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68 release- Tram Report-Hidden Truths

Body: 

 

  • The Tram report to Councillors— yet another deplorable milestone in a broken political process.

 

 

  1.  Fiddled figures in the business case with vital pollution figures still buried

 

The Tram report to councillors is yet another insult to the memory of impartial public service in Edinburgh.

The production of a supposed Benefit Cost Ratio of 1:2.20--- was achieved by pretending all the money spent to date doesn’t count. This is a transparent attempt to patronise and mislead councillors facing a very difficult decision.

The inflation of the figure for the Haymarket option was grotesque and collapsed before the ink was dry on the document after the Contractor said they felt this figure was high.

For the remnants of tie and the Edinburgh managers now running the project to be told by the contractor, a former tie executive famously described as “delinquent” that they are wasting over £100M of public money and the job can be done for that much less marks a new low in what has turned from grim farce into a tragedy for the City.

 

 

However the worst example of misinformation is the acknowledgement, at long last, that air quality will get worse for many areas of the city, and especially in residential areas. Yet there is no costing for this pollution, nor any plan to deal with it.

 

For the benefit of any councillors, below are the relevant paragraph quotes from the report-with the real facts of the matter below.

6.4 The STAG report acknowledged that within this overall net improvement there would be areas where air quality would deteriorate as a result of the displacement of traffic from the tram routes.

 

THE REAL 6.4: The overall net improvement figure is disputed…but even so the council have to acknowledge many tens of thousands of households will suffer worse air quality—fewer than in their 2003 report only because the later STAG report already assumed less tram line running on roads….thanks to the already emerging failure of the original grandiose plans.  It’s is only because of the forced reduction of the tram line’s length that these figures are slightly less serious.

But if “only” 88,000 households are exposed to worse air pollution, is that morally responsible?

 

6.5 The Council remains committed to ensuring that any such air quality issues are properly monitored and addressed.

 

THE REAL 6.5: This is arguable when the facts are known. The council were first alerted to this issue in 2009 and fought throughout 2009 and 2010 to avoid measuring properly in order to continue burying the problem.   In November 2010 the councillors told the council to begin monitoring as a matter of urgency---nothing was done until this month, (June 2011) and only after further meetings and pressure left them no option. The council have been anything but committed to ensuring proper monitoring and addressing of issues.

 

 

6.6 As a result of concerns expressed by residents of the Moray Feu, following the temporary diversion of traffic during the MUDFA utility works, additional air quality monitoring has been carried out on Great Stuart Street since July 2009 and, following the Tram Sub Committee meeting of 28 February 2011, additional air quality checks have been introduced in this area to include monitoring on building facades and at basement level.

 

THE REAL 6.6: This paragraph is another series of half truths and untruths. The diversion of traffic is not temporary; it was started under the guise of a ‘temporary’ traffic order but last year the council revealed that the diversions were always intended to be permanent and the traffic diversions could under no circumstances be changed. The figures since July 2009 to December 2010 were all inaccurate thanks to the Council misinterpreting the process of applying correction numbers to raw data.

The additional air quality monitoring they have done is meaningless. Now, unbelievably, the Council say they will not correctly apply the DEFRA formula, even though their published calculations contain an error..

 

The figures since December 2010 have been suppressed and are being prevented from release into the Public domain.

The ‘additional’ air quality checks at façade and basement level in residential areas were only just begun this month, and then only because of extraordinary pressure from Edinburgh residents.

 

6.7 The data from the existing and additional air quality monitoring levels in this neighbourhoodwill become available in the first quarter of 2012.

 

THE REAL 6.7  This is a desperate attempt to push crucial information beyond the eventual date of a vital vote…this makes a mockery of the stated commitment to openness, proper monitoring and and addressing the issues. 

 

All air quality data is required to run through a 12 month period before final assessment to allow the air pressure, weather traffic and other conditions to be fairly experienced. The residentsknow this and accept fully the scientific reasons for it. 

 

But this should not be used as a reason to withhold themonthly figures as these can still give a valuable handle on any emerging problem.

 

 The council continue to release figures for other streets in the City, these other streets are not yet experiencing the pollution increases now occurring in the very first streets to be subjected to the new tram traffic flows, although should the tram be built out from Haymarket they will , as more and more streets being to see similar, or perhaps even higher, rises in traffic flows.

 

It is a grim irony that these problems are so clearly being revealed even though the tram itself remains years away from ever running under any circumstance. Perhaps, however, on the contrary it is especially fortunate in displaying the previously ignored effects and highlighting them while there is still time to do something about it.

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  • The Report therefore notes the problem in the first formal recognition of things first revealed to them in early 2009 by Dr Ashley Lloyd and other residents.
  • However it does nothing at all to properly address the problem, after the Council persisted for many months in attempting to rubbish Dr Lloyd and refused to look at his work and the results produced, and this report while being a step forward is. In reality, just another desperate attempt to kick the problem into long grass---far into the future.

Given the seriousness of the deaths that are now clearly attributable to Air pollution created by traffic in every scientific paper published, it has always been disgraceful that, although knowing of the creation of pollution directly resulting from the way the Tram was planned to run, the Councillors have been misled repeatedly by reports such as this one, apparently taking the issue on board….in reality burying it.

  • Councillors voting on the project cannot however use ignorance if in years to come ill health and even deaths result from these increases in traffic pollution that WOULD NOT OCCUR IF THE TRAM WERE NOT BUILT.  It is surely impossible to accept that traffic created pollution is created by traffic and yet while working hard to move traffic into residential streets try and say that more traffic somehow won’r create more pollution.

There is no equivalence or balance between improvements in Air Quality in Princes Street, for example, where tourists, shoppers and visitors are experiencing vastly improved air quality.  But as the scientific data shows (or would do were the Council releasing it) these improvements are being bought at too high a price given the drastic increases in streets where people live.

AS well as the increased concentrations in the air around homes is the length of time people are exposed.  Visitors and tourists shopping for a few hours a week or visiting  attractions are obviously exposed for less time, before they leave the City centre, or fly back to their own homes in other cities.

Against this the tens and indeed hundreds of thousands of residents forced to endure higher air pollution are also exposed for enormously longer periods of course, after all they have to live in the houses in the streets down which all the traffic is now flowing.

The story is of displaced traffic producing more pollution per vehicle, irrespective of any increase or decrease in the number of vehicles city, to which the people exposed are typically exposed for far longer periods of time.

Finally the peoplemost likely to be exposed for the very longest periods are the most vulnerable as older and elderly people, and very young babies and infants, with their parent(s), spend the longest amounts of time in and near the family home.

This has to be an unthinkable proposition and a true indication of the catastrophic flaws in the original plan for this transportation project for a city wishing to be ranked amongst the world’s best and greenest.

Leaving aside moral or ethical issues, there is no amount in the project balance sheet for contingent liabilities such as litigation costs, compensation costs, further mitigation of the issue, and  the EU fines that will be triggered if limits are exceeded.

That doesn’t mean that for city councillors these liabilities do not exist.

It means that at present they are ‘off balance sheet’ for the project costings, and unrecognised in the council’s own future coast projections.

If the report is to reflect this then these costs need to recognised and included as the direct consequence of the project that they really are and many tens of millions more needs to be added to the costs for St Andrews Square.

If the tram were topause at Haymarket now in order that a prudent re-assessment of all the contingencies previously ignored or miscalculated by the oldtie regime be made there is no need for any of these contingent liabilities to be included in the balance sheet. If the tram stops at Haymarket NO INCREASE IN POLLUTION whatsoever will be seen anywhere in the City and not one single resident’s health will suffer needlessly because of the Tram.