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Author Topic: Portishead Line reopening for passengers - ongoing discussion  (Read 292062 times)
Lee
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« Reply #900 on: November 24, 2021, 06:01:23 pm »

Barry Cash's 'Portishead Busway Campaign' have submitted a lengthy response.

- No way will a busway come in that low cost-wise. All precedent suggests likely cost overruns, probably substantial.

- The methodology is flawed because Cash can't resist the notorious business case graveyard of slanting the figures towards his own proposed solution. This is most notable in his significant understating of the likely off-peak rail traffic in general, and rail leisure traffic in particular.

- Real world case study after case study has shown that car drivers view rail, tram and metro/underground as viable modal shift alternatives in a way they simply don't with the bus, but Cash's analysis treats them as equals in that respect without putting forward a credible justification or new evidence to support that view.

Or to put it another way, if you build a railway, they will come, but if you build a busway they won't.
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TonyK
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« Reply #901 on: November 25, 2021, 08:58:47 pm »


Barry Cash's 'Portishead Busway Campaign' have submitted a lengthy response. The dates on the Planning Inspectorate website are a bit hard to follow, but this may be to the DfT» (Department for Transport - about)'s invitation.

I've read it. It shows what can happen when you develop an unnatural obsession with rubber.

I'm sure counter-arguments to Mr Cash's ideas laying mats along the railway can quickly be found, beginning with the micro-particles to be generated from both bus tyres and the mats. If the trains won't be full (they will be) following the pandemic, where will the passengers for his buses come from? Citing the climate emergency in every other paragraph may look clever, but a 4-carriage train is going to cause less damage than a hundred cars, and as Lee points out, experience shows that rail gets people out of cars. In Manchester, there was a slightly paradoxical effect when the Metrolink trams started up, in that the numbers of passengers using buses rose, something no-one predicted. Nottingham's trams were full from Day One, and closer to home, the Severn Beach line shows what happens when a Cinderella service is upgraded to something usable.

So it goes on, as Red Squirrel reminds us. I doubt very much that Mr Cash will seize victory by having sent his case to the inquiry twice, and I hope that someone at DfT goes out of their way to rebut his submission carefully, just in case he takes it to court. Against him, although not pointed out by him, is the inconvenient lack of any official support for his plan at any level. Even if it did only cost £10 million, no council or authority has said they will take him up on the offer, and I can't see he would want to fund it alone.
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stuving
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« Reply #902 on: November 25, 2021, 09:41:04 pm »

So it goes on, as Red Squirrel reminds us. I doubt very much that Mr Cash will seize victory by having sent his case to the inquiry twice, and I hope that someone at DfT» (Department for Transport - about) goes out of their way to rebut his submission carefully, just in case he takes it to court.

What would DfT be doing that for? Their current role (at least, that their Mr Big) is mainly judicial, acting as a kind of planning uber-inspector, so it might even be improper to wade in on one side. 
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TonyK
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« Reply #903 on: November 26, 2021, 04:05:16 pm »

So it goes on, as Red Squirrel reminds us. I doubt very much that Mr Cash will seize victory by having sent his case to the inquiry twice, and I hope that someone at DfT» (Department for Transport - about) goes out of their way to rebut his submission carefully, just in case he takes it to court.

What would DfT be doing that for? Their current role (at least, that their Mr Big) is mainly judicial, acting as a kind of planning uber-inspector, so it might even be improper to wade in on one side. 

I thought that it would come in handy if Mr Cash decided to throw his eponymous hard-earned in the direction of a court. "M'lud, we scrutinised it with an intensive scrute, but it was no good for the job" would seem less likely to result in an adjournment for further investigation. But you might very well be right. The court may say they aren't interested, because the railway option is legal, decent and honest, and all that was asked for. I'm erring on the side of the pessimists here, and assuming that someone will challenge whatever the SoS says, probably with the benefit of legal aid.
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stuving
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« Reply #904 on: November 26, 2021, 04:19:08 pm »

Really, I'm not sure what kind of an arbiter the SoS is meant to be. Planning inspectors are more inquisitorial (i.e. like French magistrates) than judicial, but I'm still not sure if they usually rely on the parties to provide all the forensic ammunition they need. Or can they go off and find supporting (or whatever is its opposite) arguments of their own to justify their decision?

Of course normal governing (do the current lot do that?) does involve saying "we've decided this will happen" and producing some document to be claimed in justification. It's all a question of how restricted the procedure in planning law is, given that getting it wrong opens the door for you-know-what.
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paul7575
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« Reply #905 on: November 26, 2021, 05:33:01 pm »

For those who can remember the Chiltern Evergreen 3 TWA inquiry, the name Paul Withrington comes to mind.  He wasted everyone’s time, (IMHO (in my humble opinion)), pushing his big idea of turning the Chiltern route over to coaches.  Not for the first time, IIRC (if I recall/remember/read correctly) he’d been pushing it for some years.

