Rail Network Enhancement

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Department for Transport should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Department for Transport,

I note the publication “Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline:Autumn 2019 Schemes Update” dated October 2019 which has been published on line at the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

This reports several proposals for enhancement of the rail network that have been deemed appropriate to progress through “gateways” in an evaluation process known as the Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline (RNEP).

The evaluation process is set out in a document about the RNEP dated March 2018 subtitled “A new approach for rail enhancements”. That 2018 document is on line at this url;

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

I note that the recent document appears to have added a precursor stage to the process - a “decision to initiate”. At page 7 of the recent document, it confirms that a “decision to initiate” would require a “Strategic Outline Business case”.

In the appendix to the 2018 document at paragraphs A.4 and A.5 is set out the information required to inform a “Decision to Develop.”. At appendix paragraphs A.10 and A.11 is set out the information required to inform a “Decision to Design”. Appendix paragraphs A.15, A.16 and A.17 set out the information required to inform a “Decision to Deliver”. Appendix Paragraph A.20 indicates the information required for an “acceptance decision”.

Please publish the information contained in the documentation fulfilling the above requirements that was prepared to inform the last RNEP gateway decision for each of the schemes listed in section 2 of the October 2019 publication.

The information requested here falls under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Thornton

Department for Transport

Dear Mr Thornton,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information which
has been allocated reference number P0018095.

A response will be issued to you in due course.

Regards,

Ivan Pocock
Department for Transport
FOI Advice Team
Governance Division
Zone D/04
Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7GA

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Graham Buckley, Department for Transport

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Thornton

 

Please find attached a response to your FOI request FOI001895.

 

Regards

Graham Buckley

 

[1][IMG]          Graham Buckley 
Briefing and Correspondence Manager, Rail
Infrastructure South Directorate, Southeast, Anglia and
Enhancements Portfolio 

3/23, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR  

0207 944 2167       07766 133561
[2]Follow us on twitter @transportgovuk 

 

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Mr Graham Buckley
Briefing and Correspondence Manager, Rail
Infrastructure South Directorate, Southeast, Anglia and Enhancements Portfolio
DfT
3/23, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR

Dear Mr. Buckley,

I was disappointed to receive your letter today declining to provide the requested information about the various development schemes which Network Rail wishes to take forward. It was particularly disappointing that your reply was not provided until the very end of the maximum permitted period under the EIRs. The EIRs have an overriding requirement that responses are provided as soon as possible. Avoidable delay has occurred.

Given that the information requested falls under the Environmental information Regulations, section 12 of FOIA cannot be engaged as you have claimed. Specifically, the cost limit you have suggested does not carry over for engagement of the EIRs. You have provided no analysis of your refusal in the terms of the EIR nor have you provided any analysis of the balance of public interest in this matter.

Given Regulation 4 of the EIR’s, the information I am requesting now should previously have been published spontaneously and without the need for it to be requested. Had publication of each piece of analysis by Network Rail occurred concurrent with the existing distribution of that information, (presumably to DfT and others), when it was completed, the additional burden on the organization would have been negligible.

As it is, the 2019 document lists just 62 proposed schemes and it is unlikely that there is a separate department or directorate for each one. Even so, if there is a similar number of departments, the requested information should be readily accessible to each. The information I am requesting is already collated in completed documents which are highly current and must be readily accessible to the relevant DfT staff members dealing with projected rail developments.

Even if some redaction was to be required from each (and I see no reason why it should be) the amount of time/cost required for each should not be substantial, particularly balanced against the overall estimated total cost for each of these projects.

However, given your response, your inability to accurately determine the workload in advance and for the avoidance of needless further delay, I am willing to amend my request as you suggest.

I request that you provide me with the requested material for the 5 schemes, from the 62, that have the highest estimated total scheme cost.

Thereafter, please provide the remaining information for each remaining scheme in descending order of benefit to cost ratio i.e. information about those schemes with better cost benefit ratios to be provided first.

Please continue to provide this requested information sequentially, but rapidly, until you reach the point at which DfT then regards my request as being “manifestly unreasonable“ under the provisions of the EIR’s. Your justification of that point having been reached must be provided at that time.

