FOI request detail

Trains taken out of service due to graffiti

Request ID: FOI-2055-1920
Date published: 07 November 2019

You asked

I would like to request: A list of all vandalism incidents going back to 2010. For each incident I would like the following information: -Date -Location -Duration of service disruption (minutes) -Lost Customer Hours I would like to receive the information in Excel format. I would like the information to be as up to date as possible.

We answered

TfL Ref: FOI-2055-1920

Thank you for your email of 10th October 2019 asking for information about incidents of vandalism on the London Underground network going back to 2010.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy.

Specifically you asked:

“I would like to request:

A list of all vandalism incidents going back to 2010.

For each incident I would like the following information:

-Duration of service disruption (minutes)
-Lost Customer Hours

I would like to receive the information in Excel format.

I can confirm that we hold the information you require, which is provided in the attached spreadsheet. Note that you may need to expand the width of some of the columns to read the data in full.

Note also that the location of incidents is being withheld under sections 38 (Health and Safety) and 43 (Commercial Interests) of the FOI Act. In both cases, TfL considers that the release of this information would be likely to cause the prejudice or harm indicated by the exemptions, by encouraging vandalism and encouraging graffiti artists to target specific parts of the network. As you can see, we have replaced details of the exact locations with “Location 1; Location 2; Location 3…etc.” so that the information provided still allows for some analysis, such as showing that some sites are targeted on multiple occasions.

In relation to the section 38 exemption, we believe that where specific locations are seen to have a high rate of vandalism this could lead somebody to wrongly perceive that those locations are easy to access and to carry out acts of vandalism. We believe that this could encourage an increase of vandalism at those locations.  It is clear to us that any increase in graffiti attempts on our network presents a clearly increased danger to the health and safety of not only those committing the trespass (into what are inherently dangerous areas), but also to the TfL employees who work in these areas, to those who have to deal with the consequences, and others who may be called upon to deal with the incident such as the police. We are aware that graffiti artists may be willing to risk their lives in order to conduct their work and that this can and does lead to serious injury or fatal consequences. Therefore we believe that the section 38 exemption is rightfully engaged.

In relation to the section 43 exemption, it should be noted that the consequences of vandalism can be very costly, quite apart from the health and safety risks, requiring graffiti-affected areas, for instance, to be professionally cleaned as soon as possible. Clearly there is a direct financial cost to TfL in doing this, but there are also additional costs that arise, or are likely to arise, as a result of such actions, including:

• Repair and maintenance of security measures – intruders onto the TfL network frequently damage fencing or other parts of the network in the process of gaining access to sites for graffiti or other vandalism. It may also be necessary for TfL to install additional security measures in locations that are frequently targeted, which has both direct and staff costs;

• Affected train carriages have to be taken out of service and replaced, often at short notice, which can lead to difficulties managing the rolling stock and reduces the amount of it available to run services;

• Where there are intruders actively on the network TfL may have to suspend services for safety reasons. This not only leads to significant delays and inconvenience for our customers, but also has direct financial consequences for TfL such as increased passenger claims for delay compensation.

Given the above it is clear that anything which encourages or promotes increased acts of vandalism on our network results in increased expenditure for TfL.

As sections 38 and 43 are “qualified” exemptions we are required to consider whether the greater public interest lies in withholding the information or in releasing it in any event. TfL recognises that there is an inherent public interest in openness and transparency, and in particular where this relates to the maintenance of public assets and the effective expenditure of public funds. In this case, it may also be of interest in enabling the general public to understand the extent of this problem on TfL’s network (albeit, we believe the information provided in the spreadsheet provides the ability to do that). However, we do not consider that there are any other public interest factors in favour of the disclosure of this information, which otherwise is only likely to be of interest to those who follow and/or commit graffiti. On the other hand, there is a very strong public interest in protecting the health and safety or individuals and in protecting the commercial interests of TfL as a public authority, which receives a portion of its funding from taxpayers in the form of grants and from fare-paying passengers.  As outlined above, we consider that the publication of this information would be likely to increase the number of graffiti or other vandalism incidents, and this in turn would have  considerable implications for public and staff safety as well as TfL expenditure. We therefore believe that the greater public interest favours the application of the exemptions, as we do not consider that the publication of this additional information would add sufficiently to public understanding of this issue, especially when weighed against the consequences of increased vandalism on the network.

If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for any reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.

Yours sincerely,

David Wells
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London


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