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One set of facts...and one 'Set of Books' needed

on Wed, 04/08/2015 - 09:39

This page from an early project analysis report has a very simple table and two paragraphs below  that look as if they add a little bit of explanation to the figures in the table.

But in truth, these few lines are not quite the whole truth and nothing but the truth,and it provides just one (early) example that  illustrates something that reappears again and again throughout the history of the tram project.

The way in which the smallest details of the project are produced but then always so very carefully presented  with statements that appear straightforward and artless, but are all too often, partial, and thus misleading. 

This doesn't only confuse the facts of the matter for the public, but serves, as here,  to bamboozle even the councillors supposedly providing oversight.

It indicates that even in the analysis stage the fact was, what it tremains, that  many inside the council already had their minds made up that if evidence was going to create problems for the project then it needed to be *presented properly* to make sure no facts would ever get in the way of the *correct* outcome.

The problem was always going to be one of *correct presentation* rather than proper investigation of facts.  A semantic process of definitelynever telling complete untruths, just making sure the truth told doesn't have to the whole truth, and nothing but....  a very familiar mindset in so many cock-ups, conspiracies and scandals in public life over the last few decades.



 " During the ten year period from the Base 2001 to Do Minimum 2011 air quality is predicted to improve in most areas in the absence of the tram as a result of improvements in vehicle and fuel technology."

This is simple and straightforward -- and unspun.



"The Tram will lead to a further increase in the number of households near roads predicted to experience lower NO2 and PM10 concentrations in 2011. More properties will be near roads with improved or unchanged air quality than are near roads with worse air quality."

The tram gets it first mention, and was due, when this report was written to start in 2010, the very last year in the improving decade of the prediction; 2001 to 2011, during which the households getting better air quality (mainly due to improving engine and fuel technology ) were expected to outnumber those households seeing worse air quality by around 100,000, both for NO2 and PM10 pollution, in 2011 when compared to 2001.

This what progress is generally accepted to look like and was expected to be delivered largely by factors other than the tram.


"By 2026 a few more households will be near roads with better or unchanged NO2 concentrations than are near roads with worse, but more households near roads with worse PM10 concentrations than better."  

2026 was 16 years after the expected start of the tram running in 2010, (or what in 2003 they expected to be the year in which the tram would start running. ) That incompetence in managing the project meant it didn't actually start until 2014 doesn't itself invalidate the predictions about the 16 years following the start date...other than extend the end of period from 2026 to 2030.

There seems no reason to include  *unchanged* households in *better* total, any more than including it into a total with *worse*.  But by adding together *unchanged* with *better* it means the statement can be made to read as it does...and include the word *more* near to *better*.

In respect of PM10 pollution even adding in *unchanged* homes; a very small number, the total of homes with worsening air quality is still higher than either *better* or *unchanged and better*..

Unchanged homes should not be included in a comparison where one is trying to identify the effects of the project, other than as a separate category. if this is done then BOTH PM10 and NO2 pollution is made worse by 2026 (2030 now?!) for MORE homes than for the number of homes that will see air quality improved.

The net effect of the tram project as predicted is to worsen air quality in the city--no ifs, no buts.

The sentence could just as easily be written as : By 2026 both NO2 and PM 10 pollution would be worse for roads near a larger number of households than for roads near the households who would see an improvment.

Although that does convey a different impression to the impression actually conveyed by the form of words used.

The actual statistics are of course totally unchanged in either.



"This is thought to be due to added congestion in 2026."

This final sentence again appears fairly straightforward, but is in fact finely crafted.

 It speaks directly to the very current notion that road traffic is simply going to increase and increase whatever is done, and in doing so increase congestion effects amongst which air pollution is one.

Traffic Bad.


The point is that the report itself isn't attempting to predict increases in pollution comparing 2001  without a tram to 2026 without a tram; and saying things are getting worse.

 It is saying that if we build THIS tram then, mainly because of it's on street design requirements---which are not fixed or unchangeable out of necessity,  but are the ones we have been given as the way it will operate in THIS project in THIS city........the tram itself will necessarily create increased congestion across the whole city, the progressive effective will be that by 2026 the figures presented on Worse v Better will be as in the prediction.


