Cost over runs by Network Rail at Kings Cross station office refurbishment

The request was successful.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I should be grateful for copies of all correspondence, email, meeting minutes, reports, spreadsheets and other records held by the Department concerning cost over runs by Network Rail in their refurbishment of the Kings Cross station offices generally known as the Eastern Range.

Press reports have suggested a cost over run of £30million on a project budgeted at £30 million see
http://www.cnplus.co.uk/news/kings-cross...

This £30m over run is just under 10% of the overall budget for the station refurbishment so i assume that the Department will have been notified and will have investigated the matter.

These expensive offices are solely for the use of network rails own staff and there is a strong public interest in understanding how such an exorbitant over run came about, how this was reported to the Department, then Minister responsible and the actions taken against the network rail staff managing the project.

My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic
means. If one part of this request can be answered sooner than
others, please send that information first followed by any
subsequent data. If you need any clarification of this request
please feel free to email me. If FOI requests of a similar nature
have already been asked could you please include your responses to
those requests.

I am aware that network rail is not covered directly by FOI, but the Department is, which is why i am asking you for this information. As Network Rail is a quasi public body and much of the cost overrun is being blamed on heritage requirements enforced by another public body, English Heritage citing commercial confidentiality in this case would be a nonsense and against the public interest.

Many public authorities release their contracts and similar information with private
vendors and quasi public bodies such as Network Rail in line with the Freedom of Information Act. The exemption
for commercial interest under the Act (section 43) is a qualified
exemption, which means information can only be withheld if it is in
the public’s interest. The public have an interest in knowing the
terms of contracts awarded by public authorities, whether or not
public money changes hands immediately.

If you are relying on section 41 (the exemption for legal breach of
confidence) then I would like to know the following: • When these
confidentiality agreements were agreed • All correspondence and
email in which these confidentiality agreements were discussed. •
The precise wording of the confidentiality agreements

I ask these questions because guidance issued by both the Lord
Chancellor (draft guidance on FOI implementation) and the Office of
Government Commerce (Model terms and conditions for goods and
services) specifically state that public authorities should not
enter into these types of agreements; they go directly against the
spirit of the laws of disclosure. I would also point to the
Information Commissioner’s guidance on accepting blanket commercial
confidentiality agreements: ‘Unless confidentiality clauses are
necessary or reasonable, there is a real risk that, in the event of
a complaint, the Commissioner would order disclosure in any case.’

Finally, within the law of confidence there is also a public
interest test. Therefore, the contracts should be disclosed in
full. If any parts are redacted they must be for information that
can be proven to be a legal breach of confidence in court, and only
then where secrecy can be shown to be in the public interest. These
are difficult positions to argue when public money is at stake or
where a public authority is offering a private company a monopoly
to charge its stakeholders.

Yours faithfully,

william perrin
www.kingscrossenvironment.com

Lara Bolch, Department for Transport

Dear Mr Perrin

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information about Network rail cost over-runs which has been allocated the above reference number. A response will be issued to you in due course.

Regards,

Department for Transport
Information Rights Unit
D/04, Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7GA

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Mike Gannon, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Perrin,

 

Please find attached the acknowledgement of your request for information
on cost overruns on the refurbishment of the King’s Cross Station Eastern
Range building by Network Rail.

 

Kind regards, Mike Gannon.

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

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Mike Gannon, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Perrin,

 

Please find attached a letter explaining why we need additional time to
respond to your request for information on cost overruns on the
refurbishment of the King’s Cross Station Eastern Range building by
Network Rail.

 

Kind regards, Mike Gannon.

 

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

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Mike Gannon, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Perrin,

 

Please find attached the response to your request for information on cost
overruns by Network Rail for the refurbishment of the King’s Cross Station
Eastern Range building.

 

Kind regards, Mike Gannon.

 

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

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Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Transport's handling of my FOI request 'Cost over runs by Network Rail at Kings Cross station office refurbishment'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

the response is incomplete and contains only synthesised information, not the range of materials requested.

network rail is embarked upon a major refurbishment of kings cross station a complex grade 1 listed building. the partial information released demonstrates that network rail cannot control costs on an office refurbishment in a listed building. there is no explanation of why the costs rose out of control nor what steps the department took to manage this and make ministers aware.

this is a disturbing precedent for the more complex rail and structural engineering works NR has to undertake on kings cross station. more broadly, network rail has a major station building programme underway worth hundreds of millions of pounds, for which this overspend at the very outset bodes ill.

the information released does not make clear to what extent the Department was kept informed of this overspend, nor the Department's interactions with network rail to bring the costs under control.

there is a strong public interest in revealing the detailed documents first requested to show how the department keeps track of network rail's cost controls, how ministers and senior officials are kept informed, how network rail is asked to take remedial steps and how it responds.

this isn't a matter of policy so much as simple competence in engineering project management and should be open to public scrutiny. my arguments about the lack of commerical confidentiality issues in this case set out in the original submission also apply here.

there is a real risk that the (vaguely) stated £400m budget for kings cross will rise to the eye watering £800m of St Pancras.

Yours faithfully,

william perrin

FOI-ADVICE-TEAM-DFT, Department for Transport

Dear Mr Perrin

Thank you for your e-mail. I will pass this to the appropriate person to start the internal review procedure.

Yours sincerely

Lara

Lara Bolch
Information Rights Unit
Department for Transport
D/04 Ashdown House Hastings
(0207 944) 8445

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Francis Irving left an annotation ()

Blog post unpicking some of the information from this request: http://www.kingscrossenvironment.com/201...

Richard Cantwell, Department for Transport

1 Attachment

Michael,

Please find attached an identical copy of the original response letter in question with my signature redacted.

Could your team please ensure that the original response letter showing my signature is removed from your website at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

Many thanks

Richard Cantwell | Deputy Director, In-franchise Change, Passenger Services, Department for Transport
4/18 GMH | 020 7944 2242 | 07887 633557

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M Bimmler left an annotation ()

As may be apparent from the reply dated 2 June 2017, the official at the Department for Transport who had signed the internal review response dated 1 December 2009 has (in consultation with us) decided to re-issue the internal review response letter with his signature redacted. Following this re-sending and according to the official's request, we have removed the original response with the signature. I confirm that the two letters are (except for the redacted signature) otherwise equal and that the letter had first been sent on 1 December 2009.

Michael
WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer administrator

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