings and make them more difficult and obscure for the listener.

It has been mentioned to me by more than one objector that it is a well known psychological and behavioural fact that people who don’t believe what they are saying, or at least don’t have full confidence in it speak more quietly than when speaking about matters that they do.

In addition, I have noticed that even those witnesses who do speak well at first have tended to decline in volume as their cross examinations have proceeded.  Mr Farrington and Mr Henkel have probably been the most notable examples of this phenomenon, but it also applied to Mr Haskins and Mr Smith.  This latter did speak well at first, but was something of a motor mouth, possibly indicating over compensation, and his 14 minute reply to Mrs Deborah Fahey’s first question was unconscionable, seeking as it appeared to me at least, to baffle a novice with overly technical detail and failing to really address the true meaning of the question.  We do not all have the skill developed through long years of study and practical experience that has been developed by the likes of Mr Jones and the Professor in spotting prevarication and misleading responses. 

But I digress.

Even the clearly spoken Mr Smith declined in audibility towards the end of his time as witness.  One might suggest that the reduction in volume of speakers might be more unconscious and less intended than the previous examples cited, in that one has almost seen their metaphorical shoulders drooping even when only reviewing a recording since in their hearts they have known that shortcomings and even inaccuracies in their statements have been brought to light.

Some will believe that what I say her is controversial, even biased as my friends of the skyscraper city would say, so I will as ever refer you to the recordings, which do not lie, although on occasions when the witnesses mumble away from the microphone, they may not entirely reveal all of the truth. 

As something of a student of human non verbal communication and behaviour there is a lot which can be inferred from watching the witnesses, and I would urge anyone who can to come and experience these cross examinations since there is a lot more which can be gleaned from the multi sensory ambience of the Enquiry chamber than from the mere words that are uttered.

Those who believe the trolleybus should go forward are entitled to their opinions, but they should remember that the purpose of the Enquiry is to ‘test to destruction’ the NGT scheme ~ if it survives and is not destroyed, then it will be allowed to proceed, so to complain about objectors opposing it is to miss the point.  NGT has to justify it beyond all reasonable doubts, not merely say ‘We think this would be a good idea so let us go forward and anyone who disagrees is wrong’.  There seems still to be much reasonable doubt.

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