Skip directly to content

Recent releases

The only way is up

Body: 

The last few days have seen another avalanche of good news about the tram on it's first anniversary.

From all sides, executives and elected councillors, the song has been the same..focussing on passengers numbers up on expectations, passenger satisfaction and the tram being exceeding exceed revenue targets by 3%.

The missing link is the usual absence of any context for the figures. The Council officers and their media communications experts send out the releases and the councillors wave them through without comment.

But if anyone who may read this happens to bump into a councillor below are three questions you may wish to ask--- and if you get any answers please pass them on.

But before the questions just a little context.

  •  BEFORE  the vote to push the tram to York Place was taken, councillors were told in their briefing reports from their council officers,one major one being that the tram would *make* £2.5M a year -  but only by pushing on to York Place.

 

  • AFTER the vote, almost immediately afterwards, this figure was changed--to an operating loss each year.  

 

  • Operating loss is an interesting concept, it has never been precisely defined by the council -  today we are told that means the difference between money taken in and the cost of it's day-to-day operations.

 

(Apparently we needn't bother about, or include, the cost of repairs and maintenance, depreciation, and that inconvenient £18M+ a year bill (for over 25 years)  to pay back the loan we were told wouldn't be needed, but was needed.

Presumably the money that is being paid out on these things every year (for over 25 years) isn't proper money like the money passengers pay for the tickets-- Revenue is real money our council like talking about, but costs are pretend money they don't like talking about.

 

But if in the real world a loss is money that inconveniently (in that inconveniently real world) you don't have anymore to spend on other things.

the operating loss added to the  interest and capital repayments needed on the loan taken out to finish it, means the City is having to find the thick end of £20M every year that it did not plan for and you may have noticed the crisis calls late last year because the council *discovered* they have an emergency shortfall  over the next 3 years of around ....£60M.

  • How much was that? Over three years? A £60 MIllion shortfall...isn't that .... er .....£20 Million or so a year? The amount in the real world that the tram is costing us every year?

.Massaging the figures, burying the bad news, ignoring the inconvenient truths is what struggling PLCs do to their annual figures when they're trying to pull the wool over the shareholders' eyes  --  And it seems what struggling councils do when they're trying to pull the wool over their voters' eyes

 

The three questions for your councillor should you see her or him in the near future:

  1. Are the passenger figures 8% higher than the target  because the system is a great success- or was the target set so low it was impossible to miss ? 
  2. If revenue is expected to be 3% higher than the target ... does this mean the tram is making money?
  3. Are the associated extra costs created by congestion increases outside the small core city centre area (health costs, and other costs) going to be included in the project's balance sheet anytime soon?

Let us know what they say!

Clean air became an election issue today

Body: 

Clean air became an election issue today... everywhere except Edinburgh Council. 

In 2003 our Council miscalculated that air pollution wasn't important enough to pay attention to, when they ignored the fact that (weird but true)  their tram vanity plan would make pollution in the city worse..... not better..

They ignored it most probably because they felt an already controversial project with a high ticket price would become impossible to schmooze past the public if the real costs of dealing with the increase became known.(If that was not the reason then it's hard to imagine what it could have been.)

All the main parties, SNP, Lan, Lib, Con and perhaps most of all Greens (as this IS meant to be their specalist subject) are compromised one way or another by the project. so all continue more or less to pretend it ain't so.

What was needed for the present looming disaster was a lot of hubris, a ton of ineptitude and a malfunctioning democratic system that has become unfit for purpose (One broken down council where the mindset of coalition means never having to say YOU were to blame.)  

We have those three things (in abundance) and so the necessary conditions became sufficent to drop our city into the hole it finds itself today --- and when in a hole our Administration and councillors know exactly what to do:

Keep digging.

Which is why, when the project's interest charge is around £8M every year..the payback of the loan itself another £9M and the operating loss another few £M on top....  making around £20M a year in total, our council spend their PR money on preparing us all for the decision to build more.

This despite the fact that the more they build the worse the pollution outcomes will be.

This despite the fact that this they know already.

Their arguments to keep people in the dark interestingly depend not on taking our group on openly but instead boild down to: "Because trams are widely accepted as *green* ,and because trams work in vast numbers of cities around the world then obviously, as we have built a tram and Edinburgh IS a city, they will work in Edinburgh and be *green.*"

 

Because trams in general are obviously *Green* it doesn't mean all Tram *projects* inevitably are, a tram is just an artifact that sits at the centre of a project that itself creates a cascade of changes across the cities in which they are built.

They are widely accepted as green projects and fit well into most cities where they are built, but it is not inevitable the project will be beneficial in all it's effects simply because we call the thing a tram and ignore all the specific and local conditions of the city into which they are casually dropped.

OUR problem isn't that trams are flawed and don't work elsewhere, because they do.

It is in OUR city, in OUR conditions, using the plan OUR council pushed on with, where the smaller *good* effects on life quality, air pollution, noise pollution and the rest are simply massively outweighed by the bad effects.  It should be the other way round.

 

But it isn't.

 

 

In most other cities it IS the other way round-- just not in ours.

That is the major point of failure in our tram project which makes it not a life enhancing pollution reducer but a health damaging and life threatening pollution creator.

 

One argument, most often used, against our group is that *It's the traffic that causes the pollution NOT the tram* .. which of course is true as far as it goes and which is why it so impresses the credulous minds inside the Council administration and Chamber.

However in a court of law they don't ask for just the truth...the requirement is for the WHOLE truth and NOTHING BUT the truth.

 

The truth of our situation, the whole truth; is the tram took away the main cross city traffic routes and NOTHING has been done to mitigate the effects of that beacuse to do something would be costly or even to do something effective is simply impossible.

These effects are so large in our city with it's narrow roads, historic areas where no new road building is possible, and a general idea widely accepted that no new roads are worth building as they simply encourage more traffic and more congestion that the traffic displaced simply rat runs off on wider and wider diversions to avoid a central area more and more often reduced to crawl or even gridlock.

The very centre of the city where people mainly visit to shop, eat and be entertained slowly becomes the quietest area of the city traffic wise, while the problems spread out to the large areas where people actually live, more traffic heading down more streets that are less and less able to cope.

This was predicted in 2003 in the main report and it is happening..

 

The council are very content to encourage different areas of the city to see their own increased traffic problems as either *just one of those things*--that shows how necessary the tram is!!  "Think how bad it would be if there were NO tram?!!"

Or that their own community's problems are the result of some other area getting *their way* t in reducing their traffic in their streets that now has no option but to go elsewhere.... down your streets: Thank goodness we have a tram, eh?!!  "Think how bad it would be if there were no tram!!"

 

The fact is the predictions told them in 2003 that traffic would increase BECAUSE of the tram removing the old main, wide, straight through-routes from traffic use...and without any building, would leave the traffic to spread, like water from a burst pipe, often miles from the old course, as it struggled to find new routes.

So they simply are not surprised to see traffic levels growing in many residential areas that were until recently far quieter.

 Why would it be a surprise?

They were told it would happen and it is...what is there to be surprised about?

 

But it isn't a problem that would have happened *anyway*

It's significant that the early claims of how great the tram would be are no longer heard and we don't hear, even from the council, "Isn't it great how much better the traffic is now the tram is up and running?"  Instead we hear any counter argument brought back to that  *Think how bad it would if there were NO tram?!!*.

 

A desperate attempt to pretend that we have a problem that would have existed anyway and which the tram serves to releive to avoid admitting the reality that we have a problem that would have existed anyway and which the tram serves to make worse---as we knew it would.

The reality is that the tram, our tram project; the inevitable and known effects it would create, mean *The tram* isn't the solution...it's the problem.

 

 

It could have been tunnelled...that would be the same tram in a different project and that tram project would NOT necessarily create the effects we are seeing in huge areas, and no doubt would have been predicted not so to do, and to be very much more expensive than the price originally placed by the Council on their pet project.

