Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 38

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 38

Today was what seemed to be another good day for the objectors, but I would urge all my readers to catch a bit of the real thing from these links below of the audio tapes of each session of the Enquiry and judge for themselves whether my blog is merely a rant or actually based on some kind of fact.

You decide!

(If you’re impatient, just skip forward to the last half hour of the final session of the day.)

Here’s the action for Day 38

In the first morning session of Day 38 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Emeritus Professor Peter Bonsall cross examines the recalled Mr Neil Chadwick on the business case focussing on the arguments around passenger preferences.

In the late morning session of Day 38 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, 22 July 2014, Professor Bonsall concludes his re-examination of Mr Neil Chadwick on the business case and justification for the NGT proposals, and is then followed by Gregory Jones QC who commences his own cross examination.

In the early afternoon session of Day 38 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, 22 July 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues his cross examination of Mr Neil Chadwick on the business case for the NGT trolleybus focussing on the methodology and research which is claimed to support the choice of pursuing this scheme.

In the late afternoon of Day 38 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, 22 July 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick on the business case underlying the NGT trolleybus scheme proposals.


Today was a day I had been looking forward to for some while, since Gregory Jones QC had not yet been set on Mr Neil Chadwick and the objectors mostly seemed to feel that this would be a examination worth witnessing.

First of all we had just over a session from Professor Peter Bonsall who attacked some new evidence which had been included in a note which had been given in response to a written question (so far as I understood the procedure but it may be some slight variation on that).  Anyway there was sufficient justification for the Professor to wear away at the unhappy Mr Chadwick for an hour and a half.

I have to confess, that as a layperson some of today’s questioning did seem a little repetitive, going as it was into immense detail on such matters as the transport consultation that this scheme has largely been based on, but I can assure you that while to the ears of you and I it may seem that the same point is covered again and again, that cannot be the case as the eagle eared Mr Whitehead would have swooped on either Professor Bonsall or Mr Jones the moment such a thing happened.  In fact he actually at one point commented on how exemplary the Professor’s cross examination was, which would hardly have occurred had he been raising the Inspector’s ire with time wasting repetition.

One aspect of Mr Chadwick’s case which came repeatedly under fire today from both interrogators was the consultation which had shown a very new bus to members of the public and compared it with an old bus.  Apparently the business and transport consultants who have worked up NGT over the last few years used the consensus preference for the new bus as a basis on which to ‘make a judgement’ as they would say, that this meant people would then prefer a trolleybus to a regular bus.

I kid you not.  This is one of the foundational pillars on which the case for the trolleybus rests, if dressed up in fancy ways.  They even appear to have disregarded a statistically significant survey which showed no preference for a trolleybus.  It’s hard work getting these things winkled out of Mr Chadwick as he does seem to spend a lot of time not really answering the questions and so we have to rely on the detailed persistence of our two foremost spearhead cross examiners the Professor and Mr Jones to excavate this terrain.

I will admit that listening to this can be a lengthy and somewhat exhausting process, but it is a fascinating battle of wills from which Mr Chadwick rarely seemed to come out well.

I would draw attention to the last twenty minutes or so of the day when the subject of economic viability is reached.  Mr Chadwick seems to have taken a view that the scheme is so likely to be granted full approval that he and his team have not worked up some parts of it which they hope to do at a later stage.  Mr Jones corners Neil Chadwick with the prospect of how the project would be underwritten and how Metro (and therefore Council Tax payers) would have to pay if it didn’t make a profit and allow for the required borrowing to be repaid. 

All simple stuff really, and you might have think that this kind of thing would have been sorted at an early stage, but apparently it hasn’t.  There was a powerful moment when the Inspector chimed in to say that he didn’t agree with what Mr Chadwick had said, and that he agreed with what Mr Jones had said.  He had to be responsible to the Secretary of State about making a determination of whether to recommend it to him or not in his report. 

This is where you see the reality of the position the Inspector is in. There was some speculation way back months ago before the Enquiry started as to what we should expect of the Inspector.  One view had it that he would be a puppet of the government and covertly instructed to go through the motions and then rubber stamp the approval.

As the Enquiry has proceeded I would suggest that most of us have, more and more, become confident of the Inspector on the basis of the questions we have heard him ask.

Taking a longer view, one can appreciate that if a massive budget project like this was a spectacular failure, it would reflect very poorly on the judgement of the Inspector should he have recommended it and would probably lead to a serious downturn in his career.

One can only speculate that the team behind NGT really never seriously thought that they would be challenged in so much detail on this scheme, otherwise there is no real explanation as to why their case has been so poorly researched and developed.

Before I close for the night I would just like to draw your attention to the site I have linked just below.  When I was seeking a host for the recordings of the Public Enquiry, at rather short notice, Mixcloud turned up as one which had unlimited free upload space with streaming, which fitted the absolute requirements. Downloading did not seem to be offered.

Rumours that some had actually been downloading the files from the Mixcloud pages had me baffled and I still don’t know how they do that, but I have found this page where you can download each audio file as you require them and here is the link.  So I hope many listeners of the trolleybus tapes will take the opportunity to download these files and help back up the archive.  It should also be some help for those whose devices have struggled with the levels on some of the earlier recordings while streaming.

Download these recordings and help to back up the archive http://www.downloadmixcloud.com/

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