ASDFGHJKQWEBVVVVVVVVVVVVVGTYHYTREDIOJHGFDSACVBNMKJHGFDDFGTYHChristopher Todd – August 2013
I wish to express my opposition to the trolleybus scheme in Leeds under three headings: i) this is the wrong route for a rapid transit system; ii) a trolleybus is the wrong choice; iii) the inadequacies of the consultation exercise.
i) This is the wrong route for a rapid transit system.
a) historic reasons for the choice of route:
Obviously, I myself can only speak for that part lying north of the city centre. The proposed route along the A660 corridor has been chosen very largely for historic reasons, a number of which no longer apply. It was initially adopted for the Supertram, and when this was planned there were large halls of residence for students at Bodington and Tetley, as well as the Girls’ High School on Headingley Lane. The closure of the halls and the move of the school to Alwoodley have had a significant effect on traffic in our area, and yet no one has been able to satisfy me that a thorough and comprehensive traffic survey has been carried out here since December 2008, and certainly not since the closure of Bodington Hall in 2012. A report of 2005 – that is before Tetley Hall closed in 2006 and the Girls’ High School moved in 2008 – put the A660 corridor on a par with the A65, Bradford-Leeds corridor (through Guiseley, Yeadon and Rawdon, etc.). Though there is still a traffic problem here, you only have to have lived in Headingley for some time, to see that it is far from being as bad as it as was. It needs to be proved more clearly that this is still the most polluted and congested route in Leeds. Complaints about congestion and pollution in Headingley were common in the press up to 2002. In January 2012, like many places in Britain the area suffered from pollution because of cold, still weather. This was, however, an exceptional event, and in recent years most published complaints have been about congestion on the A65. The solution adopted there has not been to plan for a trolleybus, but to improve traffic management and bus lanes on the Kirkstall Road. It is perhaps too early to say how successful this has been, but it is certainly cheaper.
Metro has consistently refused even to consider alternative routes for a rapid transit system, such as the eminently suitable A64/A63 route, linking up to a train/car hub at Thorpe Park. The roads are already wide enough, the environmental damage having been already done in the early 1970s. The whole subject needs to be considered more comprehensively on a regional basis.
b) competition with ordinary bus services:
For family as well as professional reasons, I have from time to time used rapid tram systems in Europe, notably those in Montpellier and Strasbourg. In neither of these towns do you find other traffic using the same streets in the city centre. It is only found on the wider boulevards further out, where proper segregation is possible, with a raised pavement, and sometimes even grass, lining the dedicated tram lanes. There is some congestion on side-roads caused by the priority for trams at traffic lights, but there is no attempt to have ordinary buses and taxis running parallel to the trams in roads of the width of those found in Leeds. It was largely for this reason that in the tram scheme being currently planned for Avignon, it has been decided – after listening properly to the public – not to take the trams across the Rhône to Villeneuve, past the Tour Philippe le Bel, where the road is about the width of Headingley Lane.
Nowhere have I seen an attempt – as would be the case in Leeds – to have two public transport systems competing with one another, with different stops for buses and trolleybuses, and with ordinary buses being condemned to share space with ordinary traffic. This is not integrated transport, especially as Leeds lacks a proper transport hub, with the bus station being a considerable distance away from the railway station. I know there is some ambiguity in the use by planners of the expression ‘integrated transport’, but I do not think you can get round the basic definition of it as ‘the integration of transport modes in order to provide easier interchange between modes of transport and therefore making it easier for the passenger’.