 

Tyneside tunnelled their very similar metro system in the city centre, mainly because like Edinburgh they have realtively narrow, winding streets, unlike the broad boulevards in a Reims or Budapest, (Both of have successful tram systems among many citys) or the flexibility offered by modern *grid-system* cities to accomodate trams AND traffic, which Manchester, to an extent provides.

But tunnelling would have made the project very expensive (no joke intended) and so wasn't really an option.

Admitting the pollution effects openly would also have increased the ticket price of course, while ignoring them and covering them up (all the initial pre-preoject publicity was about its bogus green credentials) meant a lower initial bill would inevitably face a higher ongoing one down the years, but only after it was all built and so when it would to be to late to do anything about.

 

So on the one hand tunnelling (or using different routes, smaller tramsets and so on) was discarded...and the terrible effects on traffic and so pollution, both air and noise, being spread to the former quiet outer areas of the city, was ignored.

 

The tram isn't reducing traffic in the city and it isn't even limiting the rise of traffic in the city....it isn't able to carry enough people to do that, and while traffic isn't *good* it is unfortunately necessary as things stand now and for a many years ahead in order that a modern city can function at all.

To encourage people to walk and cycle, to look at workable and sensible projects to limit traffic and it's effects, and ESPECIALLY limit them in residential areas where people have no option or choice but to be exposed to higher levels  for longer...because that's where their homes are and the greatest part of their lives are spent; are all good policy aims and unarguable by anyone other than a lunatic.

But to pursue these aims it is not necessary to build something that makes the problems they address WORSE, not better, before then doing something about them... and waste Billions on doing so, to the point where the city's finances are unravelled by the weight of the costs....  even if by calling it a *Tram* we can all keep pretending it ain't so.

 

One possibility is the Council gambled in the early part of this century that perhaps this traffic pollution issue just wouldn't turn out so bad.  They wanted a tram to set a mark on a *modern, cosmopolitan, European city* and  a bit of traffic displacement probably wouldn't be too high an extra price to pay---especially if the public could be distracted and doubters questions drowned in the general noise of the applause and PR orchestrated shouts of approval.

 

They knew it was a problem but the calculated it wouldn't be a big one, and it would get lost in the bustle of an expanding Edinburgh.

But, and this is where we started in this piece.... "Clean air became an election issue today"       the problem has become a big one, and it is becoming bigger all the time and that makes it something that even all the Edinburgh Council media management and PR spinning can't keep covered up for much longer.

For most other councils and authorities, and governments in Britain and Europe the mushrooming issue of air quality is a problem they want to at least try and improve...here in Edinburgh our council know that things can only get worse...because their stealth policy makes that inevitable

In every mini-series murder mystery the villain is often the least likely suspect because he or she is *above suspicion*, even when facts of their guilt emerge they can be easily misdirected to point at innocent people to keep the plot rolling along, because nobody can believe the person above suspicion, could actually be the one to premeditate the murder.

Our tram isn't the villain in our Edinburgh mystery, it's just the implement used, but it is a factor whose presence serves to misdirect attention away from the guilty party  .

Th guilty party in our mystery is the council that knew the facts but decided way back that their project was too important to them  to let the rest of us in on them, .because that would risk making it too pricey for us to let them build it. 

They didn't want the facts to get in the way of their good story so they quietly ignored them hoping they'd go away- and they're ignoring them still.

Unfortunately as every new scientific report from anywhere in the world shows, and now even the reports from reluctant governments show, these facts haven't turned out to be samll side issues, they're big and getting bigger, and they aren't going away, and sooner or later Edinburgh Council are going to have to stop spinning PR fantasy and face up to the real world facts they have ignored for too long. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facts do matter -- Quick quiz, answers provided

Body: 

Q1: What connects the United States of America's Environmental Protection agency in Washington DC and the United Nation's Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee based in Geneva?

Q2:  What are PM2.5s? [Answer Hint: click here to see the USA's epa one page summary on what PM2.5s are and how dangerous they are :) ]

Q3 Read this table measuring PM10s in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow and spot the glaring anomaly. (click here to see table for PM10s)

Q4: Our credibility gap video on this website Home Page (click to see)  .. do the council still deny that it is true, that we were right and they were wrong?

Q5: Have they ever written to thank us, or even acknowledged we were right and they were wrong?

 

A1: The connection is two Edinburgh residents who were worried about air quality in the city and the fact the Council continues to refuse to acknowledge the fact that they expect levels of all three main air quality clsses of pollutant (Nitrogen Dioxide, NO2; Particulate Matter 10, and Particulate Matter 2.5s ) to worsen- as a result of building the tram.

(Strange but true...an inconvenient truth too inconvenient for Edinburgh Council to acknowledge, but true nevertheless).

The residents couldn't get any sense from the bureaucrats, administrators, and councillors in Edinburgh and Scotland, so took the same case to Geneva.

Got a hearing and Edinburgh were told to realease data as soon as they had it.

 

A2: They're things the USA has been measuring since at least 1998- they are things Edinburgh does not measure.

 

A3:  The *glaring* anomaly is in Edinburgh's measurements.  After pootling down and then going up a little bit there's a gap..the device measuring the levels is moved..and hey presto!! They're miles lower.  Zis only happens in Edinburgh.  The footnote they give explains the device was moved from measuring the pollutants in Princes Street to Edinburgh's St Leoneards area tomeasure *background* levels.....er..okay...could we have the old style *foreground levels* as well then?!

Supplementary answer: The device SHOULD have been moved, that isn't a problem; because in 2003 the Council and Scottish Government knew pollutant levels WOULD fall on Princes Street to unrealistically low levels (because all the traffic is slowly being moved to facilitate the tram being able to maintain it's designed speed and timetable). However they also knew pollution would rise on many other streets so why not move it to one of those? 

As it stands it looks as though Edinburgh is doing a cracking job on it's pollution control in respect of PM10s --so not all bad!

 

A4: No because they now DO measure pollution in many other streets around the city, now taking account of the blindingly obvious in the way WE said it logically should be measured and the way THEY fought for years to pretend they couldn't understand.

 

A5: No they have never, ever said to us we were right, far less thank us for pointing it out to them; nor have they ever said to the journalists who they originally told that we had it wrong..that in fact:We had it right and the Council had it wrong. 

 

Double points for including in Answer 2  that Edinburgh does not even measure the most dangerous Particulate Matter 2.5 levels, considered as such by the US's EPA nearly 20 years ago.

 

 

SCORES.

0 out of 6 most people in the city because the council cover this stuff up

6 out of 6 all of the senior administrators, councillors, and members of the political parties in the city who continue to pretend that the costs of the effects of unnecessarily higher pollution levels in the city, of pollutants known to have very significant impacts on health and even mortality, will just go away if nobody ever says anything about them.

And above all is never mentioned to the people who live in the city--because it would only alarm us, and then we might want something done about it...which wouldn't help anybody now, would it?

Don't build schools ON busy roads ever again say experts.. but Edinburgh Council sends the busy road TO our schools

Body: 

One tram fact and two pollution facts:

The first of these is counter factual, and the 2nd two take some swallowing at first sight--but that does not make them wrong, and all three are true.

This map...created from Edinburgh Council's own data released on tram effects in 2008 shows this stealth displacment-- of both traffic, and it's pollution (noise, disturbance and danger as well) and it sits uneasily alongside the Environmental Audit Committee suggestions in particular. Highlighting as it does just how many schools, formerly on quiet, lightly trafficed roads are seeing traffic, displaced from old main roads, dumped into their streets.

Two major roads see massive decreases in traffic..Leith Walk and Princes Street ----the council will never cease highlighting this.

