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Does it matter our tram raises pollution levels in Edinburgh--??

on Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:49

We've made the point repeatedly that the Edinburgh Tram raises levels of pollutants in our city...  it cleans up the showpiece central streets, takes the pollution from there, increases it, and dumps in residential streets.

We don't think many people believe us, mainly because it just seems too difficult to believe....  Trams?  CREATE pollution??  Everybody knows that's wrong---don't even have to think about it!

The facts show the council knew this in 2003... this table and comments are from the main, widely circulated report into the project's feasibility called STAG 2003 (Scottish Transport Advisory Group 2003) commissioned from global project management consultants Mott MacDonald.

These are not facts our group of residents dreamt up, faked up or pulled out of context from some obscure corner of the internet.

They're the facts that the Edinburgh council, the Scottish Government and every expert involved in the project knew from the beginning.

The tram wasn't a *Green Project* --- even though that's the lazy label the Council have stuck on it at every opportunity (because these days *Green* sells) ---- unless *Green* means a pollution creating machine.

Maybe the pollutants Edinburgh people had to put up with were a small price to pay for it's fantastic carbon emissions reductions effects?   Nope, the report says *at best* it is Carbon emmissions neutral..more likely to be negative on global warming than positive  (That's what *at best* means for anyone in the council struggling with the idea.)



Ignoring facts has a long and venerable tradition it was very big in the Middle Ages and is a welcome feature of most totalitarian states in History---but it's not meant to be something Local Authorities consider a virtue in the 21st Century.


So does it matter ?

We think it mattered at key moments in the tram project's history in 2003, 2008, 2010,2011.

Because creating pollution knowingly is a bad thing AND because any public authority which is prepared to trumpet something as being Green when they know it is not is at best dysfunctional, and at worse...well something worse than merely dysfunctional.

We think it matters in 2015 (and will in 2020, 2030 and beyond) because our council wants to have *more tram* because this will make *tram come right*.


To's some of the strawman arguments the council media managers often feed to the local press by way of avoiding dealing with the main issue: That they did know the building of the tram would raise pollution levels across the city BUT not only went ahead, but went ahead AND called it a Green project throughout.  They covered up and then lied.

  1.  We are not Nimbys concerned about only our streets..the worse effects cover well over 60% of ALL homes and streets in the city -- our two or three streets are not 1% of all streets in the city.  But, yes we ARE concerned about our streets and home (and health) it would be a bit odd not to be.
  2. Traffic does not have to *just get worse all the time and anyway at least the tram helps a bit* --  Traffic congestion which produces the raised pollution levels IS getting worse..but the amount of traffic has not been rising as quickly (The recession produced large falls in the number of *vehicle miles* in the city).  Fewer vehicle miles producing higher pollution is exactly what is created by the tram project annexing road space leading to traffic taking less suitable (more residential) routes around and across the city.
  3. Traffic is the problem not the tram -  Traffic IS the problem, but creating a tram that costs hundreds of millions more than the City can afford (we are now noticing the real world Council cash crisis) , that raises harmful air pollution levels across vast swathes of the city in streets where people live, that has more likely a negative effect on carbon emissions than positive AND makes traffic worse isn't a solution to the traffic's a bigger problem.
  4. WE are  pro-car and anti public transport -- Edinburgh has a very good bus system, the airport bus service in particular is excellent, pretty soon it may well see changes in order to drive more traffic onto the tram, to deperately try and bolster it's *role*. We are pro good planning, not bad; and good project management, not bad.
  5. WE are  against trams -- Good projects, whether trams, roads, cycling infrastructure, creating walking routes segregated from traffic and cyclists are all good things.... Bad projects waste money not invest it, they make things worse, not better ...bad projects are bad things.  Trams per se are not bad things, usually they are good things... our specific Tram plan was a bad one. We are against this project not Trams in general.
  6. The tram is beating it's targets ---  The Council lowered the bar on targets it is now effectively in a groove cut into the financial cellar floor.  So it couldn't miss it's targets. But  It will STILL lose money on its running costs.  THIS loss adds to the even bigger burden of paying back the debt loaded onto the council every year for almost three more decades; this burden only paid for the little bit of tram line we actually have.  Other things in the city are suffering right now because THIS combined operating loss and debt burden exists. AND It will raise pollution in large areas of the city...building more will help create even more pollution, noise, disturbance, congestion......
  7. Traffic is the problem not the tram (part 2) --  Part 2 simply ignores all negative effects from the Tram completely and instead simply points at the issue of Traffic and shouts *blame*.    When the Titanic hit the iceberg, it was the fact it hit the iceberg that caused it to sink but History does not allow the designers of the ship whose faulty design was also a factor to just evade their responsiblity by pointing to the iceberg, or the Captain and the management to evade their's in steaming at such a high speed when they ran into the iceberg.  It is very often a sign of a cover up, when legitimate questions are met not with considered answers but with a shout that what really matters is something else entirely, the people really to blame are somebody else...or best of all nobody is to blame..



Facts are not unimportant.  

The facts in this case are all the neighbourhoods in the city are not seeing traffic worsen only because of the Tram.

 But they are seeing it getting worse that it would be had the tram not been built.  

The things getting worse are pollution, noise, disturbance, congestion.

In residential areas.


It is a project without one single positive outcome to which the council can point.

And they are unable to answer the legitimate questions about why the project has been labelled Green when it's own reports show it is not.


Try it for yourself...ask YOUR councillor what they think of this short blog, and more importantly what they think of the STAG2003 warnings in the table linked to above, which, to be fair to Mott MacDonald's research team, are working out as predicted.

Then ask yourself if their response is convincing.

On past evidence it is more likely to involve obfuscation, bluster or denial than clarity, directness and admission.


And that's why the fact that the tram (when built, as planned) was predicted to raise pollution levels and is doing so, is important.

Not only because pollution causes illnesses (imporrtant as that obviously is)  but because our councillors, in their political parties in the City Chamber are unable to even admit these things, in some cases to understand them, and so remain unable to debate them properly and openly.

The tram continues to be driven forward to a broken agenda by an administration with an elected chamber that, in this area, has ceased to function as the critical friend of that adminstration, but has become instead it's ally in obfuscation, bluster and denial.

Nothing should be above open and fair criticism, not even *The Tram*.  

Even accepting that at this moment, with a Public Enquiry into (largely) it's finances, contracts and management, the council may worry further development of their pet project may come under threat if they open a new can of worms on the hitherto unadmitted  pollution aspects of their 'Green' Transport project

JM Keynes is popularly supposed to have said : " When the facts change, I change my mind; what pray do you do, Sir?" (although that he did say this is questioned)

What isn't open to doubt is he never, ever, said: "When the facts are unfavourable to my aims, I cover them up; pray what do you do, Sir?"


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