We are told that Headingley already forms part of the route most favoured by bus-users in Leeds, but the figures put out by NGT on bus use are somewhat meaningless here insofar as none of the present buses follow exactly the same route as that proposed for the trolleybus. Some come from places further out such as Guiseley (no.97), Bramhope, Otley and Skipton (no. 84X). Both the no.1 and no. 6 go to Holt Park, but one via Lawnswood and the other via Tinshill. The no. 28 goes to Adel. The bus services to all these places would almost inevitably suffer, and those living there would hardly relish being given a shuttle to tie up with the trolleybus instead of a direct service to town. And there would be fewer buses for everybody from West Park inwards wanting to go, for instance, to anywhere near the central bus station. The trolleybus might mean saving a few minutes for some commuters coming in from the outskirts or beyond, but there is little hope of a quicker journey for anybody else, especially with the likelihood of having to walk further to the right stop.
Bus deregulation has caused problems, especially with bus companies often appearing unwilling to maintain services in which they do not make a profit. To counter this, Metro makes much of the possibility of introducing Quality Control Contracts in place of Quality Control Partnerships, in order to have a greater say over the way the buses are run. However, the experience of the Sheffield City Council in its dealings with Stagecoach does not suggest that Leeds City Council will be any more successful in overcoming opposition from First Group. First Group has already fought back, by promising to slash fares along the A660 corridor, and is there any guarantee that any bus company – not granted the franchise for the trolleybus – might not be prepared to undercut the fares of the trolleybus? If the franchise were to be granted to First Group, this would simply strengthen further its dominant position.
c) congestion and park-and-ride:
We are told that that this scheme is designed to ease congestion, which would hardly be helped by having traffic queueing at lights as the trolleybuses go by. The two main causers of congestion on the A660 corridor are commuters and parents doing the school run. The latter – who, if they can, prefer to live at some distance from busy roads – are hardly likely to abandon driving their children to and from the school gates, if the quality of their local bus services were to decline.
As for the problems caused by commuters, Professor David Begg, when chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, regretted that congestion charging had not been made a pre-requisite for the Leeds Supertram. Following the experience of Manchester, Leeds City Councillors still shy away from the idea of introducing it here, and central government has abandoned attempts to force them to adopt it. Yet, without it, and also a much greater use of residents’ only parking schemes all along the proposed trolleybus route – the cost of which should not be borne solely by local residents who do not cause the problems– there must be severe doubts as to the successful implementation of what is seen as the main key to solving traffic congestion in this context, namely park-and-ride sites at Bodington and Stourton. The effects of such schemes can be perverse, sometimes even increasing the use of private cars, and most experts agree that park and ride schemes work best in historic towns such as York, Oxford or Bath, with relatively little parking available in the town centre. This is not the case in Leeds. We are told that there are some 18,800 parking spaces available in the city centre. It would be interesting how many of these are set aside for office workers. In 2009 some 548 members of council staff enjoyed free parking, and judging from planning applications and advertisements for offices over the years this privilege is widely extended to the private sector. On top of this, multi-storey parking for up to 2,700 cars is envisaged for the new city-centre shopping developments, despite the fact that extensive research by Sustrans and others has shown that traders are wrong in thinking that people need cars to shop in the middle of town. The situation is not helped by the fact that Leeds is home to the British branch of Europe’s largest car-park firm, which is naturally pleased to see an increase in custom. Is it not a little naïve, in such circumstances, to believe that motorists will willingly get out of the comfort of their cars and transfer to a trolleybus if they have guaranteed parking spaces available for them at their place of work? Unless, of course, the aim is to have permanent grid lock along the A660 corridor for all traffic other than the trolleybus.
ii) A trolleybus is the wrong choice
Few in Leeds would deny that the trolleybus was chosen as a second-best alternative, following the cancellation of the Supertram in 2004, and though Leeds is now the third-largest city in England, one has to face up to the fact that one cannot expect funding for an underground, such largesse having always been reserved for the capital. Even so, the cost of one single trolleybus line at an estimated £250.6 million (with £173.5m coming from central government) would seem very poor value for money, especially when compared to the cost of the first stage of the Nottingham Tram, at £200 million (which is the equivalent to £260 million at 2013 prices).
