“Silencing” warning letter from RDG to TOCs

Somebody sent me this. (Thank you, sender!)

Email from RDG legal to TOCs 07/04

Dear All

Some of you are subject to FOIA and some are not; I’m writing to you all anyway.

Our Accessibility & Inclusion Manager has pointed out that there is a “campaign” to get information about TOC activities, conducted by a well known activist.

You can find more information here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/user/doug_paulley

In particular, he highlights: – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/contents_of_rdg_accessibility_em#incoming-2013074https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/members_of_accessibility_group#incoming-2000723

Can I remind you all that disclosures under FOIA are subject to a number of exemptions, some absolute and some not, and that the confidentiality of the information is material.

Discussions between TOCs, emails from RDG, minutes of meetings, etc are all confidential information and we could not function as a member organisation if we did not respect the confidentiality of the discussions and decisions.

In addition, if you are subject to FOIA, please remember that you should not be disclosing personal information, including the names of people involved in any meetings or correspondence. We have recently had an upsetting accusation against a member of staff whose details were disclosed under FOIA, and we have instructed Carter Ruck to help with the consequences.

If you are disclosing information under FOIA, please check whose information you are disclosing and please check with the owner of the information whether there are valid objections.

So much for RDG claiming they “support the principle of transparency and putting more information in the public domain“. They are responsible for substantial national rail infrastructure, yet aren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act. There’s nothing nefarious or “wrong” about seeking information on decisions regarding accessibility of our railways.

Now they are attempting to enforce false limited transparency on our nationalised train operating companies when responding to Freedom of Information Requests.

As established in my earlier blog, all of LNER, Network Rail, Northern, Scotrail, South Eastern, and Transport for Wales, being publicly owned companies subject to the Freedom of Information Act, quite correctly considered that information disseminated via RDG e-groups, relating to decisions on national infrastructure service provision for disabled people, is disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act.

Claiming something is confidential doesn’t necessarily make it so, nor does it make it non-disclosable under the Act. Personal data is not automatically exempt under the Act either. The exemption for personal data is subject to a Legitimate Interests Test.

However, the Information Commissioner, the Government and others have over time made clear that some personal information relating to public employees’ public roles in particular should be disclosed. For example, the latest version of the Local Government Transparency Code requires salaries of council staff earning over £50,000 to be made public. Clearly there is a consensus that accountability of (especially senior) public officials is a legitimate interest.

Public authorities such as publicly owned train companies: as you know, you are required to do your own assessments of what you are allowed or required to supply under Freedom of Information requests. The primary intent should always be openness and transparency in public life, including in communications and decisions in the important area of accessibility of public transport. As you have demonstrated admirably thus far (with the possible exception of Transport for Wales…)

Also please note that I’m nerdily comparatively knowledgeable and adept at data protection and Freedom of Information law. I know people who are even more so. Through my thousands of Freedom of Information requests and my many years as an administrator at whatdotheyknow.com I have a lot of experience and info at my disposal. If necessary, I will challenge redactions, refusals and other failures to comply with my requests, as I have previously – to decision notices and to the information Tribunals. (Though I would very much rather not have to.)

Personal attacks

As for “We have recently had an upsetting accusation against a member of staff whose details were disclosed under FOIA, and we have instructed Carter Ruck to help with the consequences.

This clearly refers to my comments on Dominic Lund-Conlon.

I don’t relish or enjoy calling out an individual on here. However, it is time for somebody to stand up to this non-performing patronising bully. I’ve never heard anybody say a complimentary word about him, but I have heard a very lot of disturbing things about his unpleasant demeaning attitude and actions, and I’m aware that there are many tens of rail employees and disabled people who are entirely behind me.

Sadly, my criticism, public research and published concerns are legitimate. In my opinion, the man has done enough damage, through his apologism for endemic industry ableism, through gaslighting of other disabled people and through bullying of his industry colleagues. It is time that this should stop. Others aren’t in a position to speak out publicly. I am.

Carter-Ruck have simply run up a big bill on the public purse whilst actively making the situation “worse” / much more public.

The Customer Information Group (CIG)

I no longer believe that the decision to cancel and refuse all assistance bookings during Storm Eunice was made by the CIG (as claimed by our Dom via his lawyers)

After speaking today to a lot of personnel from across the rail industry, it is clear that members of the CIG are very aware that they do not have the power, responsibility or knowledge to make such a decision; and they certainly wouldn’t have made any decision anyway without ratification from their bosses, let alone without ORR approval. Dom’s claim simply doesn’t ring true.

I wonder who really made the decision. Our Dom, perhaps?

What a disgraceful decision, and what a disgraceful attempt to obfuscate who made the decision and how it was made. Spending industry time and money vainly attempting to cover up the putrid rottenness of this particular corner of the rail industry is both immoral and bound to fail.

3 Replies to ““Silencing” warning letter from RDG to TOCs”

  1. Doug, I am full of admiration for the determined way that you are putting your head above the parapet on behalf of disabled travellers. I confess that I haven’t followed this from the outset,but I know you take it seriously and ensure your facts are correct before embarking on a campaign. I take my hat off to you.

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