Day 18 – Definitely Maybe – read it and weep.
Mr. Joe Ellis, the applicants expert on Transport, was led through his evidence by Mr Rupert Warren, counsel for Tesco. Mr Ellis confirmed that he was a football fan, supporting West Ham, and that he had spent quite some time travelling on public transport before writing his report.
Mr. Ellis explained that the transport assessment was made up of three travel plans, which turned assumptions into assessment. Knowsley believe the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is enforceable.
He explained Kirkby's current modes of public transport, rail and bus that are used heavily for journeys to and from Liverpool. He explained that the area also had quite a few taxis, that the road system was good as was Kirkby's proximity to the motorway system. It was his opinion that the rail and bus system could cope with the proposed development; he also explained that there had been considerable liaison with Merseytravel, The Highways agency and Knowsley Council. Merseytravel and Merseyrail have said they will add extra carriages on the rail system that will pay for itself through the extra passengers.
Asked if the town could cope with the extra traffic, as Kirkby Row gets very congested, he said that congestion is relative and most areas are congested at peak times. Spectators walk fast when they leave a stadium and the M57 works very well.
Mrs. Burden asked how the park and walk scheme will operate and was told it was on a first come, first served basis. Mrs. Burden was concerned about people driving around Kirkby looking for spaces to park. Mr. Ellis said that although there would be limited signage, they would make people aware of what to do via the press and the web site. The park and walk sites will be privately run.
Mrs. Burden continued to question Mr. Ellis, she asked about the possible introduction of stadium capping if the available transport proves inadequate. She was told that the Section106 agreement, a series of conditions, would enforce this and that rail improvements would be in place before the stadium opened.
When asked about KEIOC's evidence (transport 8.1), Mr. Ellis stated that 'great', not little, consideration has been given to the residents but workers will have to travel with fans, that's the nature of football.
Inspector Andrew Pykett asked, “How can the transport plan ensure more people use public transport than their car, in accordance with Government policy?” Mr Ellis explained that the Section 106 agreement would carry the proviso that if car use is not brought down from 72% to 55%, then the stadium capacity will be capped at 40,000. Mr. Ellis was asked if other football clubs had tried this he explained “No, no other club in the country had tried this, it was “trailblazing” and went on to explain that fans will have to accept things that are acceptable to London commuters and that he was surprised at how many supporters drive to Goodison, yet the city centre is only a 35 minutes walk away.
Mrs Burden asked Mr Rupert Warren for clarification on what transport provisions were conditional on the development going ahead and how the amount of public transport use afterwards would be monitored? Mr Warren explained “travel plans for the stadium on event and non event days must be in place before the stadium can begin operating, along with the improvements to the railway station to enable it to cope with 3,800 extra passengers, or an alternative public transport put in place, such as extra buses. There must also be a contribution from the applicants towards the setting up of the controlled parking zone.”
Mr Warren continued “While the stadium is operating, the travel plans must be implemented and a further payment made at the end of each season towards the administration costs of the controlled parking zone. By the end of the third season the stadium transport measures must be implemented or the agreed share of public transport use by fans achieved, in order to avoid the amount of people able to use the stadium being reduced from 50,000 to 40,000 as a penalty, imposed by Knowsley Council.”
Not surprisingly the question surrounding Everton's commitment to a move to Kirkby with this potential penalty hanging over them is begging to be asked.
Mr. Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council, began his cross-examination. Mr Sauvain wanted to know who was going to pay for the CPZ and was informed by Mr. Ellis that it was to be paid for by fines. Knowsley, currently, has no power at the moment to enforce a CPZ as yet and would have to apply for decriminalization, as CPZ's require traffic regulation orders.
Mr Sauvain then moved on to the transport provision for shoppers travelling to Kirkby from surrounding areas once the development was complete. He suggested that the calculations on trips incurred by the local population and to where, were based on flawed calculations. Mr Sauvain referred to them as nonsense figures and informed Mr. Ellis that he couldn't do basic calculations. Mr Ellis agreed that the calculations included assumptions but refused to accept that they were nonsense.