But from what I can recall, all the arguments against his scheme still had to be made by Chiltern’s team, the inspector didn’t seem to have a quick means of ruling the proposal out?

Paul
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stuving
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« Reply #906 on: November 26, 2021, 05:54:39 pm »

For those who can remember the Chiltern Evergreen 3 TWA inquiry, the name Paul Withrington comes to mind.
Paul
For the record, Paul Withrington died in January 2021 at the age of 80. This is, if not a true obituary, a memorial of him from Richard Wellings of  the IEA (appropriately).
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #907 on: November 26, 2021, 06:40:19 pm »

Meanwhile, Liam Fox secured an adjournment debate today (26/11/2021). You can watch it here, he starts at 14.33.

The upshot is that Fox is very frustrated and doesn't understand why this scheme, which is well-supported, would be likely to be the subject of a JR.

He says that according to Network Rail, the decision must be made by 14th Jan 2022 or else there will be another year's delay because the ecology window will be missed. This will add £13 million to the cost, which, as Fox pointed our, N Som doesn't have.

Andrew Stevenson was a bit limited in what he could say in response as this is still a live planning application, but did offer the crumb that the various parties were working hard to try to get a decision ahead of the April deadline.
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TonyK
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« Reply #908 on: November 26, 2021, 10:19:47 pm »

Unusually for the parliamentary reality TV show, that was very watchable, and I am indebted to my learned friend for bringing it to my attention. It does show some of that 95% of parliamentary business that is not decided on party lines, and I thought the Hon member for North Somerset spoke well and knowledgeably. The important thing is that it is in Hansard, and the minister knows he has to do something about it. How much it helps will become apparent in due course.
 
If this were an episode of Yes, Minister, Bernard and Sir Humphrey would explain that "working hard" means "We're looking for the report", "straining every sinew" equates to "We've found it, and are having a quick shufti at it", and "there is a process the minister must follow" means "We've lost it again".
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TonyK
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« Reply #909 on: November 27, 2021, 10:52:15 am »

Really, I'm not sure what kind of an arbiter the SoS is meant to be. Planning inspectors are more inquisitorial (i.e. like French magistrates) than judicial, but I'm still not sure if they usually rely on the parties to provide all the forensic ammunition they need. Or can they go off and find supporting (or whatever is its opposite) arguments of their own to justify their decision?

As with a lot of government. the Secretary of State makes decisions based on the legislation. I used to make some decisions on his behalf, and a lot of planning decisions are similarly delegated. Planning Inspectors do the investigating, as you say, and can go off to get a feel of things for themselves. The inspector looking into MetroBust spent some time alone touring Bristol and thereabouts using different modes of transport, to put some of the endless reams of figures into a context, but mostly the job entails listening to witnesses offering their two penn'orth, then coming to a recommendation for the SoS to decide on, based on the paperwork, law, and policy. It isn't always a rubber stamp - one example I can think of was Arsenal's new stadium, recommended for rejection but allowed by, I think, John Prescott. The Secretary of State is the arbiter, but doesn't always follow his own rules, or the interpretation of said rules by his inspectors. One consideration with major infrastructure projects will inevitably be the effect on voting intentions, and judicial review is there to make sure the SoS plays by the rules, not becoming judex in sua causa as they used to say.
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eightonedee
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« Reply #910 on: November 27, 2021, 04:25:37 pm »

Quote
Quote from: stuving on Yesterday at 04:19:08 pm
Really, I'm not sure what kind of an arbiter the SoS is meant to be. Planning inspectors are more inquisitorial (i.e. like French magistrates) than judicial, but I'm still not sure if they usually rely on the parties to provide all the forensic ammunition they need. Or can they go off and find supporting (or whatever is its opposite) arguments of their own to justify their decision?

As with a lot of government. the Secretary of State makes decisions based on the legislation. I used to make some decisions on his behalf, and a lot of planning decisions are similarly delegated. Planning Inspectors do the investigating, as you say, and can go off to get a feel of things for themselves. The inspector looking into MetroBust spent some time alone touring Bristol and thereabouts using different modes of transport, to put some of the endless reams of figures into a context, but mostly the job entails listening to witnesses offering their two penn'orth, then coming to a recommendation for the SoS to decide on, based on the paperwork, law, and policy. It isn't always a rubber stamp - one example I can think of was Arsenal's new stadium, recommended for rejection but allowed by, I think, John Prescott. The Secretary of State is the arbiter, but doesn't always follow his own rules, or the interpretation of said rules by his inspectors. One consideration with major infrastructure projects will inevitably be the effect on voting intentions, and judicial review is there to make sure the SoS plays by the rules, not becoming judex in sua causa as they used to say.