But as the map ( and the first fact above) shows things are not so nice for the 60% of households seeing pollution increases in their street, or the pupils and teachers in the schools seeing pollution dumped at their gates---and the council have never , ever mentioned this in the mountain of self-congratulatory pamphlets, speeches and media releases on the Tram project.

These dots are all connected, the tram project did not have to be designed the way it was, things didn't have to be the like this--but they are unlikely to change while we have a council, administrators and elected representatives alike unwilling to even admit the facts let alone face them.

 

To connect to a longer version of this blog, with more supporting argument if wanted..click here

What Edinburgh can learn from Somerset, Staffordshire, Rochdale ---- and Abraham Lincoln

Body: 

In Somerset, Lord (Chris) Smith is  learning a lesson that box ticking bureaucrats learned in Mid Staffs and former prime Minister Gordon Brown learned in Rochdale after talking to 'some bigoted woman'..... as Abraham Lincoln said: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time--but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

He didn't add, but could have, that the longer you try and fool all of the people all the time, usually the worse the smash up when the fooling has to stop.

What connects these three examples from the recent past, and our mounting problems in Edinburgh with health threatening traffic mismanagement, is the common thread of people, all supposedly serving the public, who came to see the public as the problem in, not the point of, their own jobs and careers.

Gordon Brown treating a reasonable woman making reasonable points about the real world in a moderate way, as a bigot to be placated and ignored:  Lord Smith heading an agency seemingly more concerned with some private vision of encouraging nature, or biodiversity as we now call it, and trumpeting in media release, about how well they were doing, rather than doing the basics such as dredging rivers and water courses---which amazingly now after earlier attempts at denial, we find them saying WOULD have helped in some way to get more water away---who would have thought that? 

Mid Staffs NHS Trust where box ticking bureaucrats were for years issuing self congratulatory Press releases about how well they were doing, not only while people were dying of thirst and starvation in their hospitals, but also working strenuously to discredit the people trying to bring these unbelievable failings to their attention.

In Edinburgh the same theme is apparent of administrators and politicans getting themseves hopelessly lost in a hermetically sealed world of their own. A world sealed off from reality where obvious facts are treated as debatable, and members of the public seen as troublesome agitators getting in the way of their own 'big vision' projects.

Elsewhere on this site we have many dozens of documents detailing the willed bureaucratic blindness within Edinburgh Council to some basic and obvious flaws in their linked tram and general transport policies---as well as other areas of planning, such as the current controversial Caltongate project .

If all this website was about was that a council that had wasted a billion pounds plus on completing half a tram 'system', it would be hardly worth continuing.

But the way the council stayed blind to failings within the project,within their own council owned 'private' arms length company Tie, and associated weaknesses within their own administration and structure, became summed up by the mantra  'on time and within budget' repeated blandly in response to any criticism, almost until the very hour it collapsed in ruins.

And they remain in the same state of denial, but now instead of it being just about the money being wasted it is about the far more serious issues around the various effects of traffic, it's congestion, noise and pollution--on people's health

  • The council and everybody in the world know that traffic created pollution and noise is a clear, significant and unarguable public health threat.
  • They know the way they designed the tram project, to save money, would increase pollution in the city.
  • They know this because they knew the routes they chose to send the tram down made it inevitable displaced traffic would seep like flooding water across the city, spreading so widely that two thirds of the streets where people live across the city would see traffic get worse BECAUSE of the tram , NOT better.
  • They know they had and continue to have, no realistic plan, and really no possibility of a plan, to alleviate this.
  • They even know that the INCREASES in traffic congestion in formerly quiet or quieter residential streets, would EXCEED the decrease they can forecast from any congestion scheme that could be created, short of decimating employment and commercial prospects for the city centre.

In Edinburgh, we'll predict that the next trick of our administration is going to be to present the tram as causing a few teething troubles with traffic.

In a year or so these will suddenly becomesomething a bit more than teething troubles.

They will then be discovered to be troubles needing radical action, but something to be blamed on the traffic itself, not their own decades long botched handling of it.

Sadly, we are then likely to discover the city's immediate ability to do anything is likely to be constrained by these enormous issues requiring the usual careful investigation, no doubt, and (don't laugh), involving lengthy 'consultation' and 'engagement with communities'.

But of course financial constraints will also regretably come into play --- a major one no doubt being the £25M a year financing costs for the next 30 years that the council have to repay for the 'Payday style' loan needed to finish off the half track line in the first place.

But above all they will blame 'the traffic', not their own decade long mishandling of it, as if traffic is an act of God beyond their ken or control in any way.

Just as the Environment Agency bunglers have now donned their wellies to splash around in the inland sea in order to try to blame the water--not their own decade long failure to dredge the watercources by which the water escaped to the sea for centuries.

And just like the Environmental Agency are presently finding out, however much you try and ignore them, sooner or later the facts will out --- and then you find you can no longer fool any of the people for any of the time.

 

What does the proposed M1 Motorway speed limit tell us about Edinburgh?

Body: 

The BBC and other media have been telling us that the government is proposing to set up a 60mph speed limit for a 32-mile stretch of the M1, in a bid to cut pollution.

This is because reducing the speed from 70mph to 60mph is expected to reduce the adverse effects of the traffic in respect of air quality.

In Edinburgh, in the Council chamber and the office at Waverley Court they don't read these stories, or ones like this other one on NHS Choices referring to a story in the Guardian.

They can't read them because otherwise what possible defence would they have for their consistent policiy over the last decade in respect of the Tram project.

The council knew as long ago as 2003 that as designed the Tram project would serve to INCREASE traffic pollution on the doorstep of 65% of the homes in the city.

Why this issue wasn't taken up, investigated, examined and publicised will have to remain a matter for speculation until we finally get the inexplicably delayed public inquiry we have been promised by the First Minister Alex Salmond, and virtually everyone else in authority.

It may have been that the Council felt gambling with the health of over half the city was justified because the prize would be their own arms length company TIE Ltd  having the chance to bid to manage civil contracts worldwide, on the back of their glittering triumph in delivering the Tram project.

And after all: You can't make an omlette without breaking eggs.

But in the absence of a properly led Public Inquiry, who knows why a council would see a figure telling them 65% of all homes in the city would experience worse air pollution by building the tram system...and yet not just go ahead with the scheme, and  without ever mentioning this fact in any message to the public, but go ahead proclaiming, as if without a doubt in the world, the scheme's basically non-existent Green credentials.

People inside the council who privately blame 'the traffic' for this and not the tram (although publically there has been no admittance of the issue existing whatsoever) have been heard by us, to crow that 'you'll back the congestion scheme now, then!'

Maybe to people who have ignored the problem for ten years in a state of total denial, and indeed even potentially of cover up, it isn't a problem. But rather an opportunity, to try again with a policy decisively rejected in the early years of this century and dust down the congestion scheme again---after all the motto of the Council 'Nisi Dominus Frustra'  meaning (perhaps ironically really) anything attempted without the Lord's help will be attempted in vain; seems to have become Si quam primum vos operor non successio in questus vestri via - Tendo Tendo Tendo iterum. 'If at first you don't succeed in getting your way-try, try, try again'

Politically taking that course  may make sense to some within the council, setting up another straw bogey man to cover their tracks(!)---it's just a shame that scientifically it would be more arrogant nonsense tipped on the enormous spoil of heap of arrogant nonsense created by the project and built up over a decade.  The scale of the problem now underway and created by the Council far exceeds any expected benefit of reducing traffic they projected originally in their own failed congestion charging scheme.

To 'right the wrong' and re-set the pollution, noise and general degreding effects on the lived experience created by displaced traffic left to rat run its way around now the main central routes are either closed or congested to the point of impassibility at certain times; the council would need a congestion charging scheme of such draconian efficiency the impacts on businesses and shops would be beyond contemplating.

And they know this of course, they just don't talk it about it.

