FOI request detail

Graffiti/Vandalism incidents by Underground Line

Request ID: FOI-2395-1920
Date published: 09 January 2020

You asked

For the information previously supplied to you [our ref FOI-2055-1920] to also include the relevant London Underground line on which the vandalism occurred.

We answered

TfL Ref: FOI-2395-1920

Thank you for your request received by TfL on 8th November 2019 asking for information about instances of graffiti and vandalism on the London Underground network.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy. 

In relation to the spreadsheet previously provided to you under case ref FOI-2055-1920, you asked to know the specific Underground line on which each incident of vandalism/grafitti took place.

I can confirm that we hold the information you require. However, we have concluded that the information is exempt from release 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 vandals and graffiti artists to target specific parts of the network. The rationale is similar to that already explained to you in my previous response of 7th November 2019 under case reference FOI-2055-1920, but has been considered afresh given the request now relates to the line rather than the exact location itself. On reaching our conclusion that the exemptions remain engaged we have also drawn on further advice from colleagues in the security and crime reduction areas of TfL. Our conclusion is that release of the information would be likely to encourage further instances of vandalism/graffiti on the Underground network, which in turn increases the risk to the health and safety of both perpetrators and staff, as well as increasing the financial burden on TfL in deterring and dealing with the effects of vandalism/graffiti. A more detailed explanation behind the exemptions is given below.

It is clear that if the information were released it would become public knowledge which lines were and were not the main targets for such crime, and that Underground lines would be able to be ranked, both in terms of the number of individual attacks that they were subject to and the amount of disruption such attacks create in “lost customer hours”. We believe that this would motivate vandals/graffiti artists to target specific parts of the network as follows:

  • where a specific line is seen to have a high rate of vandalism/graffiti people may perceive – rightly or wrongly – that the line in question is a comparatively easy target, and this would encourage people to carry out further acts of vandalism/graffiti on that line;



  • where a specific line is seen to have a low rate of vandalism/graffiti, graffiti artists would be incentivised to target that line as a means of advertising their graffiti and establishing their own patch. Our research shows that graffiti artists are not just motivated by a desire to cause damage, but also to have their graffiti seen in the railway environment. We do not want to encourage an increase in graffiti on those lines where it is currently less of a problem than elsewhere;



  • where the motivation of a vandal is to cause damage and disruption to the network, release of the requested information would allow them to see on which line incidents of graffiti/vandalism have the greatest effect in terms of lost customer hours. It is not the case that all lines suffer the effects of vandalism/graffiti at the same rate, and so perpetrators could be motivated to target those lines where disruption will be maximised.

Given the above points, we believe that there is good reason to conclude that release of the requested information would lead to an increase in incidents of graffiti and vandalism on the network. This in turn presents an increased danger to the health and safety of perpetrators (who are likely to be trespassing into what are inherently dangerous areas) and also to the TfL employees and other professionals (such as the police) who have to deal with the consequences of vandalism and graffiti – either at the time it is being committed or in dealing with the subsequent consequences. I would reiterate again that we are aware that graffiti artists may be willing to risk their lives in order to carry out their graffiti, and that this can and does lead to serious injury or fatal consequences. Therefore we believe that the section 38 “health and safety” exemption is rightfully engaged.

In relation to the section 43 exemption, the rationale is as explained in my previous response. Clearly there is a direct financial cost to TfL in dealing with vandalism and graffiti, both in terms of protecting the network from such crime and in dealing with the consequences when it does occur – which, as previously explained, is not just in terms of cleaning, repair and maintenance, but also the subsequent disruption it causes to the network such as having to take trains out of service or having to shut down power and suspend services. 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. It is difficult to quantify the exact costs to TfL in dealing with graffiti and vandalism, but we estimate that it is measured in millions of pounds per year – for example, see this release from the British Transport Police which cites a figure of £10million per annum:

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 previously provided to you largely allows the public 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.

I understand you have previously discussed this case with Lee Hill, Information Access Manager. Following from this response, if you would like to discuss the matter further he would be happy to call you at a convenient time.

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

Yours sincerely,

David Wells

FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

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