Indeed - a decision by the Secretary of State means a hearing process involving an inspector has to be undertaken, the inspector then makes a decision which in most cases is the Secretary of State's decision. Every now and again one is put before the SoS who sometimes does not follow the inspector's finding. That's usually a bold move because if they don't, and make a decision against the inspector's finding they are at much greater risk of a judicial review (because they have taken a decision against the outcome of a report following due process). So Dr Fox is clearly hoping to put pressure on his SoS to follow the inspector's decision if it is in favour or be  bold and not do so if it is against.
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stuving
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« Reply #911 on: November 29, 2021, 05:12:33 pm »

Unusually for the parliamentary reality TV show, that was very watchable, and I am indebted to my learned friend for bringing it to my attention. It does show some of that 95% of parliamentary business that is not decided on party lines, and I thought the Hon member for North Somerset spoke well and knowledgeably. The important thing is that it is Hansard, and the minister knows he has to do something about it. How much it helps will become apparent in due course.
 
If this were an episode of Yes, Minister, Bernard and Sir Humphrey would explain that "working hard" means "We're looking for the report", "straining every sinew" equates to "We've found it, and are having a quick shufti at it", and "there is a process the minister must follow" means "We've lost it again".

Not just in Hansard, but now in the North Somerset Times as well:
Quote
House of Commons gives Liam Fox reason for Portishead Rail delay

North Somerset MP (Member of Parliament), Liam Fox, has stated that 'pantomime season has come early' after the Minister of Transport revealed delays to the Portishead Railway project are due to overgrowth on the line.

Er ... perhaps not quite. For one thing Liam Fox is the House of Commons, in terms of separation of powers. The Government (in the person of the minister) was giving its reason to the Commons.

Then the fuller version of the words makes a bit more sense; it's not just overgrowth:
Quote
Minister of Transport, Andrew Stephenson, told North Somerset's MP that the proposed scheme requires the clearance of overgrowth from the would-be reinstated Portishead Railway line, which was closed in the 1960s as well as care to avoid destroying a number of rare species of plants further along the line.

Mr Stephenson told the House of Commons: "The section to be reinstated has significantly overgrown since the railway stopped running to Portishead in 1964 and would require some clearance work.

"The scheme also involves proposals for clearing vegetation along the existing freight line through the Avon gorge woodlands special area of conservation, which is home to a number of rare species of plants including the Bristol whitebeam."

Dr Fox responded: "I hope it is not pointing out the blindingly obvious that when people look at projects like HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)), which are able to tunnel under the entire area of the Cotswolds, they find it a touch hard to swallow that we have a significant delay because there is some overgrowth on a line that last ran in the 1960s. "I hope the Government will understand that."

The Minister of Transport noted Dr Fox's point, adding that phase one of the HS2 railway line scheme took four years to get through the House and thousands of pages of environmental documents.

He added: "I, like Dr Fox, want to see us moving forward projects at pace, but however we legislate for nationally significant infrastructure projects there is a process we have to follow and it is, unfortunately, quite bureaucratic.

"But I think we also share a view that we must protect the environment and do everything we can to mitigate the impacts of all such schemes.

"I recognise that extending decision deadlines for DCOs (Driver Controlled Operation) has implications for the scheme’s delivery and the Government’s commitment to levelling up. It is therefore only used where it is absolutely required to take further necessary steps to ensure a legally robust decision.

"While a new deadline for a decision on the DCO has been set for 19 April 2022, the Department is working hard to enable a decision to be made ahead of that deadline.

Quite why all this stuff about Whitebeams, none of which is new, still needs a department full of people straining to cross their eyes and dot their teas I've no idea.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #912 on: November 29, 2021, 05:36:16 pm »

Yes; the reference to the Avon Gorge SAC is a bit puzzling. All this would be a lot easier to understand if there wasn't already an operational railway running through it... Is it possible that someone high up at the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) or the Planning Inspectorate doesn't realise that the whole line is already there?
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« Reply #913 on: November 29, 2021, 06:10:19 pm »

I thought we were supposed to be on project speed theses days. No wonder it costs so much to do nothing.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #914 on: November 29, 2021, 06:12:48 pm »

Sadly Project SPEED only applies to new projects. MetroWest is still very much in the grip of GRIP (Guide to Railway Investment Projects).
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