The central point of failure, one never yet mentioned in the council's own press releases, currently on hyperdrive in an effort to convince the world that all is for the best in our permanently best of all possible worlds ahead of launch day, is that it is impossible to find anywhere else in the developed world a council or government that has created a project that reverses the century or more of transport planning devoted to separating traffic FROM domestic streets, homes and the people and families who live in them.

In Edinburgh the main historic cross city routes have in effect  been closed, or enormously reduced,  by the requirements of the project  with no tangible plan to deal with the displaced traffic flows other than to have them find their own new ways across the city as best they can--which is where the 65% figure of households WORSE off in terms of air pollution came in in 2003.

The gamble back then may have been that it was a problem that could be ignored, but that assumption has been holed beneath the water line after crashing into the iceberg of the last decade worth of scientific research which, as with the emergence of the dangers of smoking, passive smoking and lead in petrol, is showing the problem to be one that is worse with each successive report, whether the reports originate in this country, Europe, China or the USA.

As the NHS Choices story linked to above shows, this is not an issue that is going to suddenly go away.

Our Council, long since disabused of their dreams for Project Management Revenue streams with the shambolic collapse into liquidation of Tie Ltd, remain paralysed to this day, in denial in the face of this issue, created by their own hubris, inepitude and arrogance a decade ago, that threatens effects, and costs, to come that could make even the £1Billion Plus spent on the single 'half' of a line finally completed look almost nothing by comparison.

The final cop out of an administration banrupt of ideas has been to point to the many other cities with trams all happily established and running--but in those cities, take Reims, who started the same year as Edinburgh and finished over a year ago-- nobody else decided to build in a way that reversed a century of accepted transport planning.  They didn't block off their main routes before they had planned, consulted and built the solutions to displaced traffic.

Nobody else did it like Edinburgh and that's why nobody  else is in the same mess.

 

 

 

 

 

The Large Hadron Collider v the Edinburgh Tram project

Body: 

There was an article on the Daily record online very recently by Scott Douglas,  that touched on the role of the Large Hadron Collider in confirming the existence of the 'God Particle', the Higgs Boson, that gained Edinburgh's Professor Higgs a well merited Nobel Prize.

It's an interesting read, and after name checking Professor Higgs Mr Douglas went on to  compare the cost of the Large Hadron Collider  to the Edinburgh Tram project..

  • LHC - 17 miles of tunnel reaching 570 feet underground, having been described as 'one of the great engineering milestones of mankind" cost £2.6 Billion pounds.
  •  Edinburgh Tram project - Only just over half as long, around 8.7 miles, reaching 0 feet underground , and acknowledged as ' one of the great engineering millstones of mankind' cost £1.1 Billion

(And counting; if recent cracks discovered in the concrete after a test run turn out as badly as the faults on the Stirling-Alloa-KIncardine rail line......(see below for the connection between that engineering rail millstone and this tram one)**

In Scott's article he calculates Edinburgh's cost per mile of tram track at £90M, against the cost of the LHC per mile at just over £150M-----but this leaves out the cost of the 'payday loan' taken out in 2011by CEC that added another £231M cash to the £545M cost at that time.  And the interest on the money, as any payday customer knows, isn't something that can be forgotten about.

Adding in the interest this makes the cost per mile of the Tram £126,436,782. (Give or take the odd ten or twenty grand)

That is £71,839 a yard, £23,946 a foot and £1995 an inch!!!

The difference between a millstone and a milestone in the dictionary is just one letter.

In our real world however the difference is  beyond comprehension, the more one thinks about the more incredible it gets.

How can one of the greatest scientific and engineering milestones of all time, at the very borders of scientific knowledge, come out at £152M a mile yet a bog standard rail line, sorry tram line, be £126M a mile(and counting)???

Can we have our public enquiry right now, Please?

**  The connection is both the tram and the rail line presently falling to pieces after less than five years, were both managed by the ill fated, doomed and haplessly inadequateTIE Ltd, the 'arms length' company created by the City of Edinburgh Council: The Large Hadron Collider project  was NOT managed by TIE.)

Cracking on - or cracking up

Body: 

You couldn't make this up, could you?  An article in the Herald reveals the concrete in the tram rail bed is cracking up after early test runs.

The article was flagged up by one of our (unpaid) army of spotters accompanied by this list of extracts and the final comment.

 
"...expansion joints had not been added to the concrete." Come on, you Engineers. Tell me that expansion joints are not mandatory?
 
"...the reinforcement wires will rust and then the concrete will break apart. It's clearly going to be a maintenance problem. " Are these not statements of the blindingly obvious? I sincerely hope that there is a clause in the contract to cover the cost of repair/replacement. 
 
"...but it indicates that this is a bit of a rushed job and they didn't quite get it right." Understatement...
 
"...most likely associated with shrinkage after casting the concrete". Did the contractor forget to keep watering the concrete as it set?
 
"A council spokesman said: "Cracking within concrete is common and the majority of cracks, such as this one, have no structural influence on performance. The contractor and the council have a monitoring process in place."
 
" The statement doesn't fill me with much confidence..."
 

Can't really disagree with that last comment...  

ESPECIALLY

When linked to THIS story in the Scotsman  (brought to our attention by a separate person) on the problems of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railtrack where £17M of repairs are needed just 5 years after it was completed.

The original costs had rocketed coming in almost double, while the project was delivered 2 and a half years late.....

And the link between Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine ongoing debacle and the cracks in the tram line?

They were the only two schemes that the grotesquely incapable TIE company was involved  in as project managers.

NOT on time NOT on budget .. and the problems NOT over ---even years after the line opens --- sound familiar?

Can we have our Public Enquiry, now please  - while it can still do some good?

When The facts change I change my mind, what do you do?

Body: 

The quote in the title, from JM Keynes, gets to the heart of the problem that continues to cause havoc in Edinburgh.

Here, in Liverpool, this report shows the council prepared to look at anything that might help their city, and the people who live and work in it.

The point is not that because Liverpool is proposing closing down all it's bus lanes ,so should Edinburgh.  Conditions are different in different cities.

The point is that Liverpool Council is prepared to look at different solutions in 2013 because the facts and conditions are no longer the same as they were when previous decisons, in this case those about Bus Lanes, were taken. 

"However, we have a commitment to reduce congestion and the harmful emissions associated with this and to keep the city moving, for the benefit of residents, commuters, visitors and businesses.

 

This quote, from the Liverpool Post article, could easily have come from the City of Edinburgh Council.

But the action Liverpool Council are proposing shows they believe what they say and are prepared to analyse problems anew, and allow no sacred cows to get in the way of whatever may be the best solution.

Failures in traffic management INCREASE pollution, congestion, harmful emissions, noise and degredation to the life experience because the slower the traffic goes the longer the engines are creating pollution on any given journey, (and less efficient they are) and so the HIGHER the pollution is.

This is happening now in Edinburgh, traffic in the city because of the general recession, and, ironcially, the chaos produced by the tram project, is down -- but pollution is higher.

A key ' convenient untruth' at the heart of the Tram project is that it would reduce pollution when the major feasibility study showed it was always clear that it would INCREASE pollution across the city  (and by closing down main through routes compound the effects of this increase by forcing this increased pollution into residential streets from the effectively closed commercial thoroughfares).

This conclusion was known, but it was ignored.

Since then, the same preference for hope, fine words, inertia and reliance on public apathy on the part of our Council has continued until Edinburgh finds itself in the desperate position it is in today; still 'driving forward' with the flawed tram project because there is no alternative, even though it is, as was expected and predicted, going to make things worse in the city.

This is why this website is 'against' this tram project: not against 'any tram', and certainly not against public transport.

The tram project we are against was flawed at the beginning by a blinding combination of political insousiance and civic hubris.

A better tram project could have been created - but it wasn't, and trying to wrestle something useful from the ill thought through mess we did try (and fail) to build is simply perpetuating a planning failure.

