Network Rail to be stationed within FOI regime by end of March
Simon Hughes MP, Justice Minister, announced on 2nd March at the ICO’s Data Protection Practitioners’ Conference (#DPPC2015) that Network Rail will officially join 100 other companies which have been brought within the scope of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the coalition government. He said that the government is determined to open up Network Rail information, such as that on operations, safety, pay and pensions, (currently annual expenditure of £3.5 billion) to which the public has a right to know.
Network Rail was reclassified as a public body on 1st September 2014, an FOI Order was put before Parliament in February, and it would be in force at the end of this month. Significantly, the Order is retrospective which means that requests can be made for information from the start of Network Rail’s operation on 28th October 2002.
The minister also said that while the ICO has been lobbying for contractors to be included, there is no coalition government agreement on this point. Hughes said that in his view, all contracted out national and local services should be covered by the FOI Act.
The government expects that Network Rail will receive 3,600 and 5,600 FOI requests per year. The company itself has said that it expect the figure to be at the upper end of this range.
Network Rail’s Head of Transparency, Mark Farrow, has spoken with government departments as well as Transport For London to help produce its own forecasts. He said that Network Rail is keen to run its FOI programme, based on the platform of its interim voluntary access programme, and has done everything possible not to be caught out by a deluge of requests.
Sources: www.foi.directory/featured/network-rail-expects-6000-foi-requests-in-first-year-covered-by-the-act/ and www.networkrail.co.uk/FOI/