Yet, NGT calls the possible creation of the first trolleybus system in the UK a ‘step change in public transport’, implying that it is at the cutting edge of new technology and – with its belief in image – that car users and bus passengers will switch to it simply because it is so permanent and so attractive. It makes much of trolleybuses abroad without really looking at them properly, and dismisses out of hand as unsuitable the rapid technological progress that is taking place in other ecological forms of public transport.
a) trolleybus systems abroad
NGT is good at giving half the story. On its website, it begins a list of would-be rebuttals of what it calls ‘false and misleading’ claims made by opponents to its scheme, by making much of a new trolleybus line in Geneva, but fails to point out that – to the chagrin of a least one Genevan property developer – this is not a rapid transport service as envisaged here. It is designed to serve new housing estates near and over the French frontier and not long-established built-up areas as in Leeds, does not go into the centre of town, but to the new transport hub at Eaux-Vives, and is thus part of a big truly-integrated cross-frontier transport scheme that has being going ahead since 2002, the CEVA (Cornavin – Eaux-Vives – Annemasse). It was opposed by local residents’ associations, who objected to the cost, and wanted buses using natural gas instead.
This is typical of the way NGT has attempted to brush aside dissent, and continue to paint the trolleybus as a popular choice for transport worldwide. For a start, it is important to distinguish between long-established trolleybus systems – most notably in former communist countries where there was, ’til fairly recently, limited private-car ownership, and places like Switzerland with access to cheap hydro-electricity – and new schemes – few in number – introduced since the beginning of the present century. For the sake of simplicity, it is perhaps best to limit the discussion to Western Europe and the European Union since 2001.
When we have pointed out that towns with trolleybuses such as Arnhem, Budapest, Geneva and Salzburg have all been experimenting with electric buses, we were not suggesting, as NGT has tried to make out, that places like Geneva, were immediately wanting to rip out the overhead wires. Those with established trolleybus systems obviously want to make the best of the system that they have, especially if it is part of properly integrated transport, and in the medium term at least they will try to keep it up to date. What this desire to test electric buses does reflect, however, is a widespread dislike of overhead wires and of the lack of flexibility that they entail. The Swiss have referred to them as ‘visual pollution’, and here in Leeds there is fear over the environmental damage that they would cause, including, notably, the need to cut down a considerable number of mature trees.
As elsewhere in the world, in Western Europe and the European Union, a fair number of trolleybus systems have closed since the beginning of the present century. Romania has abandoned seven trolleybus systems in recent years, and Bulgaria has closed two.
Nearer home, two trolleybus systems have closed in recent years in Switzerland: Lugano in 2002, and Bâle in 2008. That in La Chaux-de-Fonds was only saved, because it was thought that there was no viable ecological alternative on the horizon, a situation which is changing radically, with the result that its future is still uncertain. In Austria, Innsbruck closed its system in 2007, while in Belgium Ghent did away with its trolleybuses in 2009. In France, the main opposition party, the UMP, could well win next year’s local elections in Villeurbanne (in the Lyon conurbation), and it wants to suppress the trolleybus there.
The latest town to show disaffection with the trolleybus is Vilnius in Lithuania which is now abandoning them progressively. It replaced 40 trolleybuses with ordinary buses on September 1, 2013. A further 45 trolleybuses were to be replaced shortly after that, leaving at that stage a total of 185 trolleybuses, compared to 225 in the autumn of 2012. The director general of the local public transport board (Vilnaius Viesasis Transportas) is quoted as saying that ‘buses were faster than trolleybuses’. They closed four trolley bus routes on July 1, 2013.
Finally, one should mention that a system for Amadora in Portugal was planned in 2009, but abandoned in 2012.
Of the very few entirely new trolleybus systems created in Western Europe and the European Union in the last few years, almost all cannot be used as examples of inspiration for Leeds. In Romania, with a grant from the European Union, a new system has been planned for Craiova (a city of 300,000 inhabitants) since 2009, to tie up rather bizarrely with an existent tram line, and the old 5-kilometer line in the small town of Vaslui (74,000 inhabitants), which closed in 2009, has now been completed reconstructed.