But of course something has to be done, time doesn't stand still, the world moves on and cities need to as well.

The tram is not the solution to anything in Edinburgh, it's already a big part of the problem.

There's no need to wait for 20 years to recognise that there is no time like the present for new thinking --- like Liverpool.

 

 

 

 

Here we go again!

Body: 

A few days ago Sir Donald Mackay used the pages of the Scotsman newspaper to give us all the benefit of his thoughts on the tram project and the chances, as he sees it, of 'pushing on' with the project.

Reading it one feels almost trapped in the early years of this century, listening to the same over confident assertions and out dated ideas, riddled with complacency,  showing no evidence of having learned any  lessons from the past catastrophic decade.

On this website we have long argued that our council and city establishment  can never hope to do anything about the mess we are in as a city, until they face up to the facts about why that mess happened.

The plan did not fail by accident, it failed because it was a bad plan.

Happily for us, and those who feel like us that a day of reckoning over this project is long overdue, a day after the original article appeared John Carson, one of many long standing critics of the project, wrote a rebuttal piece that forensically examined the claims made by Sir Donald Mackay and compared them, not to the tired hopes and dreams for a project that in reality imploded completely a number of years ago, but to the reality of here and now, and the reality of the next 30 years in Edinburgh it left behind.

 

 

 

Now we are getting somewhere

Body: 

For casual onlookers to the ongoing disaster that is the Edinburgh Tram project it can often seem impossible to work out how such a thing could ever happen.

In many ways this article on the BBC website addresses an issue in respect of the national government that lies at the heart of the multiple 'system failures' in Edinburgh.

For whatever reason, and for brevity we won't go into those here, a vacuum at the heart of decison making seemed to emerge quite early on, perhaps exacerbated by the decision to form an 'arms length' company to manage it all. This in turn led at crucial points to Council executives, employees, in effect jointly creating policy through their presentation of options and recommendations  to a council chamber almost paralysed by it's own indecision.

The aspect about which the residents group that formed this website are most concerned is the complete, and wilful absence of any coherent plan about what would happen to traffic displaced by the needs of the tram.

During the fight to have this publicised and acknowledged, as a necessary first step in doing something about it, they have seen how an almost reflexive 'tram bias' has served to prevent the Council even admitting facts that at various points have become laughably obvious.

Cllr Lesley Hinds put her finger on part of the problem when, on entering office, she said it was vital to regain control of the project from faceless officials.

As the Public Administration committee points out in their report, in respect of Parliament, trust between Civil servants and politicians is breaking down.

That is also happening in Edinburgh.

But far more significantly at both National and Local level. is the breakdown in trust between the people who vote in elections and the Civil servants and politicians, so often now seen as almost a single body, which isn't surprising when so many senior officials step outside their remit to make what are effectively political decsions , and the elected chambers become little more than a rubber stamp for the real decisons that have been settled elsewhere.

 

 

When one makes bad decisions then bad things happen

Body: 

This article on 21st of June (BBC website) headlined Edinburgh trams expected to run at operating loss,  (something which careful readers will recall being for over 3 years by people behind this site)

This article less than a week later (same website) headlined Edinburgh Trams: Tax Break hopes for project.

Nobody at the Council seems at all aware of the mixture of toxic stupidity and thud and blunder crassness involved in one part of the public sector 'hoping' to be able to pay less tax to the ---er....public sector.

It is truly staggering that the fact that the £231Million extra that was borrowed in a panic stricken few days to 'save the jobs and reputations of many prominent people' (Apologies! that should of course read 'The tram project')  will cost the council millions of pounds every month for decades to come---  further hundreds millions of pounds that are routinely and sytematically NOT admitted as a cost hanging round the neck of the city.

It is equally sobering to consider that while Cllr Gordon Mackenzie, once the face and voice of the project, indeed it's ultimate overseer within the council,  kept parrotting the official line (ie the line fed to him to parrot by officials) that the project 'was on time, and on budget' it was in fact bust, bankrupt and broken---hence the wonga loan of £231M needed to be begged in such a hurry in the first place to finish it.

('Finish it' of course means in reality NOT finish it, but 'finish something...anything' )

All of this wouldn't be quite so bad if people at the top were owning up--but they're not, they remain in denial and thus making things worse, not better for the city.

To be actively considering that a corporate tax fiddle around the edges of what can...at  a push...hopefully.....maybe....be considered legal; and that this could be a smart move to further obscure the reality of the city's shattered finances from the people who live in it,  is to reveal how broken the Council's idea of itself, and it's duty, has become and how far from the reality of it's role, it has strayed.

 

Dispelling the smoke and mirrors-- to get at the facts and figures

Body: 

Long standing critic of the tram project management and finances John Carson has set out yet more worrying facts in a letter to the Scotsman newspaper today (June 24th 2013) showing how the already enormous financial black hole into which the city has been plunged may not even be the final word.

Mr Carson has not only been a consistent critic of the project but has been proved consistently right.

Years ago when Council officials were parroting 'On Time and on Budget' even as the project was hurtling out of control, he was pointing out that it was impossible to complete, unless huge amounts of money were to be thrown at it, amounts so large that they couldn't ever be justified.

He forecast years back now, that eventually the project would have a total cost of over £1 Billion, well over; if it was ever completed at all.

As we now see, it HAS cost over £1 Billion even though it has not been completed .... not as originally planned!!

But even this double whammy of financial ineptitude that has seen the city reach the top of the watch list for Councils in financial crisis in Scotland may not be the end of it as Mr Carson outlines in his letter.

All thoughts of 'operating profits' trumpeted by Council reports to Councillors two years ago to get the project 'finished' have now gone, as Mr Carson predicted then, to be replaced by enormous losses stretching far into the future that will eat up not only Council cash but also profits from the Bus service.

Track record is important in when assessing predictions, John Carson thinks things will get worse, much worse, than even the Council's latest gloomy figures indicate and because he has been right on the money up to now there isn't any reason to think he has got this one wrong.

 

Open Data at G8... not in Edinburgh

Body: 

Suddenly Summer and sunshine is breaking out all over where the Public's right to know is concerned.

Except in Edinburgh.

While the reported potential committment from the G8 countries has yet to materialise, the trailing of it in newspapers like the Telegraph indicate some kind of realisation is dawning that 'their data' IS actually 'our data'- and it's in their interest to wake up and realise this.

Sadly, anyone who has followed the story on this website so far will be familiar with the desperate battle Edinburgh Council have waged for a number of years, firstly to avoid measuring the data,then to withhold the data, then when forced by a light shone by a UN committee to start releasing it, how hard they have fought  to avoid having to admit openly, what the data is telling them privately.

The latest ruse -  after being forced to start monitoring in just one street at the centre of the fight--- is to STOP measuring the old way, perhaps before any data that may embarass them has been produced.

This will not only make meaningful comparisons with other streets difficult but with the levels in this particular street from the past.

That's not openess...and it certainly isn't enlightened.  In Edinburgh 'our' data remains 'their ' data, and instead of doing what we ask they do what the want.

In case anyone in the council has forgotten, it wasn't the ordinary people of the city who messed around, messed up and turned a disaster into a crisis and then a catastrophe --- all by keeping their information all to themselves and doing what they thought best.

If they'd involved the rest of a decade ago perhaps the city wouldn't be in the mess it is now?

 

TWO studies, ONE Fib

Body: 

The NHS Review already a year old, of the issue of deaths from air pollution  (they are not focussing on the illnesses -- for a reference to a more recent study on illnesses caused, and in particular Childhood asthma from this year see here), perhaps the biggest 'lie' that the Council are happy to see broadcast about the tram project is the one that says the rising pollution in the city is 'the traffic's fault'....... AND that '...at least, the tram will do something to reduce it."

Alongside the attempt to say it's 'all down to road traffic', is the one that runs: "And at least the Tram is an attempt to do something about it."

