Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 27
June 19 2014
The whole of day 27 was taken up with the examination by Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies Peter Bonsall of Mr Neil Chadwick who supervised the business case for the NGT scheme.
Links to audio recordings of all the sessions are given here and my commentary follows below.
In the first morning session of day 27 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Professor Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case which underlies the NGT proposals.
In the mid morning session of day 27 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Professor Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case which underlies the NGT proposals.
In the late morning session of day 27 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Professor Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case which underlies the NGT proposals.
In the early afternoon session of day 27 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Professor Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case which underlies the NGT proposals.
In the late afternoon session of day 27 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Professor Peter Bonsall continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick who is responsible for the business case which underlies the NGT proposals.
I have to confess to getting a little behind with the blogging on the Public Enquiry with its somewhat gruelling schedule, so today’s commentary may be a little shorter than usual as I endeavour to catch up on it. One of the primary purposes of this blog is to put the links for each day up online in an ordered sequence, in order that they may be more easily found and followed, so here they are for day 27, and if I get the time I will update and expand this particular entry.
There are however some subjects which have been coming up that I believe are important to mention and which readers can examine in more detail with the recordings.
The first of these is the matter of the email correspondence which were sent from the Applicant to a Mr Charlie Sunderland at the Department for Transport. This was raised previously and was seen both to be inaccurate, in that it suggested the Enquiry was dealing with matters that it was not, and also inappropriate in that the Applicant should not be engaging in correspondence with the DfT with regard to anything in respect of their case and the Enquiry.
This came up the other day and Mr Whitehead, the Inspector, instructed the counsel for the Applicant to construct an email to be sent to the DfT which would exit and close down the correspondence making it clear that it should not have been engaged in and that the subject matter suggested was not correctly referenced.
This was the first matter raised today when the reply email was mentioned by the Inspector who wished to ensure that the email made it clear that the procedures of the DfT were not being challenged in the Enquiry. An ancillary point came up when Neil Cameron QC for the Applicant read out the text of the proposed reply which included the wording about the procedures used in ‘approving’ the scheme and Gregory Jones QC pointed out that he would be happier with the word ‘considering’ so that there was no assumption that approval was taken for granted.
[I am reminded that on day 25 Mr Chadwick at least twice said ‘As we move to conditional approval’, an embedded assumption of the kind I have pointed out previously as being used in Neuro Linguistic Programming. This assumption is not correct. There is no guarantee that conditional approval will be granted and Mr Chadwick should not suggest such a thing. It is of some concern that this hubris seems to leak out on all sides even to the point of inappropriate correspondence to the DfT.]
I cannot speak for what impression the Inspector may have got of this, but to a layperson it rather looked as though the Applicant had got themselves into a bit of a tangle with this unwarranted correspondence to the DfT.
The Enquiry was then able to move on to the continuing cross examination of Mr Chadwick by Professor Bonsall. One of the primary topics that he went through in great deal today was the importance of availability of seats and how many passengers would be expected to stand.
It has been a matter of great concern to many of the objectors that the trolleybus would have such a high proportion of standing passengers. Exact figures have not been given as the actual detailed design of the trolleybuses has not been specified yet, which is not helpful, but it is admitted that it would be in the region of about 60% during rush hour when full capacity would be expected to be reached.
A correction to wording in the documents was also accepted which would be that ‘in all time periods some passenger will [would] have to stand’. This may be an improvement on the original wording that ‘all passengers would have to stand’ but is still not satisfactory.
Mr Chadwick was reluctant to acknowledge the significance of the fact that the importance of crowding was less in his model than that exemplified in the WebTAG guidance.
At some length he argued in principle that the ‘quality factors’ inherent in a trolleybus outweighed the disadvantage of having to stand. As a layperson bus user this is not the way I would see it. For me, getting a seat, especially if I am carrying the week’s groceries, is of overriding importance.
As early as twenty five minutes into the day’s proceedings it became apparent that Mr Chadwick did not know the detail of how the weighting of all these factors had been worked out, and since he is ‘the last man standing’ as Mr Jones put it, it is entirely unsatisfactory that he simply did not know how this had been worked out and he had to ask for time to get a note from his associates on this matter and answer it later.
To a layperson such as myself the Professor Bonsall’s examination may at times have seemed somewhat rarefied and abstruse, but it is at times like this that he clearly demonstrates the value of all his background preparation. This may be the longest cross examination of the Enquiry so far, even longer than Mr Jones’s questioning of Mr Farrington in the first week, but the Inspector clearly would not have allowed him to go on at such length if he had not recognised that he was uncovering important material. And here it is. Mr Chadwick did not know how this had been worked out, and could not cite any documents even though he is the main proponent of the business case.
We saw this developed further in a later session when the comparison was made with other countries such as Ireland and Australia on how much people were willing to pay for a guaranteed seat. The NGT assumption was no more than a half of the lowest value used in other countries, devaluing the importance of seating, which would thus improve their business case. If people are not willing to pay for the 90% chance of getting a seat, then the only 40% chance of getting a seat is of less importance than it would be if they were. A good chance of getting a seat was rated as of high importance in WebTAG, about four times more important than real time information displays, in terms of impact of ticket prices. Of course this would be the case, the practical benefits of getting a seat being of primary importance to the elderly, shoppers, mothers with children and most other passengers.
Mr Chadwick may appear on the surface to resiliently deny all these factors which are put to him by the Professor, but as I have pointed out before, mere contradiction does not constitute a successful argument of refutation. I am reminded of the ‘Argument’ sketch from Monty Python ~ something to the effect that an argument is a logically connected series of propositions (based on empirical or a priori data one would hope) intended to successfully refute the initial proposition, not ‘the mere gainsaying’ of it. At which point we find we are obliged to engage in ‘the full half hour’ rather than merely a five minute taster. And Professor Bonsall is not shy of a lot more than a half hour debate.
I shall leave today’s commentary there and hope that my readers are sufficiently interested to dip in to the recordings and consider whether I have made a fair assessment of those portions on which I have commented, or whether as my friends in the skyscraper city ghetto hold, I am merely biased. I am certainly predisposed to argue against the trolleybus, of that I make no secret, but like Michael Palin in the Argument sketch, I would suggest that I am basing my argument on the facts elicited during examination, and not merely gainsaying the propositions I wish to disagree with, as unfortunately Mr Chadwick appears to have been doing.