The new single 3-kilometer trolleybus line in Landskrona (30,499 inhabitants) in Sweden, constructed from 2002 to 2003, is a very modest affair, running like an ordinary bus with wires and no special lane. All other recent schemes have been in Italy and Spain, and they have nearly all been embroiled in scandal, amidst lawsuits over accusations of corruption and unwarranted financial and political influence. That in the small town of Avellino (54,151 inhabitants) was planned to be in service by 2013, while that of the slightly-larger Lecce (95,764 inhabitants) was opened in January 2012, a couple of months after the arrest of one of its planners on charges of bribery and fraudulent invoicing. It is not surprising that it has been dubbed locally the ‘filobus della discordia’!
Even the new trolleybus in Rome (filovia) – built by supporters of Silvio Berlusconi – has not been free of scandal, with accusations of waste and the arrest of the mayor’s right-hand man on charges of having accepted nearly one million euros in bribes from a state-controlled bus-maker. In any case, it cannot be used here as an example for Leeds, since for much of the time the vehicles turn into electric buses without either overhead wires or special lanes.
Two other Italian cities which have over the months been quoted as exemplary by NGT and its supporters, again without their really doing their homework properly, are Bari, which has a very troubled history of stopping and starting various trolleybus schemes going back to the 1970s, and Verona where a trolleybus scheme, which was first promised in 2007, was still being evaluated in 2013, with a plan that envisages the use of the internal combustion engine to power the system wirelessly within the city walls.
The only new modern trolleybus scheme which does has similarities with what is planned for Leeds is the strangely-named ‘El Tram’ in the Spanish provincial capital of Castellón de la Plana (180,204 inhabitants), the brainchild of yet another controversial politician, the ex-leader of the regional government, Carlos Fabra Carreras, who was placed under judicial investigation in 2012 in connection with several cases of corruption and tax evasion.
This scheme is almost a symbol of how Spain overstretched itself before the economic downturn in 2008. It is run at a loss and is to be heavily subsidized by the local regional authorities up to 2027. It is highly controversial, with lawsuits trying to stop it damaging a local park, and causing considerable anger among many citizens in the town, especially over a lack of proper public consultation and added congestion where even ambulances find it difficult to get through. Here as elsewhere, there is now talk of doing away with the overhead wires on the main route from the university to the seafront.
Very clearly, trolleybuses with overhead wires do not constitute the ideal solution for the development of modern urban transport.
b) better ecological alternatives
In wanting to counter claims made for electric buses, on its website NGT concentrates all its guns on the TOSA electric bus in Geneva without discussing the many other electric battery buses being tried out more and more throughout the world. Most noticeably, it makes no mention of developments in the rival ‘green’ technology of hydrogen fuel cells. In recent years there has been rapid progress in both fields, and it is now more that likely that one or the other or both of these technologies will be in a position to make that of the trolleybus seem completely obsolete by the time that the scheme planned for Leeds should be up and running.
It is somewhat ironic – and symbolic of how greatly Metro seems behind the times – that Leeds has not already made use of the award-winning electric buses by the local firm of Optare, while they have been enthusiastically adopted, for instance, in Coventry, Durham,, August 23, 2013, p. 38.] Nottingham, and nearby York.
At the moment the 12-metre long Chinese BYD electric bus, which can run for 250 kilometers on a single charge, seems to be leading the field world-wide. In Sweden there is Volvo. Siemens is providing the technology for new electric buses in Vienna. Bombardier is running electric buses in Canada and Germany, &c. &c. I could go on. The list is endless.
NGT criticises the look of the overhead apparatus used to flash-charge the TOSA bus in fifteen seconds at stops, but it should note that ‘in-road’ flash-charging is being developed in Sweden by Volvo and also by Bombardier in Canada and Germany, while the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed an ‘in-road’ system that actually recharges the bus while it is still moving.