It is obviously the case that the pollution is coming from road vehicles (cars, buses, vans, lorries, taxis etc) however the facts are, and these are taken from the Council's own reports, that the traffic pollution in Edinburgh was always expected to be worse BECAUSE of the building the tram.

The original report (STAG 2003) showed if the tram WAS NOT built then 139,500 households would have better air quality than would be the case if it was to BE built.

The tram was never expected to lower air pollution in the city, but increase it.

That's the fact that the Council have never mentioned in their own press releases and, even worse, reports to councillors, ever since.

Indeed in this January's main transport report given to the Transport and Environment committee of the council the statistics show pollution is up 14% while traffic levels (miles travelled in the city) are down 5%.

The fact is that the tram project was so flawed in it's demand for exclusive (or virtually exclusive) use of road space that was MAIN arterial roadway that it creates far more pollution through forcing traffic into residential roads across the city---The Council have just announced an air quality management area for Invverlieth Row and area, not exactly a nieghbourhood bordering on a tram line.

It creates more pollution and then fly tips this pollution nearer to  where the very oldest and very youngest spend the most time.... outside their homes.

Relying on the word 'Tram' to in itself guarantee a green scheme is partly what has led to this disaster, the hard of thinking inside the elected chamber have preferred to assume that 'If it is a tram how can it create pollution'

If the idea was to make pollution (and this also entails noise, danger, general degradation to the lived environment as well) so bad that the city would rise up and demand more and more draconian traffic controls then there may be macheviallian logic to it.

But that isn't the case, if it were it probably wouldn't survive the first deputation from the large city centre stores and businesses, who while happy to support the idea of a tram, realise that any large fall in traffic flows towards the centre are liable to exacerbate already tough trading conditions.  Many small businesses already know this but the council doesn't really waste too much time paying too much attention to them.

Edinburgh has managed through a combination of hubris, inertia, complacency and administrative paralysis to get itself between a very large rock and an extremely hard place.

The hard place is that they have actively pursued a scheme that is creating pollution and the associated catastrophic effects; having failed in any case in failing they have burned up an enormous amount of the cash that might otherwise have been around to try and do something about it.

The rock is that the trend of current research shows the effects of pollution to be seen to be worse with each passing year.

Even our council won't be able to ignore the scientific evidence for much longer.

Resident's response to City Centre Vision plan from the Council

Body: 

    Residents in one of the first neighbourhoods to really feel the effects of the Tram project on traffic levels have sent around a document in their own neighbourhood which may be of help to other areas starting to realise the  increased traffic they are seeing is perhaps not going to be either as temporary or as small as previous assurances from the Council may have led them to believe. 
 
Any other Community Councils and residents groups can just access this document here  , while it is a 'neighbourhood document' and so addresses specific concerns as you will see some of these concerns are going to cause effects that spread far beyond their own area. 

Many people in Edinburgh may well still be at the same stage that these residents were over three years ago, when they already spent considerable time and effort to try and get simple straightforward answers to ordinary questions about the longer term plans of the Council, without success 

The committee behind this document spent time being alternately reassured about the real effects and then shocked when further reports and votes revealed why the Council had avoided answering those earlier questions. 

The Council appear to believe that once people understand the reality the council themselves really expect to see,  there may be far more anger about the project evan than is already the case. 

The fear of residents who have tried for years to get post-tram traffic plans from the Council is that CEC's wish is to simply postpone the day as long as possible when they will be forced to admit what they already know. 

Or even, when the day comes that they no longer can avoid admitting problems flagged up in the main feasibility study as long ago as 2003, and in particular the very wide-spread effects of traffic increase in residential areas across the City, the council substitute in place of  'admitting them' and instead prefer to pretend these are being suddenly 'discovered', anew. 

The  main transport report presented annually by officers of the Council to the councillors on the Transport & Environment committee, in January, had only praise for targets achieved and boxes ticked in the written summary and conclusions. 

However buried in the statistics in the appendices (pages 11 and 12 if you linked to the report) were the two facts that show the worst predictions of 2003 are starting to come true even now as the 'temporary' tram works closely mimic the 'permanent state of affairs' post-tram....  Pollution UP 14% even though (because of the recession) Traffic is 5% DOWN.

 

   And as if burying those facts isn't bad enough consider how this statement right at the top of the report -----

"fewer road traffic casualties killed, seriously and slightly injured" --  fits in with these figures buried further down in the report (page 8 of the 25 pages)

                                     Target                  04-08average               2011 target                    2011 casualties

                                    People killed                    9                                    7                                     10  

       When you have worked it out you will understand a little better  how things get done inside the Council

An Awesome Foursome of Tram success??

Body: 

It's often the case that in Regional media stories about the tram the interesting parts are not in the headline, or intro praragraphs, but are buried a little more deeply within the story.

In this latest one the 'awesome foursome' of tram project achievements 'returning to glory' the city aren't that interesting, given that any project, however badly managed will eventually reach some kind of completion (especially if £231Million gets chucked at it).

Two contributions shed a bit more light on things than the rewritten Press release sections of the story.

One from Joanna Mowat, a long serving councillor on the Transport and Environment committee, and before that the TI&E committee, revealed she hasn't any idea how traffic will be managed post tram around the crucial Haymarket-Shandwick Place area, long identified, because of it's former busyness, complexity and the further need to accomodate more traffic light intervals, for the tram, as a major concern.

That this is the case ten years after planning first began on the project is ...well, lets just say 'surprising'.

If she doesn't know then one presumes her Committee Convenor, Lesley Hinds, doesn't know either.

Which means either nobody knows, which is worrying, or only the 'faceless bureaucrats', to use Lelsy hind's phrase for the people who have 'run the project for too long' must know, and they're still not telling the elected representatives---which is even more worrying.

The second contribution is from the Green party's Cllr. Steve Burgess and worth quoting in full,::

 

Green group leader Councillor Steve Burgess said: “The problem is originally the system was going to be much larger and at much less cost.

“Yes, in principle I’m supportive of having trams in Edinburgh. I just wish that it was going to be not just what we see as an airport link.

“The usefulness of that to people of the city is questionable whereas the original scheme was to have at least to the airport and then that linked up by Granton to Haymarket and then there was talk of even a third tram line towards the Royal Infirmary.

“We just wish that it was a system that met the needs of residents and also that wasn’t over budget by half as much again. We have to remember the history of this thing.”

We have criticised the Greens for supporting this project, often apparently simply because it is called a 'Tram' ----- without (we feel) looking at the realities of the effects it is creating for the people who live in the city, and will create for decades ahead.  

Indeed we have crticised all the political parties for their inability to provide any coherent opposition to the project at all---thus leaving opposition to come from outside the political structure. 

For this reason Councillor Burgess' contribution is welcome as a sign that the 'one party othodoxy'  on this project is perhaps beginning to change.

It needs to. because the original project master document (Stag 2003) showed that the problems with the project do not end on the day the first tram passenger boards the first tram; some of the most difficult to solve problems only just begin on that day.

Unless  facts are faced,  the woeful history of 'this thing' (as Cllr Burgess calls it) to date will merely be the prologue for even worse.

Councillor Burgess's contribution is important because until the facts of the problems facing the city are recognised they can't be faced up to, let alone solved.  If the Greens can look beyond  'the label' at the realities beneath then perhaps others can start to do so as well.

Edinburgh twinning with Detroit??

Body: 

The cascade of bad decisions now being revealed piecemeal have been inevitable for years, and clear to anyone who has looked at the plans of the tram project and various associated piecemeal traffic management proposals that have flown from it.

A whole host of 'solutions', such as the loop(y) idea mentioned in the article above, are now arriving to address the problems created by the original ill thought through, and unnecessary, tram scheme layered onto the even older 'Gehl Vision' plans.

