NGT, Greg Mulholland, and the trip to Budapest

At the start of this year

In January this year, MP Greg Mulholland, visited Budapest on a trip supported and organised by trolleybus equipment manufacturer Vossloh. It was supposed to be a fact finding mission, designed to inform Mr Mulholland about trolleybuses.

Here is an extract from the minutes of a meeting that took place in Budapest on the 18th January 2012 between Mr Mulholland, Stuart Kerr (Vossloh), John Leech MP and representatives of Budapest’s transport body.

John Leech Do you get a better modal shift to public transport with trolleybuses than with motor buses?

László Szedlmajer We find that passengers tend not to notice the difference between trolley and motor buses.

Greg Mulholland The proposed Leeds trolleybus system is designed to emulate light rail. Would you consider use of a higher spec trolleybus?

Levente Nagy Doubtful if we would install any new trolleybus routes. We would look towards the future availability of electric buses.

Stuart Kerr What is the future role of the trolleybus?

László Szedlmajer Trams are considered more important. No changes to the trolleybus network are planned.

The All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group subsequently met on the 20th March 2012. As well as Mr Mulholland, it was attended by several others including Stuart Kerr from Vossloh, and Andrew Braddock from Tbus. Here are extracts from the minutes of that meeting:

Greg Mulholland The Department of Transport knows that there is little enthusiasm for NGT in Leeds and this could be an excuse to scrap the scheme.

Andrew Braddock Budapest trolleybus operation is not a good comparison for NGT in Leeds. Lyon or Zurich would have been better.

Stuart Kerr If you cannot afford the best, go for the best you can afford. Doing nothing leads to stagnation.

John Leech I am aware that Budapest has budgetary problems. Is the fact that a fixed wire system reassures passengers the reason why trolleybuses are being retained?

László Szedlmajer Yes, although we could not anyway afford replacement diesel buses at the moment.

Then on the 4th July, Mr Mulholland submitted an early day motion to parliament calling on the government to provide funding for NGT. He did this despite having learnt from Budapest that:

  1. Trolleybuses do not lead to increased use of public transport.
  2. Budapest would like to replace its trolleybuses with battery powered buses.
  3. Budapest would already have replaced its trolleybuses with diesel buses had it been been able to afford to.

On the 5th July, on a secret visit to Leeds, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg announced that funding had been approved, subject to NGT passing the necessary hurdles. The suspicion is that this was a political decision, not based on any supposed merits of the NGT proposal.

And the question arises, why should we pay for MPs like Greg Mulholland to fly abroad on fact finding missions, when they simply ignore the facts that they learn on these trips?

(photo courtesy of Bruno!)

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