06 October 2014

Freedom From Information

Today has been an interesting day, first this article in the Independent featuring the shadow Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh, pointing out that we won’t be able to raise FOI requests to Network Rail until around the time of the General Election. This in itself seems to be an abuse of public information, and as Mary rightly points out, it makes it difficult to call out this Government on their efforts with the national train service until after the election.

And on the train home, a fellow Twitter follower sent me a link to his FOI response for the Southeastern franchise.

As I’ve written on Twitter, I have a similar FOI request pending with the Department for Transport, though on reading the response to Sam Crawford’s request I very much doubt that my FOI request will be any more forthcoming. Which is a shame.

Communication

One of the points in, the now silent (on the subject of the franchise), Claire Perry’s letter talks about how staff will be provided with tablets for ‘up-to-the-minute advice to passengers’. The response from the DfT to Sam’s FOI request clearly shows they have no desire to provide any advice or information to passengers.

There is no point denying the request, and witholding the information because it is due for future publication (in the middle of November 2014).

The new franchise starts on October 12th, so for a month, as per usual, Southeastern passengers will be in the dark as to the requirements placed upon the Franchisee governing the service that they are meant to provide.

I cannot see how the request for information about the “performance targets” cannot be provided and why these need redacting. It is a simple question, which deserves a simple answer

Why the wait?

Whilst the DfT may have run out of black markers to redact parts of the contract (yes I know it’s a simple electronic thing to do), I do question the Government’s decision to delay putting details out about the new Southeastern franchise. A franchise near the bottom of league tables for Train Operating Companies. And a franchise that covers the majority of rail stations in Kent.

Oh, Kent? The home of a by-election expected on 6th November 2014 (src: Wikipedia). Is there some sort of link here?

We can’t FOI Network Rail for information until just before the General Election.

We can’t get information about the Direct Award Franchise to Southeastern that would be useful to a lot of residents of Rochester and Strood (these commuters are a few stops up the line from Dartford). This information will be most likely be made available after the by-election.

I can’t help but think that there is some connection between all of the above.

What next?

If my FOI request is more forthcoming, I’ll make another post on this subject.

Though, taking into account all the events today, I very much doubt our Government and their Ministers will be open with the information that they know.



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Related links


Southeastern Railway Action Group
Dartford Rail Travellers' Association
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Facebook)
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Twitter)