FOI request detail

Brief and correspondence on the urban bus sound

Request ID: FOI-0892-1920
Date published: 17 July 2019

You asked

I am writing to make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please send me copy of TfL’s brief on its current project to develop a city or urban bus sound for electronic buses. The project is being conducted by the consultants Aecom but was initially awarded to TRL (Transport Research Laboratories). Could you also send me any correspondence and emails on the project from October 2018 to the present day. I would also like to see any minutes of meetings on the urban/city bus sound. In particularly please send me notes and/or minutes of meetings that took place with stakeholder groups on Monday 10 June 2019 in TfL Palestra offices. I would like the above information to be provided to me as an electronic document such as a pdf. If this request is too wide or unclear, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I understand that under the Act, you are required to advise and assist requesters. If any of this information is already in the public domain, please can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs if necessary. If the release of any of this information is prohibited on the grounds of breach of confidence, I ask that you supply me with copies of the confidentiality agreement and remind you that information should not be treated as confidential if such an agreement has not been signed. I understand that you are required to respond to my request within the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request. I look forward to hearing from you. My telephone number is XXXX , or email: XXXXX

We answered

Our ref: FOI-0892-1920/GH

Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 27 June 2019 asking for information about the development of an urban bus sound for quiet-running buses in London as part of their Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System.

Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and our information access policy.

I can confirm that we do hold the information you require. However, to provide the information you have requested would exceed the ‘appropriate limit’ of £450 set by the Freedom of Information (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

Under section 12 of the FOI Act, we are not obliged to comply with requests if we estimate that the cost of determining whether we hold the information, locating and retrieving it and extracting it from other information would exceed the appropriate limit. In this instance, we estimate that the time required to answer your request would exceed 18 hours which, at £25 per hour (the rate stipulated by the Regulations), exceeds the ‘appropriate limit’.

You have asked for any correspondence and emails on the project from October 2018 to the present day, along with any minutes of meetings on the urban/city bus sound. We estimate that there will be hundreds of emails between us and Aecom, us and the Transport Research Laboratory, and staff within TfL on this subject, There would also be emails/invites to stakeholders to attend sessions. Locating and compiling all of these documents would easily exceed the appropriate limit.

There were no meetings with stakeholder groups on 10 June as indicated in your email. With regard to other stakeholder dates when there were, each stakeholder session is a meeting in itself and feedback is collected from these, so this would be additional information captured by your request. There will also have been separate earlier meetings with Aecom and TRL.

To help bring the cost of responding to your requests within the £450 limit, you may wish to consider refining your requests to concentrate on matters which are important to you.

Although your request can take the form of a question, rather than a request for specific documents, TfL does not have to answer your question if it would require the creation of new information or the provision of a judgement, explanation, advice or opinion that was not already recorded at the time of your request. If you have specific questions relating to these topics we may be more easily able to respond to these than to a request for any information held. For example we would be able to provide the project brief but ‘all emails about…’ are more likely to lead to a refusal on cost grounds.

We are currently at an explorative research stage with our delivery partner Aecom. Once we have narrowed down the field of sounds and opted for our preferred acoustic warning, we will be publishing the outcome and a recording of the sound. We anticipate that this will be by the end of November. Whilst a request solely for the eight audio files would not exceed the cost limit in its own right, we would likely need to consider refusing a request for these as they can be considered commercially sensitive at this stage of our discussions.

There are currently no buses in the fleet that require AVAS on them as UNECE Regulation 138 applies to new quiet-running models coming into service from 1 July 2019. We also do not anticipate any new models entering service during 2019. However, all new quiet running buses (such as those that are not wholly diesel buses and might run in electric mode at times) will be required to have AVAS by 1 September 2021. TfL intends to adopt AVAS in advance of the mandatory date on quiet-running buses which might include pure electric, diesel-electric hybrid and fuel cell buses. While legislation does not require retrofitting of AVAS, it is something TfL will review in relation to the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness.

We have taken the decision to go above the legislation as part of our desire to reduce the number and severity of collisions on the bus network as much as possible and contribute to the Vision Zero approach. This includes no-one being killed on or by a bus by 2030, and no-one killed or seriously injured on our roads by 2041.

If you are not satisfied with this response please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Graham Hurt

FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

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