Thursday, 19 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 26

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 26

June 18  2014

Day 26 at the Trolleybus Enquiry began with the completion of Neil Cameron QC’s taking of Mr Neil Chadwick through his evidence for the business case of NGT, and this was followed for the rest of the day with Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies Peter Bonsall cross examining Mr Chadwick on this evidence.

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

In the first morning session of Day 26 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 18 2014, there is some business at first relating to a large box of documents which were submitted by Professor Christopher Todd but which appear to have been mislaid, and then when that has been dealt with, Neil Cameron QC continues to take Mr Neil Chadwick through his evidence and concludes at the end of this session.

In the late morning session of day 26 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, June 18 2014, Professor Peter Bonsall commences his cross examination of Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case on which the NGT proposals rely.

In the early afternoon session of day 26 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, June 18 2014, Emeritus Professor Of Transport Studies Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case on which the NGT scheme rests.

In the late afternoon session of day 26 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, June 18 2014, Emeritus Professor Of Transport Studies Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case on which the NGT scheme rests.

Today’s listening is again rather slow.  (Apologies to my friends in skyscraper city, sometimes elucidating truth from the facts can be like this but, hey, let’s just get on with hugely expensive radical community and environmental destroying projects because we’re too impatient to actually spend the necessary time weighing the evidence shall we?)

However, if you are willing to devote a little time and effort to finding out what this is all about, it isn’t as technically oriented as was the time with Mr Hanson previously, it’s just couched that way by the promoter and really gets somewhere if you have the patience to see it through.

You may wish to listen to Mr Chadwick propounding his case as Neil Cameron QC leads him through it, but everyone likes to give a positive spin to their own side, so you might want to pay more attention to the cross examination which begins with Professor Peter Bonsall in the late morning session.

It’s quite remarkable what he manages to establish after he cuts through the obfuscation of the technical language.

You might think that the business case would be based on the stated preferences of a decent sized sample of travellers as to what they would like.  There is actually a recommended procedure in the WebTAG guidance called an SP for Stated Preference, which compares these preferences.  But there was no value given for this measure in the business case.   Apparently there was some SP value found, but it has not actually been included in the case.

What the promoters and their consultants did was to show pictures of an old double decker bus and a very new (slick and shiny no doubt) double decker bus and when they found that most people preferred the idea of travelling on the very new bus, this was translated by the promoters into a preference for a trolleybus, which would be a single decker articulated 'bendy bus' quite unlike the perceived new double decker. 

You may find the lengthy exchange which eventually winkles out this fact quite entertaining in a bizarre sort of way.  Mr Chadwick essentially seems to be saying that because a shiny new bus is ‘perceived’ to be a little like a trolleybus, then people’s preference for this can be assumed to mean that they would not only prefer a trolleybus, but would be happy to put up with all the massive changes, costs and upheaval which would be associated with it.

There is more detail to this than I can summarise here, and there are some, in my view, misleading assumptions which Mr Chadwick attempts to infiltrate into his argument, but I imagine many readers will recognise my interpretation.

And a topic which will be elucidated further on is the question as to whether the translation to a trolleybus would be preferred when people understand that there is likely to be a 60% or so likelihood that they would have to stand.  Of course we all know that a double decker bus has mostly seats for passengers, about 75 or so usually if I recall the signage, and probably no more than about 11 standing.  This seems a reasonable proportion to me: the last eighth, when the bus is running at peak capacity in rush hours.  I believe most people like to sit on public transport, but it may have passed me by, and in these days of austerity perhaps people have changed their habits and like to demonstrate how tough and unconcerned they are about discomfort and like the idea of standing so that they can show this off.

For those of us whose years have begun to advance a little, or the disabled, or mums with pushchairs and children in tow, or those carrying shopping, or just those tired after a long day, the unwarranted luxury of a seat might be expecting too much from a transport scheme which would have higher fares than buses and is described as ‘High Quality’.

So we have to be clear that one of the primary arguments and a main platform in the supposed case for a trolleybus rests on the inferences drawn from people’s preferences for shiny new vehicles over worn out old ones.  Well, forgive me, but isn’t that a kind of no brainer?  Shouldn’t we have something that has a little more definition to it rather than just making inferences and assumptions from raw data which do not contain those assumptions?

