Sound files for all Northern Rail automated announcements.

The request was refused by Northern Trains Limited.

Phillip Collins

Dear Northern Trains Limited,

I am making a request to you for information under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000 please.

Under the act please provide me with copies of all of the sound files of all of your automated announcements.

This must include all of these:

• Station Platform Automated Announcements voiced by Celia Drummond - this is on the Ketech system - this is the standard station announcements system used at most of your stations.

• Onboard Automated Announcements on your classes 150 153 155 156 158 170 195 319 321 322 323 331 769 voiced by Trish Jarman - this is the standard onboard announcements system used on most of your trains - i think it runs on the Train FX system.

• Onboard Automated Announcements on your class 333 voiced by Martin Oldfield - these 333 use different automated announcements to your other classes - this is a separate system.

• Onboard Automated Announcements - Wessex Trains announcements voiced by Ruth Mitchell - a couple of your class 158 units still have the old Wessex Trains announcements installed - i was just on a Northern Rail 158 last week which kept playing these - this is the old Contronics system and this is separate to the Train FX system which is also on these same units - so i would like these sound files too.

You can provide these as ZIP files or MP3 files or WAV files or however is most convenient for you to send them to me.

Thank you very much in advance for your help and i look forward to hearing from you within twenty working days.

Yours faithfully,

Phillip Collins

SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

Dear Phillip

We are handling your request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act). Under the terms of the Act you are entitled to a response within 20 working days of receipt. We therefore aim to provide a response no later than 04/08/2022. If we cannot meet this deadline we will let you know the reason and also tell you when you can expect a response.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information, Northern Trains Ltd

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SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

1 Attachment

Dear Phillip

Please find attached our response to your FOI request.

Regards

Freedom of Information, Northern Trains

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Phillip Collins

Dear SMB - FOI,

Dear sir.

I am writing to request an internal review. I would like an internal review of your response to my request to now be carried out. Please pass this email on to the Northern Rail internal review department.

I am disputing all of the exemptions you have used and will go through each of them explaining why i do not think your exemptions are valid. I apologise that my email is long but please do read it as i believe i make some valid points here.

Firstly i do not believe S24 and S38 can be legitimately used here.

The first thing to point out is that multiple other TOCs including, Southeastern, London North Eastern Railway, Scotrail, Network Rail, Transport For London (London Underground, London Overground, TFL Rail, Croydon Tramlink), Manchester Metrolink, Tyne & Wear Metro, Glasgow Subway, etc, have all never had any problem with releasing their automated announcements. They have always released their automated announcements with no issues at all. I have successfully requested the automated announcements from many of the above companies and i have seen on the What Do They Know website that many other people have too.

So just the simple fact that all of the above TOCs have released their automated announcements is a huge indicator that S24 and S38 are not a valid exemption to use to refuse automated announcements. Such a large amount of companies listed above would not release their automated announcements if S24 and S38 really legitimately applied.

See the examples here for proof that other companies are happily releasing theirs:

• SE - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

• SE - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

• SE - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

• SE - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

• SE - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

• LNER - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/7...

• LNER - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/7...

• LNER - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/7...

• LNER - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/7...

• TFL - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/6...

• TFL - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/6...

• TFL - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/6...

• Network Rail - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

• Nottingham Express Transit - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

• Manchester Metrolink - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

• Manchester Metrolink - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

These are only a very small selection of examples. If you do a search for yourself you will see that there are over 100 requests made on the What Do They Know website to various companies for copies of their automated announcements sound files.

I disagree that these announcements could be used to pose a risk to passenger and staff safety or be used to disrupt the safe operation of the railway. Just having sound files will obviously not allow anyone to hack in to the system or anything like that. If you are trying to claim that somebody will use the files to play over their own personal speaker which they take to a station or a train than i also disagree this is a risk as it would be very obvious what the person is doing. Anyway somebody could easily get the files anyway by going onboard your trains or to your stations and standing under the speaker and recording them themselves. In fact they could even just use files from youtube. If you search on youtube you will see there are hundreds of videos of your onboard announcements and station announcements which they could download and play. So it is not like you are giving something which can not already be obtained other ways if someone wanted to. As far as i am aware there is no record of anyone ever using sound files released by train companies to cause any disruption or for any malicious intent.

May i also say that if there are some certain particular recordings that you are concerned about (maybe there are some safety related recordings telling people to evacuate the train or announcements such as that) than you can just remove those few files from the folder and do not give me those sound files. Just give me all of the other sound files. So if it is some particular files that are a concern (such as the example i gave) than just do not give me those particular sound files and just give me all of the other ones such as the standard announcement files. So this should then remove any S24 and S38 concerns that you have.

