TfL Ref: 3590-2223
Thank you again for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 29 March 2023 asking for information about how much glyphosate has been used by TfL.
Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Information Regulations and our information access policy. You asked:
How much glyphosate has been used by Transport for London (TfL) and on behalf of TfL, by contractors, in the years 2018 to 2022, inclusive?
TfL uses glyphosate as part of its essential vegetation management programme, particularly along tracksides where there is a requirement to keep a weed-free buffer for safety reasons.
TfL also applies best practice to ensure use is minimal and targeted. We use several different methods (chemical and mechanical) to deal with weeds and non-native invasive species. We make sure that we follow the legislation and Government guidelines that apply to any method we use.
Most of the green infrastructure we own and manage forms corridors of woodland, street trees, scrub and grassland. These are part of London's cultural heritage and act as a safe haven and dispersal route for plants and wildlife, including bats, badgers and reptiles.
We manage 580 kilometres of principal roads in London, known as red routes. This includes around 165 hectares of roadside verges, central reservations and green space on roundabouts. We're also responsible for managing more than 24,000 street trees and plant new street trees as part of our annual tree planting programme. Around a third of our land is covered by vegetation and we have 124 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) covering 484 hectares, or 24% of TfL land.
Non-native invasive species and pests can cause a lot of damage to our green infrastructure, transport infrastructure and health. For example, oak processionary moth caterpillars not only cause a risk to human and animal health, but can strip whole oak trees bare of leaves, while Japanese knotweed can damage structures like walls and roads.
In reference to London Underground tracks, we average around 1,640kg of glyphosate each year on the rail network, which has not changed during the period of interest. However, fulfilling your request in full is being refused under regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR on the grounds that it would be “manifestly unreasonable” to comply. There is no single source of information within TfL from which to provide this data in full. Rather, the same questions would have to be put to multiple colleagues so that they could source the information in relation to the use of glyphosate across our various networks and assets.
For example, from a highways perspective, there are multiple records of contractual data that would need to be reviewed, some of which, pre 2020/21, have been archived and would need to be retrieved accordingly. Additionally, some of our key contacts in this area have also changed over the years, thus adding to the complexity of sourcing this information.
While we appreciate the need for transparency and accountability from public bodies in the conduct of their business, and the expectation under EIR that requested information will be released, in this instance we believe that the balance of public interest falls in favour of the exception applying given the amount of resource that would be required to be expended in meeting the request, which would represent a disproportionate burden and unjustified level of disruption, requiring the allocation of limited resources which would more beneficially be spent elsewhere.
We will consider your request again, if you are able to narrow its scope so that we can more easily locate, retrieve and extract the information you are seeking, for example, by asking for a narrower period of time, or limiting your request to some of the networks operated by TfL.
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.
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
Transport for London