Also the other day he said:  ‘As we move to conditional approval’.  Forgive me for drawing attention to such a minor detail, but isn't this something of a major unjustified assumption?  (Which he said twice in a short space of time.)  Shouldn't that be 'If we move...'?  I have drawn attention to the use of Neuro-Linguistic Progamming before, and I will do so again here.  Enough already with the attempted infiltration of such assumptions into the mindset, Mr Chadwick. 

I would like to make a side trip here on Mr Chadwick’s presentation, which, for someone who appears to be one of the lynchpins of the entire scheme, is frankly poor.

I was at one point getting extremely frustrated with his delivery and thinking ‘I wish he wouldn’t mumble’ when Mr Jones actually interrupted and made this very criticism using that very word ‘mumble’.  (Mr Jones is admirably well and clearly spoken, probably the best speaker in the chamber.)  Mr Chadwick rushes through his replies, but is extremely unclear in his speech.  The word ‘Statistical’, which is rather an important and frequent one that is repeated many times, seems to get mangled between his teeth.  Not to mention that ‘through’ becomes ‘frough’, ‘whether’ becomes ‘whevver’ and any word which can be contracted to an incoherent shortening suffers that indignity.

His knowledge of the English language is also poor.  At one point he states that he ‘refutes’ a proposition made by Professor Bonsall.  Well, he is entitled to disagree, but refutation firstly involves presenting contrary evidence to the assertion. A mere statement of disagreement is not refutation, which would actually require a successful argument to the contrary based on statements of opposing fact.  But perhaps I still live in a twentieth century world of intellectual rigour and consistency and should get used to the twenty first century world of sound bites and dumbed down assumptions which have little to do with the scientific method, actual facts derived therefrom, or indeed the agreed meanings of words. 

He managed to follow this with a statement that his pictures of old and new buses infer certain assumptions.

Please, please, please.  The inferences will be drawn by the viewing subjects.  The assumptions embedded in their analysis of the pictures are implied by him and his team.  They imply, we infer.  That’s how it works. 

I’m sorry if some people might consider this being a grammar Nazi, (actually if anything it is ‘intended meaning’ Nazism ~ grammar is to do with the system of rules which govern language, not the meaning of words) but when you have a scheme which would have such a major impact on the city (largest infrastructure project in Leeds for over forty years) it is helpful to know that the people who are involved with it actually know what they are saying.

It isn’t surprising to me that his tests for preferences involve completely unscientific comparisons and both hidden implications in the test material, and unjustified inferences (on his part) from the returned evidence, when you have someone who mumbles frough his teef whevver we like it or not, and doesn’t know the meaning of what he is actually saying.

Frankly, after all that we have seen, I had expected somebody more impressive given his importance in the proposed scheme.  I have refrained from making many personal comments about the witnesses so far as it is not fair to them when we should be looking at their evidence, and not at them as individuals.  However in the case of Mr Chadwick I shall have to put this aside.  Mr Hanson’s long silences were at times embarrassing, and he may have spoken almost in a whisper at times, but at least his replies were comprehensible (if you could hear them).

I come back to my comment from yesterday about confidence of expression.  Mr Chadwick has none in my own view, and I would support Mr Jones in any number of requests not only that he speak up, but that he speak more clearly, especially when he is referring to important technical data.  The Inspector himself asked Mr Chadwick to repeat technical material that he had raced through and was not clear to follow in the least.  And Mr Whitehead is placed very close to the witness stand, so if he can’t follow it, then is unlikely that a layperson in the back row would have any idea, especially one who was a little hard of hearing (of which there are some at the Enquiry).

I should like to add the comments sent around some of the objectors on this subject by Professor Christopher Todd, whom I quoted a few days ago, but I see no reason why I should telegraph some of the main points of the objectors to our opponents until after they have been thrashed out in session, so I will leave that for another day or two before I quote his excellent summary of the shortcomings in Mr Chadwick’s case.

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