However by inserting this last sentence the effect was to muddle the thinking of councillors and leave them with the comfortable and convenient untruth that the core of the pollution problem would be *congestion* from traffic.

The real cause shown by the predictions is that the tram would, when operating, be so disruptive that any *good effect* would be outweighed by *bad effects*.

So much so that over 130,000 homes would have worse pollution with the tram built..than they would have had were it NOT built.

The traffic creates the congestion which creates the pollution, but it is not the cause of the fact that in 2026 pollution will be worse with the tram built than it would be if other public transport projects were considered, or indeed the tram built differently, with different aims, and other parameters changed.

The gun isn't the only cause of the murder, and the person pulling the trigger isn't the only cause if he or she is tricked, or paid to pull the trigger.

IT is the same with the Tram project in our city, in the specific ways in which it's design combines to create these very real pollution increases.

The concept of a primary cause which lies behind the apparent cause, is not a difficult one in most forms of ordinary life, but in respect of the tram it seems impossible for councillors to grasp... mainly because it is an inconvenient truth that their expert executives never point out to them in bullet points in reports--but leave buried within statistics deep in reports where, one assumes, councillors simply never go.


The claims that this is a *Green* project...another trigger word that serves to seal off any criticism are in fact wrong and have never been supported by the predictions.

To say this is to criticise this tram in this city, built to these specifications in the specific urban setting---it is not to try and criticise all tram projects, or trams in general for causing traffic congestion.

IN specific small instances ALL trams and other public transport projects *cause congestion*, that is unexceptionable.


But only our tram causes MORE *congestion*, and so pollution, than it alleviates--leaving a *net deficit* in the balance of Good v Bad outcomes.

There is not another magic statistical resource which converts this bad *deficit*  into an *obvious* net advantage, however much people who support trams in general or the abstract might want there to be one.

Our tram creates more pollution than it prevents AND spreads it across over 60% of the city in streets where people live, from streets in which they primarily shop.  Meaning it takes the pollution to their doorsteps where in the main we spend more time...and the people who spend the most time in these residential streets are the most vulnerable.  The old, babies, infants and their families.

This tram will ensure more people exposed to More pollution - especially the more vulnerable. In a process that will take 16 years to work through.


That wasn't written as a line in the report but on the facts--it could have been, and possibly should have been.


All trams are not bad.  

Many trams are good.

We cannot *unbuild* this tram.

So what's the point of bringing all this up?

The point is that the Council, executive and chamber, still don't accept or understand what exactly the problem is is.  

This is obvious because they never say any of this stuff.

And most people in the city who look at it for the first time find it very difficult to take in, partly because they have never heard from the council.  

Instead  we've all had a trumpet blast of convenient (but irrelevent) truths, mixed with untruths that have been just wishful thinking from the Council media professionals and cosultants -- alongside the gentle suppression from debates of all the inconvenient, (but very relevant,) truths that have been seen as *unhelpful*.  Which in turn has meant so much *consultation* by the council has in fact been a process of managing public opinion toward a pre-decided end, rather than listening to it and reflecting upon it, 

Nobody at the council has ever, in five years, addressed and then demolished the argument made above.

Over the years many in the council simply express incredulity, and then fall back on their own *experts opinions* as if looking at the facts themselves is all too much to expect.

Others, who do know what it all means, stay silent, or even work hard to maintain the haze of smoke and glare of mirrors that surround the facts of the project for whatever reasons they have for doing so..

The real point is we should at least stop making the nauseatingly misleading claim that it is a *Green project*; still made today by the Council in defiance of the facts, so that a proper debate can be reclaimed from the bureaucrats, special interest lobbyists, spin professionals and all those with a horse in the race, and take place amongst ordinary people about what we can do:

a) to in any way address the possible adverse health effects of to date ignoring this increase in, and displacement of, pollution underway.

b) to get a properly functioning transport policy that isn't simply one of sleep walking on down the same path and  compounding all the already made mistakes, and making things far worse through new ones.

c) ensure the council present facts, AND full explanations of the implications of those facts, as they understand them to be. Not keep *two sets of project books* for professionals and insiders in the know, and the other for public consuption.