Both the S24 and S38 exemptions are subject to the public interest test and i believe that the public interest in releasing these automated announcements hugely outweighs any security risks. You should note that there is a very large public interest in railway automated announcements and having a look online on various websites and forums confirms that the public interest is very large. Any safety risks and any security risks are incredibly minor compared to the public interest which is huge. So i think you need to look in to the large public interest in releasing these.

You should note that a few months ago Transport For Wales Rail Limited attempted to use the same S24 and S38 exemptions that you are using when i made this exact same request to them to ask for their automated announcements. However upon them conducting a review they lost their case and agreed with my appeal that S24 and S38 were not reasonable exemptions to use and they agreed to provide me with their automated announcements. I was successful in appealing S24 and S38 and Transport For Wales Rail Limited provided me their automated announcements. So similarly i do not think the S24 and S38 exemptions are valid for you to use and i believe that the Information Commissioner Office would agree with me here if i went to them.

Now let me move on to the S43(2) exemption as i do not believe that this is valid either.

The first thing to note is that both Scotrail and TFL have released their Ketech sound files. So both Scotrail and TFL have released their files despite being provided by the same company that provides yours. If you do not believe me you can look on the What Do They Know website and you can ask Scotrail and TFL yourself.

So i believe the fact that Scotrail and TFL have released their Ketech files makes your S43(2) exemption not valid. If releasing these sound files was an issue and would constitute a breach of contract and result in legal action and damage the ability of Ketech to compete in a commercial environment and any of the other things you have claimed then i am pretty sure that Scotrail and TFL would not have released theirs.

I also fail to see what automated announcement sound files being available to the public would do to damage the ability of Ketech to compete in a commercial environment or breach the contract or result in any legal action. For example singers sing songs and then release them to the public and anyone could go and listen to it and download it. But the song still remains the singers song (or the recording companies song or whatever) despite it being publicly available and no damage is done. So i think a similar sort of thing applies with releasing these sound files.

If you have not done so already may i suggest that you should contact Ketech as part of this internal review and get their views on you releasing these station automated announcements sound files. Ketech do not seem to have had any issues with Scotrail and TFL releasing their sound files as far as i am aware. So i highly doubt that Ketech would have any problem with you releasing your station automated announcements sound files.

Finally similar to what i said above for S24 and S38 you should note that S43(2) is also subject to the public interest test and i believe that the public interest in releasing these automated announcements hugely outweighs any commercial risks. You should note that there is a very large public interest in railway automated announcements and having a look online on various websites and forums confirms that the public interest is very large. Any commercial risks or anything you have mentioned in your reply are very minor compared to the public interest which is huge. So again like i said before i think you need to look in to the large public interest in releasing these.

The above was about your station announcements so i am going to move on to your claims about not holding your onboard announcements.

Your onboard announcements are not Text To Speech announcements. They are voiced by a real human (either Trisha Jarman on the 150 153 155 156 158 170 195 319 321 322 323 331 769 trains or by Martin Oldfield on the 333 trains or by Ruth Mitchell on a few of your 158 that still have the old Contronics system from Wessex Trains on it) who has recorded the sound files. Text To Speech announcements are synthetic voices (such as the Acapela Rachael announcements that certain TOCs use at some minor small stations) rather than real voices. I know your onboard announcements are not Text To Speech announcements.

It is indeed the case that they are made up of multiple words and short phrases that the system then adds together to make an announcement. However that is the case for all announcements (including your Ketech station announcements and also all of the other announcements that other TOCs have released) not just these. I know there will still be sound files of all of the individual words and phrases as the voiceover artists have had to record these sound files of words and phrases and then send them to you. So the sound files do exist.

Also note that in regards to your onboard automated announcements i am asking for the sound files of three completely separate automated announcements systems that are completely separate and unrelated to each other.

So could you please kindly take in to consideration all of my points i have made above and conduct an internal review in to your response to my request. Hopefully this will be successful and you will be able to release all four of the four automated announcements systems sound files that i requested in my original request.

If my internal review is unsuccessful and you continue to refuse to release these sound files then i will definitely contact the Information Commissioner Office and ask for them to conduct a review as i strongly believe that these announcements should be released and strongly disagree that these exemptions that you have used are valid.

Thank you very much for your help and i look forward to hearing back from you regarding my internal review within twenty working days.

Kind regards.

Phillip Collins

Yours sincerely,

Phillip Collins

SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

Dear Phillip

We acknowledge your request for an internal review and we will aim to provide a response no later than 08/08/2022. If we cannot meet this deadline we will let you know the reason and also tell you when you can expect a response.

Yours sincerely,

Freedom of Information, Northern Trains Ltd

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SMB - FOI, Northern Trains Limited

1 Attachment

Please find attached our response to your request for an internal review.

Regards

Freedom of Information, Northern Trains.

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