Jim Gittins then took over the cross-examination of the witness on behalf of the Kirkby Residents Action Group, Jim Gittins was informed that the Highways Agency and Merseytravel has supported the transport plan and that the Police became involved over a year ago in discussions about the stadium and crowd management. Jim asked why Fazakerley station was mentioned. Mr. Ellis replied that there's potential there, for people to get off earlier and go for a pint or catch a bus into Kirkby. In answer to a question over the trains Mr. Ellis confirmed that contingency plans would be put in place for cup games and night games but conceded that upgrades to the line couldn't be considered in the short term as it would have to be a Government scheme and Kirkby is only a small town of 40,000.
Asked about drivers looking for park and walk sites within Kirkby, Mr. Ellis replied that people will become accustomed to where they can and cannot park. There will be 1,500 potential spaces in the town, excluding the schools and that he was confident that those choosing to travel by rail would get a train but they wouldn't be over encouraging train use due to the line being limited physically to 4,000 passengers per hour, there would be extra trains put on if a game went to added time. The Wigan line would be opened up for Manchester fans, and perhaps Wigan fans. It would be up to the station operations manager to control this.
When Jim asked about enforcing the CPZ, Mr.Ellis was confident that wardens would get to know the cars and that neighbours would tell on neighbours.
Mr. Dave Thompson then took over the cross-examination for the Keep Everton in The City Campaign. Dave began by asking Mr. Ellis when he became involved in the project and if he was aware that Mr. Keith Wyness, the former CEO of Everton Football Club, had described the stadium project as the best served stadium in the North West? Mr. Ellis explained that he had been involved on the project since September 2006 and that whilst he was aware of Mr. Wyness's statement he declined to agree, he preferred the phrase “most sustainable in the North West” instead. Mrs. Burden interjected when Dave attempted to establish if Everton's supporters had been misled during the ballot process over this statement. Assessment
Dave continued, “Haven't you assessed how people would like to travel, rather than how you would prefer them to travel? “ Mr. Ellis conceded that the Transport Assessment was a redefined package, in that it was made to fit a pre-conceived end result, as far as the trains went, but the Transport Assessment was arrived at using different modes and applying restraints. He also agreed that there were differences between inclination and ability relating to how people chose to travel.
Dave then asked about the differences between Goodison Park's location and Kirkby. Mr. Ellis, while agreeing the housing was different, Goodison is densely packed with housing, he described the Kirkby stadium as being in the town as opposed to Goodison, which is not in the town, or at least not in the centre of Liverpool. Dave pointed out that it only took 35 minutes to walk from Goodison to the city centre whilst you couldn't do that from Kirkby. Mr. Ellis pointed out that you couldn't walk to the Wirral from Goodison Park but there were season ticket holders there. He continued top explain that Goodison's transport structure had problems, although it does work, it needed to get it car modal share down.
Dave continued, “Why have Everton supporters not been asked directly how they would get to Kirkby, even though there had been a recent, detailed, survey on the Everton website, asking for fans views on Goodison Park; why not Kirkby?” Mr. Ellis explained that a survey was carried out at Goodison Park to see how people currently travelled there but that this did not form part of the assessment for Kirkby. He explained that a supporters transport group had recently been set up at Everton to address transport issues. KEIOC understand that this is made up of six fans from Shropshire, Birmingham, Cumbria, Kirkby and Liverpool and that it has not been set up to address issues as by Everton's own admission it is toothless, it was set up after the transport representative from SDG was savaged at the recent EGM. Mr. Ellis conceded that “the new stadium would initially mean more travel for EFC fans but that might change over time as people adjusted their travel behaviour and the transport strategy came into effect, making their journeys easier.“
In response to questions regarding improvements to the plan Mr. Ellis explained that Merseytravel was considering putting up a canopy over the platform to protect fans in bad weather but the car park, the holding pens, would be open to the elements. Mr. Ellis then said “However, in his experience, football fans were prepared to be cold and wet - its just part of going to the game” Member's of KEIOC were left speechless at this statement.
