FOI request detail

Project Detroit Emails

Request ID: FOI-0498-2425
Date published: 06 June 2024

You asked

Follow-on from FOI-0082-2425: OK can we please have the first 100 of those emails in time order, or if 100 is too much then whatever number of emails you are willing to process for one FOI request. "Project Detroit" AND "resource" "project Detroit" AND "post" "project Detroit" AND "budget" "project Detroit" AND "FTE"

We answered

Our Ref:         FOI-0498-2425

Thank you for your request received on 15 May 2024 asking for information about Project Detroit.

Your requests have been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and our information access policy. I can confirm that we hold the information you require

However, we are refusing your request under section 14(1) of the Act. I have reviewed the first 100 emails identified in the search for “Project Detroit” and “resource.” A large number of these are duplicates or chains of emails which include the search terms at least once. The emails consist of meeting updates and actions as well as several automatic notifications that are generated when tasks have to be completed or have been re/assigned. They do not appear to contain any material value that would be of assistance or interest.

However, in terms of volume, those 100 emails account for over 1,000 pages of material which we would have to review in full. While reviewing 100 emails is not a large number, the emails – along with any attachments, would need to be fully reviewed and any necessary redactions made. By their nature, emails contain a significant amount of personal data such as phone numbers and email addresses and so, whilst this process of redaction does not feature as part of our considerations on whether the cost limit might apply, the burden created by non-specific requests for emails is significant and this should be borne in mind before submitting requests of this nature.

Therefore, we consider that providing the requested information would place an unreasonable burden on us. Our principal duty is to provide an effective transport service for London and we consider that answering this request would represent a disproportionate effort. We do wish to clarify that whilst we consider that your request falls under section 14(1) of the FOI Act, this does not reflect a conclusion that it has been your intention to deliberately place an undue burden on our resources.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance states that one of the indicators of a request which may fall under section 14(1) is that it “appears to be part of a completely random approach, lacks any clear focus, or seems to have been solely designed for the purpose of ‘fishing’ for information without any idea of what might be revealed.”

The ICO guidance provides the following examples of a ‘fishing expedition’ request which may fall under section 14(1) if it:

•           Imposes a burden by obliging the authority to sift through a substantial volume of information to isolate and extract the relevant details;
•           Encompasses information which is only of limited value because of the wide scope of the request;
•           Creates a burden by requiring the authority to spend a considerable amount of time considering any exemptions and redactions.

Our view is that all three of these examples apply in this instance.

We consider the burden of retrieving, reviewing, and redacting the information would be disproportionate to the benefit of providing it. Therefore, although you have refined your request to a smaller number of emails the scope of your request is still wide and unfocused, and covering a significant volume of material. We are therefore refusing it under section 14 of the FOI Act. As this is already a narrower request to your original one, it may be more beneficial to ask specific questions on the topic rather than another request for correspondence. As you may be aware, a number of request on this subject have already been answered in previous FOI requests and our answers to those can be found by searching our published response database:

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Jacob
Senior FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London

[email protected]

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