Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 2
April 30 2014
Today felt like a good day for the Stop The Trolleybus campaign. The Enquiry got down to business with the cross examination of the first witness, Mr Martin Farrington, Chief Development Officer for Leeds City Council who has taken a major role in the development and promotion of the Applicant’s scheme, New Generation Transport trolleybuses.
Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire tore into Mr Farrington and elicited such extraordinary pieces of information as that when he took up his current post and began to promote a trolleybus scheme, he had never actually reviewed the pros and cons of the Supertram which had been cancelled a few years before, or that he had only found out yesterday about the 1999 Liverpool Public Enquiry into what had been a proposal of a trolleybus development there, but which had been rejected by the Inspector and the then Secretary of State. (I had heard about that perhaps a year ago.)
The Cross examination went on for most of the day but the first session was the most impressive. It can be heard on this recording which a colleague kindly made on my Zoom H2 audio recorder.
Exposed and highlighted were the facts that this would be the only trolleybus scheme in the England and the only right hand drive one in the world, suggesting major problems for future supply of parts and vehicles, and that it was projected as having a lifetime of at least sixty years, or more.
Mr Farrington was forced to admit that he didn’t know how much Leeds City Council had spent already on the development costs ~ I have heard the figure of five millions more than once in the media.
Again and again he was obliged to acknowledge that he hadn’t read documents relating to the case and that he hadn’t even written all of his own statement himself.
It is quite staggering to consider that this man is a civil servant responsible to the citizens of Leeds, and yet holds immense power in planning decisions, being behind many shopping malls and similar developments. This is the face of the unaccountable bureaucrat, and it is good to see it exposed to the light of day.
One has to wonder how we got into such a position, but it has to be acknowledged that the public has paid too little attention for too long to what bureaucracy and government get up to while we are getting on with our lives. To discover that this kind of fiasco has been planned behind our backs is a rude awakening.
But the good news is that residents and institutions all along the proposed route have stood up and said NO to this thing that would be inefficient, expensive and destructive to our beautiful city.
The next step after the Enquiry has been won must be to scrutinise the decision making of the networks of people in the Council who have been running things for the last few years. How a scheme as inappropriate and outdated as a trolleybus could even come up on the agenda is a question that needs to be asked.