The worst effects of the collapse of traffic planning won't be felt in the central areas from which traffic is being progressively eliminated, but in residential areas across very large swathes of the city (and not one or two streets) as the traffic needing to get across the city to schools, workplaces (and as the traders are now finally realising), out of town shopping centres, is left with no option but to attempt to find it's own way, avoiding the multiplying bottlenecks, down less and less suitable streets and avenues.

Only this council could turn an attempt to build a green transport system into a rolling pollution menace in it;'s residential streets, while at the same time threatening the commercial viability of it's central business areas..... welcome to Europe's answer to Detroit??

The truth is out there...mainly buried in the council's own reports beneath the usual paeans of praise to themselves which is as far as most councillors seem to read... the recent Annual transport Review published by the council must have almost broken a rib so hearty was the mutual backslapping in the Council Officer's Review of highlights.

Buried in the appendices was a different story of truly lamentable transport planning with traffic DOWN by 5% across the city but pollution UP 14%---No wonder the Council want to focus only on the marvels of the Gehl inspired vison of a pedestrian friendly city and turn it's back on the congested, increasingly polluted and noisy streets that the people of the city actually live in..

 

Edinburgh to DEFRA ..SOS... is anywhere else seeing pollution 14% up on traffic 5% down??

Body: 

"the Council has been given advice by the Head of Legal, Risk and 
Compliance that it would no longer be prudent to hear deputations on 
Traffic Regulation Orders and to do otherwise could expose the Council to 
legal challenge."

One almost needs to read this twice to take in that this is how democracy is being practisced in 21st century  Edinburgh, a city that without a trace of irony can still describe itself itself as one of the guiding lights of the enlightenment at the dawn of the modern world.

Nobody is making threats, physical attacks or wild accusations.

But  apparently allowing councillors to simply hear their own citizens stating their case is now a subversive act..

If this legal advice, the ultimate gagging clause in a council apparently addicted to them, succeeds in preventing the councillors hearing the dangerous heresies of it's own people, and we have seen shaken councillors emerging from sessions with Council legal advisors on a number of occasiion over the last few years----- then just click this link to see the document for yourself.

If you are looking for fiery rabble rousing rhetoric, then best don't bother-- But if you are interested in a  fornsic dissection of the 'State of denial' within the the City of Edinburgh Council, and think the advice to councillors above, has no place in democracy then read on....

 

 

Francis report into Mid Staffs---are you listening Edinburgh Council

Body: 

The Francis report, published today, into the scandal of the Mid Staffs Hospital Trust isn't just about one Hospital, or trust or even the NHS but hopefully a wake-up call to the Public Sector as whole, Councils and indeed Big Business, the PLCs and multinationals that spend a large part of their ingenuity finding new and better ways to rip of thepeople they still call customers..

However on this website we are concerned with the potential health disaster(and quality of life effects) that will arise from the Council's policy of neglkect towards traffic management within the city and while the Stafford Hospital events cannot be directly compared to mismanagements of the tram project in Edinburgh, the way in which both the corporate culture in the Staffordshire Trust, and in Edinburgh Council reacted to complaints and concerns coming from outside their bureaucracy, are very similar.

In Robert Francis QC's phrase the public were:

  • " failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead".... of the public interest.
  • Faced by an organisation that trumpets successes and ignores failures
  • Confronted by an organisation obsessed by box ticking at the expense of the real world.

Here in Edinburgh residents continuing to fight to bring to wide public notice the serious situation regarding the complete lack of attention being given to the rising levels of pollution across the city ( being increased as a direct consequence and result of Council policies) recognise the same signs of a corporate body, one charged with duties of public care, becoming entombed within the same box ticking, success trumpeting, corporate self interest preservation mind set as happened at North Staffs NHS.

Very , very simple questions are ignored by people at all levels inside Edinburgh Council -- They don't answer because they can't answer, but instead of seeking answers they distort and mangle other statistics to justify inaction.

Just a few weeks ago a report to councillors was filled with congratulatory comments by officers because of the boxes ticked and the tragets acheived--yet inside the appendices it was clear deaths and serious injuries arising from Road Traffic Accidents have RISEN and despite traffic being down 5% pollution has GONE UP by an incredible 14%--These two facts were not mentioned.

Fewer vehicles in the city but producing more deaths and serious injuries and vastly increased pollution?

NOT mentioned.

 

But even worse than failing to acknowledge these things,the Council Officers realised that because minor injuries were down, and because minor injuries always (obviously) outnumber the totals for deaths and serious injuries, by combining all deaths and serious injuries WITH minor injuries they were able to trumpet a target acheived for fewer road traffic casualties....

The executive summary in the report headlining the acheivements can be seen by clicking here, it's bullet points included 

  • fewer road traffic causualties killed, seriously and slightly injured.

Which is true...but it is not the whole truth and it is far from being nothing but the truth.

It goes on in the next recommendations section immediately below, to say that the Officers feel 'It is recommended that the committee:

 

  • recognises the reduction in road casulaties and the contribution the Council has made to national road safety by exceeding the 2010 casualty reduction targets;.."

NO MENTION that more deaths occurred and more serious injuries....No mention of a 14% increase in pollution which can only add more deaths and illnesses into their statistics at some stage.

Cllr Lesley Hinds in public statements has herself sais that councillors must take back the formation, and control, of policy from what she called 'faceless council officers'.

But with rubber stamping, back slapping excercises going on like that in the last Transport and Environment committee meeting at which the report above was presented she must know there is no chance of that....and she is the Convenor of that same committee.

 

The history of the Tram project is stuffed with examples of similar corporate rubber stamping, box ticking and back slapping.

When all they were covering up was a few hundred million pounds wasted, then perhaps it's all just part of 'the game'--but with traffic falling and pollution soaring the stakes are very much higher.

Leaving THOSE facts buried in the report appendices while trumpeting success leaves one feeling that an Inquiry by Robert Francis QC would find useful work to do in Edinburgh as well as Staffordshire.

 

Make sure you take proper care at all times?

Body: 

This piece is by an enthusiastic cyclist commenting on the 'news' being carefully revealed by the Council, over the last couple of weeks, that (gasp!!)  Princes street will not be able to take buses and trams and will be used only by trams, cyclists and pedestrians.

At present the word is 'may' not 'will' but pretty soon it wil be...will..that is.

The predictions made on this site and by the group of residents behind it are all coming true.

We said pollution would rise, not despite of the Tram, but because of it...and it is.

We said , when the possibility that £545M would not be enough was first floated by the Council, that the final bill would be over £1B because a huge extra amount would need to be borrowed...and paid for.

We said 

Cycling is obviously an idea whose time has come, the cure for what ails you and the past-time for all.  It's something we all do, or many of us do, but something some people get way too addicted to with harmful effects to their intelligence sometimes.

Just as some car drivers can be far too obnoxious in trying to ensure their 'rights' to drive, than some cyclists can be too blinkered in pursuing theirs..

This article doesn't fall into that ' obnoxious' category, it is just written by someone who must either be very selfish or very thick.

The writer apparently couldn't care less where the traffic no longer using Princes Street (and George Street won't be carrying as much traffic either) has disappeared to.  He's just a bit too excited  by the prospect of being able to pedal up and down Princes street without having to worry about anything but avoiding the careless pedestrians.

He's doesn't seem concerned that traffic in Edinburgh is down 5% (at least, maybe more) but pollution in the city is 14% up... for all of us, including him.

He may be a simple soul bothered by what he can see and if something is out of sight it's out of mind. He can see the taxis, vans and the buses that hemmed him in previously, but looks forward to the day when the tram will be the only thing he has to worry about, except those careless pedestrians, as he pedals along one of Europe's finest vistas.

Maybe he'd be more worried about that 14% rise in pollution if he could see it billowing around, not in the marvellously empty, former 'main roads' where the traffic used to go, but in the streets where people live; maybe even where he lives?