A disbelieving Dave Thompson regained his composure and went on to question Mr. Ellis as to why he'd used a figure of 85% when estimating the amount of people wishing to travel immediately after the game? Mr Ellis explained that he'd based it on the Emirates, with some leaving early because of transport issues. He accepted that there had to be flexibility within the transport strategy but didn't know how many people were still around Goodison an hour after the final whistle. Dave then asked if Kirkby would involve more or less travel for fans? Mr. Ellis agreed that there would be more travel but in time, the demographics would change. Asked how attendances would increase if people were put off by the transport plans, Ellis stated that it was the objective of the working group to challenge those attitudes, public transport is cheap and easy and the quality is improving. Mr Ellis said this had been a concern of Everton and that was why the plan adopted a pragmatic stance that Everton had found acceptable. He stated, “There had to be a carrot and stick approach to arranging how people travelled.” And went on to say “there might be some problems initially but, overall, the experience at the Kirkby stadium would be greater than at Goodison Park.”
Responding to Dave's questions surrounding trains Mr. Ellis suggested that if demand was great, train length (6 cars) could increase for 90 minutes post match. Mr Ellis failed to mention th at each additional train would add 15 minutes to each 1,000 supporters queuing time. Mr. Ellis continued to explain Merseyrail have accepted this and people will get to Central Station at the same time as they would if coming from Goodison Park. When Dave informed Mr. Ellis that standing in the open air, queuing when it's raining, after walking for half an hour in the rain, would put people off attending, Mr. Ellis stated that families will use the Park and Ride and Park and Walk and that blue badge holders could park nearer the stadium. Asked about Headbolt Lane and the fact that if it opens, it would increase waiting and departure/arrival time at Kirkby, Mr. Ellis replied that Headbolt lane is only being considered as potential. He agreed that rail provision was better for Goodison Park than Kirkby.
Moving to Bus transport, Mr. Ellis explained that buses would be coming from a wide area. Although Merseytravel have audited the exercise, there have been meetings with them and it had been established that they do not want major disruption to their network. Dave then asked, “Why does KEIOC's information from Stagecoach and Arriva fail to correspond with that presented in the transport assessment?” Mr. Ellis suggested that it could be because it was always difficult to get through to the right people, but then admitted that the SDG information, with regard to whom had buses, had been gleaned from websites.
Dave next turned his attention to the operation at the bus station, ”252 buses to leave in one hour? That requires each bus to leave every 14.5 seconds. Is that possible or even realistic?” Mr. Ellis replied that he thought it was and that the traffic signals would give buses priority. Valley Rd. would be closed. This would assist buses and pedestrians. Dave questioned this consistency but was told it could happen in an hour, it would be a very controlled area. Dave also pointed out that a saw tooth design would hinder fast ingress and egress but was told it would be marginal. Mr. Ellis explained that they didn't want to make it too difficult for supporters. Dave asked if Evertonians will have to get used to queueing but Mr. Ellis replied that they were trying to make sure that those queues weren't too long. He did not deny that there would be queues where there weren't any at the moment. He continued “away supporters would probably make their own way to the Kirkby ground but the Police would probably be involved in the movement of those fans which might involve putting them onto coaches from Liverpool city centre, there would be temporary toilet facilities at Westvale bus park on matchdays and there would be a new building with improved toilets on the railway station”
In relation to the CPZ, Dave pointed out that people can park 360 degrees around Goodison but Kirkby does not have that potential. Mr. Ellis suggested that businesses such as Dairycrest might open up their car parks on match days. He also said that the taxi businesses in Kirkby were in favour of the project and had been very supportive of the plans. They are expected to meet demand.
Finally Dave enquired about the access roads around Kirkby compared with those around Goodison. Mr. Ellis agreed it was a technical challenge and the coach and bus park routes would be the busiest.
Mrs. Burden closed the inquiry for the day; the ordeal for Mr. Ellis will resume tomorrow.