NGT’s silence over hydrogen fuel cell buses is extraordinary. In some ways, I suspect (along with the European Union and the British Government) that in the end they may prove a better bet than electric buses, with greater autonomy, and not using batteries with heavy elements that need proper disposal and can pollute the environment in the long run. Hydrogen fuel cells are also lighter.
London in particular has been a leader in the use of hydrogen fuel cell buses, while Aberdeen has taken delivery of 10 buses built by Van Hool NV and powered by Ballard fuel cells.
Of course, the infrastructure needs to be developed and they do require quite a lot of electricity, though this can be produced off-peak. Aberdeen, for instance, ‘aims to use surplus off-peak wind energy to produce the hydrogen for city buses’ and this is where both battery and hydrogen fuel buses again score over the NGT trolleybus. This is likely to be powered for some time by electricity from the National Grid, and there are currently worries about the reliability of electricity supplies from this source.
One of the main current problems connected to the production of hydrogen is the comparative rarity and cost of the usual catalyst: platinum, which is hoarded by the Chinese. However, here again research into various alternatives to platinum is advancing fast. There is even talk in Manchester of obtaining hydrogen from household waste. In any case, the overall cost of producing the gas has already come down significantly.
No system is entirely carbon neutral, but less disruptive forms of ‘green’ public transport than the trolleybus, enjoying all the flexibility of the ordinary bus, are, whatever NGT may imply, already clearly on the horizon.
c) improvements to traffic flow, not needing a trolleybus.
Among the claims made by NGT, it lists advantages that do not really need the presence of a trolleybus. First among these is smart-ticketing : the ‘MCard’, a Yorkshire equivalent of London’s Oyster Card. Those of us who can remember the pre-deregulation ‘ker-ching’ card on Leeds buses, have long wondered why one had to revert to long hold-ups at bus stops while people, on boarding their buses, looked for change to pay for their tickets. Yet there are several questions one might ask of Metro, before they claim all the credit for the introduction of the new cards. First Group has spent £27 million on the technology which is to be installed on buses, not just in Leeds, but also in Manchester, Bolton, Oldham, Wigan, Stoke, Northampton, York, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leicester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth, Reading, Bristol, Ipswich and Norwich. Did it did need the trolleybus plan to force Metro wake up to the need for this?
There is also no reason to doubt that with the growth of electronic technology, comparable regularity and reliability as claimed for the trolleybus, could not be achieved with ordinary buses, using proper buses lanes and stopping bays, and real-time bus arrival information. It is now possible for computers, using GPS, to ensure that fast express and slow more frequently-stopping services do not get in each other’s way.
Some road widening may be needed in places, for both buses and cyclists, but not so far as to favour private cars. Those of us who have lived in Headingley for over 45 years well-remember what the planners – having ripped the heart out of Leeds – then wanted to do to our area so as to live up to the slogan: ‘Leeds: motorway city of the 70s’. As Brian Richards so rightly says, ‘traffic engineers – at least the more enlightened ones – now accept that widening only brings in more traffic.’ It should be possible – with a little imagination – to implement a road improvement scheme which caters to the needs of all, as in the inspiring one implemented at Poynton in Cheshire.
Above all, the A660 is not really suitable for articulated or bendy buses, which are much disliked by cyclists, who, under the proposed trolleybus scheme, would, for a considerable part of the route, have to share a lane with a vehicle of that shape. Double-decker buses – which need shorter stopping bays – have always been popular in Britain, because our roads tend not be as wide as those on the continent, and it is for the same reason that double-decker buses are now being introduced in both New Zealand and Australia.