Safe cycle ways for cyclists and lowering pollution should not be competing aims.

Getting safe cycleways shouldn't be at the expense of people across large areas of Edinburgh getting  more pollution, noise and traffic, making their streets less attractive to live in and in many cases making them a lot less safe especially for the most vulnerable, the elderly and the very young.

He may not know that the Institute of Occupational Medicine have compared eliminating passive smoking, to eliminating all Road Traffic Accidents and to eliminating all traffic created pollution, and that (surprise!!) Air Pollution causes three times as many 'lost life years' than all deaths from passive smoking AND RTAs combined.

One can see the smoke from cigarettes hanging in the air, and the distressing evidence of Road traffic Accidents is a staple of news programmes and government campaigns, but of course one cannot see the evidence of ,and the effects caused by, traffic created pollution, or that Edinburgh Council have made it 14% worse from fewer vehicles thanks to them causing well adapted historic through routes being 'ethnically cleansed' of traffic....without any idea or heed of where that traffic would go.

Perhaps it just serves all those people right, the ones walking around their streets selfishly breathing in and out amongst the increased pollution they can't avoid now that it's being pumped out on their doorsteps---probably all car drivers anyway? 

 

Roads to Nowhere report to the Council

Body: 

 

This document will be presented to the Council meeting chaired by Convenor of the Transport and Environment committee Cllr Lesley Hinds later today (Monday feb 4th).
 
Before reading it however, read this exchange in another T&E Committee meeting on January 15th.
 
Cllr Joanna Mowat, member of the Transport and Environment Committee, considering a council report: "Why is traffic in the city going down, but air pollution going up?" To see the Council Document from Officers to the Committee in which this state of affairs was revealed--but not flagged up-- click here
 
Council Officer replying: "The Picture is different for different pollutants!"
 
The evasive reply by the official and the failure by the councillor to get a straight answer from her own officials, shows the state into which the democratic process within the council is descending as traffic management spirals out of control.
 
Councillors are beginning, however slowly and painfully, to realise that the City is seeing not only falling traffic and rising pollution but also rising serious injuries, and deaths, from road accidents in areas that are traditional neighbourhoods for homes.
 
This is happening because of chronic failures to face up to what the council term 'wider issues' created by their flagship projects.
 
While the tram project is responsible in greater part, the proposals for Charlotte Square  make an already terrible planning catastrophe even worse.
 
This is why the evidence and arguments set out in this document are so important to serving an open debate.
 
  • A) -  A traffic survey commissioned by the developers to support their plans and handed to councillors had it's terms of reference so skewed as to be useless. It was almost as if designed to produce a 'nothing to worry about' message at odds with reality.
  • b) - The same tactics first used in 2008 are being used again; pretending to residents that rising traffic levels in their streets are temporary, when in fact the tram works and other road space reductions, such as these proposed for Charlotte Square, are producing changes to traffic flows which are  wide ranging, extensive and permanent.
  • c) - That this time more communities are involved, in addition to the Moray Feu roads and the Drumsheugh Estate roads, residents and businesses on roads across the entire New Town are being told not to worry--it's only temporary.
  • d) - And most worryingly of all the traffic levels are down -- (and little to do with any Council initiatives so much as the general economic recession which has cut traffic across the UK, although aggravated in Edinburgh by the desperate situation created in recent years by the Tram works and the chaotic diversions these have required) --  but accidents are up, as is pollution, as noted by Cllr Mowat).  The trends are worsening and of course will be  aggravated by the proposals for traffic changes in Charlotte Square  in the TRO proposals.
  • Traffic levels down But...
  • Pollution up
  • Serious accidents up
  • Deaths up
  • Noise and disturbance up
 
Yet in the last meeting the Council Officers fob off a Councillor's direct question on these topics with a patronising, uninformative and dismissive answer offering no explanation, or any facts.
 
We are not against positive schemes for improving our City--we are against the price of those schemes being hidden from the people in communities across the city who have to pay them. 
 
The prime concern here is that the effects of this scheme for Charlotte Square are being layered on top of those effects, still largely unappreciated by most people who live in Edinburgh, produced by the Tram project.
 
This report explains in detail and openly, what the effects of the Council's actions are,  effects which they appear unwilling to discuss openly even with senior councillors on the main oversight committee of the council for which they work.  
  

Some facts from a different perspective

Body: 

This is an article from an outside site 'FromZtoA' so all the views and points raised are 'not necessarily those of this website'',  but  a different tone and voice is always welcome and the detail in the article, as well as it's apparent political perspective, is very interesting.

http://fromztoa.net/?p=6186

Just to add one festive fact of our own, if one converts the tram project into the length of it's track (13.1Kms or just over 8 miles) and divides by the present total cost (including the mortgage taken out by the City over the next 30 years) then each inch of track is presently coming in at just over £2,150.

 

And as per contract even this cost isn't capped so although each little sugar cube of steel track isn't yet quite as expensive as Gold, even at it's own present soaraway price...there is still time!!!

 

PICTURES THAT SHOW THE GRIDLOCK EDINBURGH FACES ON THE DAY THE TRAMS START

Body: 

 

  • These picturesillustrate the convenient untruths the council continue to prefer to use, in order to obscure the inconvenient truths they are still not prepared to acknowledge.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"1196","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_7345922894310","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"medium","media_crop_instance":"201","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
 
Buses back up along Princes Street even though trams are still years away. 
 
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"1201","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_783418733626","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"medium","media_crop_instance":"206","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
 
Officials inside our Council still claim that Princes Street remains a 'main cross city route'--but, as these pictures show, even without  private cars, vans or lorries being allowed on the road - it just cannot cope. 
 
The Council have been asked to release their 'post-tram' traffic plan over and over again---- but as yet they have refused to do so, and some within the Council even claim they haven't got a traffic plan and intend to start consulting on one 'soon'!!
 
As if being incompetent is better than being  devious. 
 
Surely in the whole history of the project somebody at some point would have said: "Er shouldn't we have a think about what's going to happen to the traffic when the thing starts?" 
 
Because as you can see, even after removing general traffic and closing Shandwick Place, they are going to struggle to get a train down Princes Street at any time around rush hour! 
 
They know this of course - they just haven't shared the information with the people living on their intended ring road! 
 
I do think we need our Councillors to take a reality check: 
 
(i) we all accept that the Tram-train will run at an operating loss and needs to pay interest on long-term loans - what else could Edinburgh have done with the money? 
 
(ii) we can all see that a train is not going to be able to share Princes Street with buses at peak times - what is going to happen to bus routes? 
 
(iii) we can all see that cyclists cannot share Princes Street with a train as there are places that go down to one lane - where do cyclists go? 
 
(iv) if you have displaced HGVs, cars, buses and cyclists from Princes Street - where do they end up? 
GVs, cars, buses and cyclists from Princes Street - where do they end up? 
 
  • These pictures are spectacular views of the Capital -- but under the stunning light show is a bleak message about a Council process surrounding the trams that has simply been unfit for purpose, a process that has consistently resorted to using untruths to hide the truth about the clear and present effects of the problems caused by the planning oversights that began a decade ago, and sadly continue today, unacknowledged, unadmitted and thus unresolved 

Something that connects Edinburgh to Madrid

Body: 

This release from the residents group has gone to the media who follow this story,and to the councillors of the city.

A short while back Madrid, and it's Mayor, got a real hammering in the media, across Europe and the world when reports such as this one  highlighted that they were 'tackling' the problem of traffic created air pollution ......... by secretly taking 12 of the 27 receptors away from Roads and putting them in the City's parks and suburban gardens the problem instantly got miles better.

In Edinburgh we do things differently...but not all that differently.

As the release , and the map within it, shows our council haven't moved the receptors away from the pollution as Madrid did, they have moved the pollution away from the receptors.

 

Pages