Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mono Mania

A monorail goes up New Street - from 2025 Kirklees Transport Vision

 One anecdote from the last Full Council meeting was my mock proposal to have a monorail from Scapegoat Hill, through Golcar and Milnsbridge and on into Town. The idea was to highlight the fantasy proposal from the Lib Dems about having some flyover bridge over Milnsbridge by coming up with something similarly financially unfeasible. For more background see my 'What's pink and hangs from a lamppost' blogpost about the Golcar By election.

It was during my speech that Tory Leader Robert Light piped up and said, 'The monorail was our idea!'. Apart from completely missing the point that I was taking the 'michael' out of the Lib Dems he was also wrong. Back in the days of plenty, 2005 to be exact, I asked for a feasibility study to be carried out into having a monorail link between Huddersfield Railway Station going up Leeds Road and past the Stadium on up to Cooper Bridge and back. The idea was to provide an alternative link for people going to the shopping up Leeds Rd, going to the Cinema or to watch a match without using the car. Leeds Road is a hotspot for traffic pollution and is an Air Quality Management Area so it would be one way of addressing this. The following day from the meeting I put the word 'monorail' into my search facility in my Outlook account and hey presto on the 14/2/2005 popped up the Green Party Budget amendment for that year compiled for us by the Ex Finanace Chief for Kirklees Dick Hewitson and there it stated:-

Provide a detailed feasibility for a public transport link between Huddersfield Town Centre, Leeds Road and Cooper Bridge - The 'Cooper Monorail'

This was from the Press Release we put out at the time:-

Leeds Road is a hive of industrial and retail units, the Galpharm stadium and the UCI. With the possible expansion of industrial outlets on the Leeds Road corridor this puts increasing pressure on traffic congestion and increasingly dangerous levels of low air quality. “This is a typical example of the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality where no thought has been given to how people will be able to get to places other than by road. Greens are proposing a detailed feasibility study into alternative modes of transport from Huddersfield Town Centre up Leeds Road and to Cooper Bridge. These will include the serious evaluation of dedicated bus lanes, trams and monorails as alternatives to the car.” Said Councillor Cooper.

 I'm pretty sure I'd asked Dick Hewitson to take the 'Cooper Monorail' out of the final version of our Budget Amendment. At the time it was a bit of a 'mono mania' I had and the sort of Councillor enthusiasm that Council Officers may be sceptical about but can't really ignore if it is part of budget discussions. The reason I was pushing it was because whenever I saw a futuristic city ('Logans Run' springs to mind) they always had monorails as their preferred form of public transport. Electric non polluting and modern. The idea was taken up and some work was done on it during the Tory minority administration but like some other notable acheivements during their time such as 'free insulation'   their origins came from the Green Party.  

The thing to take away from all this is that with imposed local austerity, significant improvements to local transport are stalled and in some cases going backwards. Many local bus service are under threat and slow and unreliable train services like the Penistone Line limp on. Meanwhile the Coalition has its own 'mono mania' with the £50-80 Billion HS2 which it continues to bulldoze through despite robust evidence of its non-benefits. Governments should be judged, in part, by their vision of the future. For the Coalition it is big, national with highly contested benefits. The future has to be local, of significance to health and quality of life and benefit to communities and local economies. I think the 'Cooper Monorail' would stand up to scrutiny against HS2 on those parameters at least.

Kirklees is not the first place to consider a monorail the small town of Springfield in the USA also gave it some serious thought

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