Request ID: FOI-0823-2021
Date published: 19 August 2020
Please could I be provided for the audio announcements for Overground, DLR and Underground lines, on train and station for my personal use.
Our Ref: FOI-0823-2021
Thank you for your request received on 15 August 2020 asking for a copy of the London Underground, London Overground, and DLR announcements.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and TfL’s information access policy. I can confirm we hold some of the information you require.
A copy of the London Underground on train announcements for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly, and the London Overground announcements are available. However, we are refusing your request under section 14(1) of the Act. We consider that providing the requested information would place an unreasonable burden on us at this time. As you will be aware, it is essential for London, and in particular for all critical workers, that we continue to provide a safe transport network that enables them to make the journeys they need to and our staff are working hard to support them and protect all Londoners. We consider that answering this request would represent a disproportionate effort and would require the redirection of limited specialist resources and the attention of staff away from their core functions who could be supporting other essential activity.
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 place an undue burden on our resources.
On the specific application of section 14(1) we have been steered by the ICO guidance on the use of that exemption that can be found on its website here: https://ico.org.uk/media/1198/dealing-with-vexatious-requests.pdf
To be clear, it is the current context in which the request has been made that is central to our decision to apply the exemption set out in section 14(1) in response to your request.
We have responded to several hundred requests for audio recordings over many years. However, due to alternative working arrangements aligned with the Government’s measures to tackle the coronavirus, the FOI Case Management Team do not currently have access to the necessary hardware required to create CDs of audio announcements in response to FOI requests and so we are unable to process these requests remotely.
Additionally, whilst we have also explored alternative technological solutions, it is an unavoidable consequence that processing requests of this nature would require critical employees to be diverted from their operational responsibilities and, in the current circumstances, we consider that our priority must remain on providing and maintaining an effective transport system to essential workers across the capital and that our limited resources are utilised as effectively as possible to ensure that happens. Therefore we are refusing your request under s14 of the FOI Act.
With regards to the London Underground station announcements, and the on train announcements for the other lines, we are not obliged to supply these audio files as the information is subject to a statutory exemption to the right of access to information under section 43(2).
In this instance section 43(2) has been applied as disclosure of the information requested would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of TfL and/or the company used to provide the recordings. The recordings in question were provided to London Underground under a signed contracts which contained explicit conditions concerning disclosure and distribution.
These contracts specify that the recordings are solely to be used for the purpose for which they were created and for broadcast on the London Underground network only. If TfL were to disclose these recordings in response to an FOI request, it would constitute an actionable breach of contract and would be likely to result in a valid legal claim against London Underground or the license to use the recordings being withdrawn, which would impose additional, unnecessary, costs. TfL wishes to protect its commercial interests and ability to participate in future commercial activity. The disclosure of this information would be to the detriment of present and future business activities for both parties.
The use of this exemption is subject to an assessment of the public interest in relation to the disclosure of the information concerned. TfL recognises the need for openness and transparency within public authorities and the degree of public interest concerning London transport announcements in light of the recent disclosure of iBus announcements. However, in this instance this is outweighed by the damage that would be done to TfL’s ability to use these recordings and any future contractual negotiations that may take place regarding the London Underground announcements.
In regard to the DLR audio announcements for the trains and stations, we do not hold this information. The on train announcements for DLR are not held in any central repository and are not ‘recorded ‘ as such. These are done digitally as needed by typing them into a system, combining previously typed announcements where necessary. It is therefore not possible to provide an audio recording, as requested. The station announcements are held on a central system but not in a form that allows them to be distributed.
The impact of current circumstances on TfL’s resources means we are not able to answer FOI requests readily and we ask that you please do not make a request to us at present.
Answering FOI requests will require the use of limited resources and the attention of staff who could be supporting other essential activity. In any event, please note that our response time will be affected by the current situation.
Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.
Senior FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
Transport for London
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