FOI request detail

Whitechapel Mission Announcements

Request ID: FOI-2970-1920
Date published: 28 January 2020

You asked

Under the Freedom of Information act, I would like to request any internal documents connected to the decision to play announcements on the East London Line encouraging the public not to give money to beggars, and instead to give to Whitechapel Mission.

We answered

TfL Ref: FOI-2970-1920

Thank you for your email received by Transport for London (TfL) on 4 January 2020.

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

Under the Freedom of Information act, I would like to request any internal documents connected to the decision to play announcements on the East London Line encouraging the public not to give money to beggars, and instead to give to Whitechapel Mission.

On London Overground’s East London Line, there were growing concerns over people begging on trains and in stations, both in terms of safeguarding vulnerable people but also dealing with the aggressive and antisocial nature of some of the begging which was intimidating for staff and customers. TfL, Arriva Rail London (who operate train services on the line, under a concession agreement) and the British Transport Police have been working together to tackle the issue while helping to ensure that people who are in need of support are directed to appropriate support services.

We know from recent petitions and customer feedback that our customers want to help and encouraging people to give to charities, rather than giving directly to people begging is one way they can do this. This has led to us trialling a new communication approach to let our customers know how they can help rough sleepers and those begging on our services.

We are trialling the use of announcements, messages on passenger information system and posters to provide information to customers letting them know that they can donate to the East London Line’s chosen local charity, Whitechapel Mission, which will help to ensure that their donations are used carefully to support people in genuine need.

The Whitechapel Mission is very active in the local community and offers a wide range of support services for people who need them.

Since the trial went live, Whitechapel Mission has seen an increase in donations from London Overground customers, which has enabled them to support and safeguard more vulnerable people.


We continue to work together to work together to ensure that the network is and feels safe and secure for our staff and customers. We remain committed to supporting the Mayor’s ambition to help people off the streets and to safeguard the most vulnerable.

We cannot precisely confirm when the decision was made to play the announcements; it was an iterative process over a long period of time including email exchanges and weekly catch up meetings, which were not formally recorded. There have been multiple people involved and not all email communications specifically reference “Whitechapel Mission” therefore we would need to use broader search terms such as ‘announcement’, ‘audio’, ‘recording’ or ‘homeless’ to conduct email searches.

Therefore, 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 a request 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. This is calculated at £25 per hour for every hour spent on the activities described.

The cost limit is on the time it would take to locate the information you require from within what would be several hundred or more emails caught by searches.

Each email caught by the search would need to be manually reviewed to determine whether it’s concerning the decision to play the announcements. Many of the hits would likely to be not relevant, duplicates, due to emails being repeated within email chains. Whilst the actual number of emails covered by your request might be a sub-set of the numbers the email search would capture, it is the excessive work involved in having to locate and extract those that are relevant and meet your request that would be very burdensome.

Furthermore there are likely to be additional emails relevant to your request that may not have been caught by the keyword searches and so we would likely need to conduct further searches using additional keywords and finding relevant members of TfL staff who would have had discussions on this topic, to ensure that everything relevant has been located and collated, which would of course increase the processing time required to complete your request.

To help bring the cost of responding to your request within the £450 limit, you may wish to consider narrowing its scope so that we can more easily locate, retrieve and extract the information you are seeking. For example, a request for specific policy documents or reports is less likely to raise concerns about the processing time required to answer it. You may also wish to limit your correspondence search to particular departments of TfL or a specific period of time.

Please note that we will not be taking further action until we receive your revised request.

In the meantime, if you have any queries or would like to discuss your request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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

Yours sincerely

Eva Hextall

FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

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