In determining when the provision of responses has reached the stage of being manifestly unreasonable, DfT should take account that during the development of proposals it is in the public interest and reasonable for the public to be informed of the estimated cost and the cost: benefit ratio‘s for proposals that the public will be expected to fund either as taxpayers or ticket buyers. Surely DfT wishes to ensure public encouragement for proposals which have good benefit to cost ratio’s, particularly compared to the appalling BCR for the HS2 Scheme? Those projects will impact on the environment either positively or negatively. Arhus Convention principles and obligations should be given greater weight than simply the immediate small cost considerations when deciding whether the request is manifestly unreasonable.

Finally, I note that the links in my original request for the original source documents no longer function on line on the Whatdotheyknow.com website. For the avoidance of doubt, and the benefit of public readers, the relevant documents are at the following links.

The publication “Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline:Autumn 2019 Schemes Update” dated October 2019 has been published on line at the following link:

https://www.nsar.co.uk/wp-content/upload...

The evaluation process is set out in a document about the RNEP dated March 2018 subtitled “A new approach for rail enhancements”. That 2018 document is on line at this link

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

Yours sincerely,

Dr Paul Thornton

Department for Transport

Dear Dr Thornton,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information which
has been allocated reference number P0018159.

A response will be issued to you in due course.

Regards,

Ivan Pocock
Department for Transport
FOI Advice Team
Governance Division
Zone D/04
Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7GA

show quoted sections

Graham Buckley, Department for Transport

2 Attachments

Dear Dr Thornton

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your request reference
– FOI18159.

 

Regards

 

Graham Buckley

 

[1][IMG]          Graham Buckley 
Briefing and Correspondence Manager, Rail
Infrastructure South Directorate, Southeast, Anglia and
Enhancements Portfolio 

3/23, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR  

0207 944 2167       07766 133561
[2]Follow us on twitter @transportgovuk 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Mr Buckley,

Your reference FOI0018095/F0018159

I refer to your letter of the 10th February 2020. This further attempt to prevaricate risks appearing, to the outside observer, as an attempt to shield incompetence or deception. The suggestion that the requested information has not been collated previously does create the impression that the Secretary of State cannot have been properly briefed by the department in respect of the rail schemes that could or should be taken forward either in addition to HS2, or instead of it. Given the imminence of a prime ministerial announcement you might wish to act quickly in that regard.

Unfortunately, you persist in fundamental errors in the response to this request.

Firstly, I again observe that all the information requested here falls unequivocally under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations such that your references to exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act are irrelevant.

Secondly, my email to you of the 14th January 2020 was not a new request for information and should not be treated as such. It was a narrowing of the request I first submitted on the 13th December 2019 to which your response of the 14th January was needlessly delayed. That narrowing was purposefully provided such that exemption EIR12(4)(b) cannot now be engaged.

Thirdly, the only provision for extension of time available to you under the EIRs lies at exemption EIR7. This provides for an extension of a further 20 days but only where “the complexity and volume of the information requested means that it is impractical either to comply with the request or make a decision to refuse to do so.” To the extent that an additional 20 days might have been permitted under the legislation, that additional 20 day period started on the 14th January. You have no grounds for an additional 20 days as you now claim. Alternatively, even if the request of the 14th January was to be considered as a new enquiry, because it is so narrowed down, the information cannot be of “complexity and volume”. EIR 7 cannot now be engaged.

In short, you have used up the time permitted for your response under the legislation.

Fourthly, notwithstanding the maximum timescales set out above, the EIRs contain an overriding requirement to provide responses “as soon as possible”. Accordingly, it is entirely clear that the department has had more than sufficient time even since 14 January 2019, (and certainly since the 13th December 2019), to assess and document the public interest in this matter. It is also clear that, consistent with Arhus Convention principles, the public interest in favour of publication is overwhelming.

I realise that I have no levers to pull that will expedite this matter and that, based on past experience, the department will probably continue to prevaricate. We both know that the delays in the handling of complaints by the Office of the Information Commissioner are such that a complaint to the Commissioner, under the legislation, would be futile at this juncture. However, I simply place on record my concerns and document that I cannot accept that there is justification for further delay and certainly not delay, as you suggest, until the 10th March 2020 or possibly later.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Paul Thornton