iii) the inadequacies of the consultation exercise
When I argued in a letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post that ‘for the words “public consultation” to mean anything, everything must be on the table, even the possibility of abandoning a project or looking for something more appropriate, after listening properly to the public’, it prompted a reply from the head of NGT to my MP, which unwittingly strengthened my view, by putting the emphasis on the fact the trolleybus scheme had been the subject of a ‘great deal of scrutiny’ from both Metro and Leeds City Council. This still does not imply proper engagement with the public. I had never suggested that they had not respected procedure, and faithfully gone through all the hoops. The question is whether they had done so with truly open minds and whether there were severe limitations on what they were prepared to change. Public consultation is a delicate process all too easily perverted by political manipulators and commercial lobbyists, who often count on the inertia and ignorance of the general public. The extreme anger expressed by our local councillors at the suggestion from the government for a referendum before raising council-tax to pay for transport issues was most illuminating.
My letter had been initially prompted by a remark made by a local councillor in reply to the many protests against the trolleybus from locals citizens: ‘We can perhaps tweak and change minor details but at the end of the day this is a government scheme.’ The public has to put up with a great deal of double-talk and soft-soap from those in charge of the scheme, with phrases devoid of real meaning such as ‘feedback from the public is vital in helping us to shape the plans the best we can in order to provide Leeds with a modern rapid transport system’, pronounced by a councillor whom we had just seen lecturing a public meeting and not listening properly to comments from the floor. Such meetings have grown extremely heated, as many members of the public have become increasingly angry and frustrated.
According to the OECD guidelines for public consultation, it must be ‘a two-way flow of information’ based on proper dialogue. That this has not been the case here, is fully illustrated by the NGT website, which still makes vague, difficult to prove claims of doubtful validity, that it already made at the start of the consultation exercise. Rather than dealing properly with concerns raised by the public, it devotes much space to trying to counter what it calls misleading claims most of which – as I have shown above – are not as ill-founded as they suggest. They also list answers to frequently-asked questions. This list is somewhat repetitive and rather tellingly does not include a fair number of thorny issues which I know to have been raised. Most interestingly, the web site defines the aim of the consultation exercise as being ‘to ensure people have ample opportunity to find out the facts about the scheme.’ In other words, without saying as much, they imply notification rather than consultation.
Complaints that public consultations are all too often ‘carried out in name only’ are, of course, not limited to Leeds, but certainly the local press here is full of letters reflecting the recurrent and general feeling of resentment among the citizens of Leeds over not being properly consulted. This is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon here. As the Australian architecture and planning expert Dr Tony Gilmore has pointed out, there is a long tradition in Leeds in which decision-making has always been almost solely ‘in the hands of a small group of “insiders”: the City Council, a number of locals property developers, the Yorkshire branch of English Heritage and the Leeds Civic Trust’.
Commenting on the ‘astoundingly cheap-looking architecture’ that now abounds in Leeds, Owen Hatherley blamed the Council for having over the years ‘let the property developers lead the way […] out of the fear that they and their money might disappear if they were in any way challenged’. This subservience still survives among our present councillors, as was seen last June at a meeting ostensibly called to listen to opinions from the public on the trolleybus, mainly made up of representatives from local residents’ associations. The only person they chose to listen to was the one person to speak in favour of the trolleybus scheme: the Manchester-based press officer for the property developers Allied London.
Here in fact lies part of the key to what many have seen as the surprising attitude of Kevin Grady and the Leeds Civic Trust, especially as the latter states on its website as its first principle the aim ‘to stimulate public interest in and care for the beauty, history and character of the City and locality’. The character of a conservation area – of which several would be adversely affected by the trolleybus scheme – does not lie solely in the buildings, but also in the space in between (trees, gardens, stone walls and pavements, etc.).
Kevin Grady has shown misplaced enthusiasm for disastrous schemes before, as seen in the projects for monster towers in the city centre. When these schemes failed, Kevin Grady was reported as saying that the ‘Council ought to have chosen a more modest scheme by a local developer’, which prompted the Conservative Council Leader to accuse him of being ‘wise after the event’. He may now complain about the ‘crazy boom years’, but there was a time when he saw it as ‘vital that Leeds capitalises on the tremendous development boom’, and approved of the desire to emulate Manchester with ever-higher buildings. Only later did he see high-rise development schemes proposed for the city prior to the crash as ‘a step too far’.
