Monday, 10 January 2011

FOI - Sauce for the goose but not for the gander!

This from the Press Gazette...

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has asked why Network Rail and nationalised bank Northern Rock aren’t among the new bodies set to be covered by an extended Freedom of Information Act.

An excellent idea and one that apparently finds favour with the Department.

Making Network Rail subject to FOI requests would not only make the infrastructure controller more transparent but would also deliver significant benefits to passengers.

Not least by breaking ATOC's monopoly on the provision of real time information, allowing independent re-publishers to provide rail users with free updates on how their trains are running.

ATOC currently charges developers for access to real time running information (the data for which is freely supplied by Network Rail) ensuring that disrupted passengers have to pay to be told that their train is not running the advertised service!

Whilst ATOC is busy 'monetising' its members failures a different approach has been adopted by Transport for London.

TfL offers Tube running data to the developer community at no charge, resulting in a range of free passenger information applications being made available across both handheld devices & the web.

Of course whilst the Government makes soothing noises about public scrutiny of Network Rail our very own Petrol-head Hammond appears to consider himself above such tedious legal requirements.

Eye understands that Control-freak Phil has been sitting on a number of FOI requests well beyond the statutory 20 working days.

How embarressing to have the Information Commissioner knocking on your door as you lambast others for a lack of transparency and accountability.

UPDATE: This from A Retired IT Person...

Why would the independent re-publishers provide anyone with free updates?

They might if they could monetarise the service another way.

Surely you're not confusing Freedom of Information with Free Information?

NR freely supply the data to ATOC, but ATOC and/or the TOCs pay for NR's train systems as part of the Computer Service Agreement.

Within that bundle, certain bits may even be branded as supplied free, but it's in the context of a large payment.