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Issue 12 - May 1973
Dirty Deeds With Rapid Transit
Much publicity has been given to the objections brought against the Rapid Transit Bill, currently winding its way through Parliament and facing its final reading very soon. There has been quite an impressive list of objectors printed in the local press, and it would appear that no-one wants Rapid Transit after all!

However, after initial investigation into these objections (as far as one can legally go) we have discovered that all is not what it seems.

Firstly, whilst the list of objectors has received a great deal of publicity, it seems a well kept secret that most of the objections have been withdrawn following further explanation of the system by Tyneside PTE.

The main objectors still in the running are - The Victoria Square Pleasure Ground and Preservation Society, Mr E Gordon Brown, Victoria Square, Mrs Helen Brown, Victoria Square, Story Sons and Parker, the City Council(?).

The Victoria Square vicinity appears to be the main area of activity as far as objections go. The Victoria Square Society has about a dozen members. The Chairman is Mr E Gordon Brown. Mr E Gordon Brown and his wife Mrs Helen Brown live and work in Victoria Square. Both Mr and Mrs Brown have lodged official objections. Their main objection is common to the majority of objectors - that of the 'compulsory purchase orders'. At present the Rapid Transit Bill gives the PTE the right to acquire the subsoil rights to the properties along or above) the route of the Rapid Transit system. If, within 2 years of the system opening, any of the properties suffer any damage from the scheme then the PTE is liable to pay compensation out - or if a building is too badly affected then the PTE buy it. Not a particularly nice thing to happen, especially when the building happens to be your home, therefore it is understandable that the Browns are worried about their home, as well as the remnants of Victoria Square. We applaud the efforts of these people to safeguard their homes and we would support them, if we felt that they needed help BUT apparently the Browns did not object to the motorway (although they can hardly be blamed for this, as they probably didn't know anything about it, due to the council's bad habit of keeping things in the dark), what they have objected to is a transport system which will run at least 9 metres underground and which goes underground at the opposite side of Jesmond Road.

What they did not object to was a motorway which will come within 10 feet of their first floor windows! Therefore they won't notice the RTS, because of the noise, dirt and vibrations from the motorway! (FOE North East would like to make it quite clear that we deeply sympathise with the residents of Victoria Square. What we are trying to put over is the fact that there was little or no need to object to the RTS - once the motorway is built they will notice nothing else short of a minor earthquake.)

Storey Sons and Parker have put in several objections in the interests of their clients although investigations have shown that by sheer coincidence they have very close connections with the British Road Federation!

The City Council - our beloved City Council - have decided that "in order to guard the conservation areas of Newcastle" objections were necessary! In their recent election manifestos both Labour and Tory parties have claimed full backing for the RTS. This is of course obvious - we can see the council lending a helping hand to the PTE.

Who could doubt the obvious benefits of withdrawing their annual grant to the TPTE? And apparently they've built that nice urban motorway just to help the RTS function properly!

A recent diversion (the council's Motorway Progress Report) gave the residents of Victoria Square another shock when it announced that the Passenger Transport Executive had started work on the rail tunnel under Victoria Square.

Actually, it was a 'misprint' (or so they told the PTE, but no-one else), which should have read "Work has started on the tunnel box".

The 'box' is part of the tunnel which will lie directly beneath the motorway, and rather than rip up the motorway if the Transit Bill gets the go-ahead, they are spending a great deal of money building this very small section now - to avoid future traffic jams and roadworks. If the Bill does not get the go-ahead then the box will not be used, but there is no question of a tunnel running through Victoria Square until the Bill is passed.

The council are also going to great pains to soil the name of the PTE by blaming them for stopping free passes etc. Again, it should be realised that if the council had not withdrawn the grant in the first place this would not have happened. The PTE want an effective public transport system, the Council do not as they are afraid that it may threaten their sacred Urban Motorway.

It is not the people of Newcastle who are against the Rapid Transit System, it is the City Council and the British Road Federation!

Colin Clews
(Friends of the Earth)