In its press release of June 27, 2013, the trust talks about the ‘wider benefits’ to the city, but stresses in this context redeveloped areas south of the river. Both Kevin Grady and the Council have been seduced by the plan to build there a form of Canary Wharf or Quartier de la Défense, and seem all too willing to sacrifice in its name the interests of the rest of the City.
One of the main arguments used by NGT and its supporters to brush aside opposition is to remind everybody that the trolleybus scheme has been accepted by a Gateway review. The government explains how this works : ‘Gateway uses a “peer review” approach; it is not an audit or inspection and the process is undertaken in partnership with the project’. This sounds rather cosy, and having long experience of peer reviews in academia, I know just how open they can be to cronyism (politely referred to as ‘networking’) and fashion. As has been said: ‘peer review is widely acknowledged as an imperfect system’. There are frequent complaints about a lack of transparency, and calls for referees to be ‘accountable’ for their comments by disclosing their identity: ‘Society, it has been said, is less tolerant today than it used to be of what it sees as power without responsibility’.
Gateway reviews certainly sound opaque and open to influence. Since the government refused in 2007 to let them be covered by the freedom of information act, it is difficult to tell just how independent the referees have been in this instance, but judging from what is said in the Spring issue of the Yorkshire Post‘s Vision magazine (quoted on the NGT site) they do sound too collaborative. They do not question the highly contentious 4,000 job claim (which I discuss below), and how can they call a trolleybus ‘high quality, unique and city defining’ when compared to a tram. It is pitiful! As I have shown above, the trolleybus is not, as they suggest, ‘innovative’ and ‘cutting edge’ One gets the impression that the peer reviewers had not done their homework either.
Local democracy in Leeds is not particularly healthy, with the majority of councillors elected on turnouts of under a third of the electorate, and many – simply chosen by their party machine – not living in or even near the wards they represent. In our particular area, the students decide who gets elected, basing their vote on national issues such as student fees, with hardworking councillors losing their seats regardless how good their record has been. Many permanent residents feel quite disenfranchised, with a resultant widespread sense of cynicism, which is not likely to decrease in the face of the current collective behaviour of those in the city with power and influence.
NGT says it ‘is forecast to create 4,000 new local jobs along the route’, yet in 2004, the National Audit Office said that the Sheffield Supertram – a much more ambitious scheme than what is planned for Leeds – was thought to have created 1,600 jobs, but also said there was ‘no established methodology for identifying the regeneration benefits at the planning stage and they did not know how the jobs estimate had been made’. Having looked at the announcements for many projects in different fields dating from over the last twenty years, again and again I have come across the promise of the creation of ‘4,000 jobs’. This magic number crops up endlessly. In other words, it is a planners’ cliché which is meant to impress, but which most often owes more to lazy and wishful thinking than to fact.
If one applies Ockham’s Razor or lex parsimoniae to test the overall validity of the case put forward by NGT, one sees very quickly that the latter makes too many untested assumptions. If, for instance, the scheme were to achieve its aim of making life easier for commuters coming from outside Leeds, it might create jobs for people living in villages and other towns, but it is difficult to see how it would create ‘new local jobs along the route’ as people living in Leeds itself would clearly gain little from this scheme. Public transport in town is not just for going from one’s home to one’s place of work, but also to facilitate general mobility within an urban area, including short journeys for the less fit. By its very design, the present scheme would clearly damage this.
Finally, it would seem perverse to call on the council-tax payers in Leeds – most of whom do not live anywhere near the route, and in areas where existent buses services are not nearly as good as they are on the A660 corridor – to contribute to one single line of a trolleybus, while the council continually complains of being short of money and is making cuts to essential services everywhere.