Seeking Irish Rail speed restrictions info

I’m working on getting speed restrictions details from Irish Rail. There’s a number of issues at stake here, from safety to the viability of railways, and more in-between.

My original request was sent on June 11. It asked for “Under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations, S.I. No. 133 of 2007, I am seeking a list of all current speed restrictions on the Irish Rail network, and any reports directly related to these speed restrictions.”

On June 23, Irish Rail told me: “The information you request is not an environmental issue, and is not subject to the AIE regulations.”

I reject this and on July 13 I sent the following outlining why and seeking an internal review. I’m still awaiting a reply from Irish Rail. I emailed them again on August 16 and have tried to contact them again today. Although, I can go to the Information Commissioner at this stage, I’m trying to give Irish Rail and extra chance to reply. While I can’t fund much more at the moment, I can fund this appeal if needed.

UPDATE AUGUST 20: Irish Rail have said this afternoon that they expect a response to the  internal review next week, and they apologised for the delay.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations, S.I. No. 133 of 2007, I am seeking an internal review of the decision to reject my request for information relating to speed restrictions on the Irish Rail network.

The original request asked for “a list of all current speed restrictions on the Irish Rail network, and any reports directly related to these speed restrictions.”

The request was denied in an email on June 23 (Subject: “RE: AIE request: Speed restrictions on the Irish Rail network”). The reason
given was that “The information you request is not an environmental issue, and is not subject to the AIE regulations.”

I reject this. It is my position that the request is covered under the regulations as “environmental information.”

It should be noted in the AIE regulations “environmental information” is a very broad term. As the guide to AIE by the Department of the Environment notes: “The definition is deliberately wide in scope and comprehends an extensive range of information.” As the European Commission says, the directive and regulations in all countries cover a wide range “activities or measures adversely affecting or likely so to affect these, and on activities or measures designed to protect these.” What affects or even effects the built and natural environmental is included.

The requested information is covered under the regulation as “environmental information” for a number of reasons.

Railway lines, the maintenance, repair, and construction of these, as well as the running of trains on these all have environmental effects and affects.

Speed restrictions are in place for environmental reasons, including the likelihood of embankment collapse, flooding, landslides etc. This is directly linked to section 4 (a) [ie “the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land,
landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components”]. This seem to be
supported by the views of the (former) engineer and chief civil engineer of Iarnrod Eireann / Irish Rail — SEE: ‘Chief engineer takes
Iarnród Eireann to High Court’ in the Sunday Business Post, April 4, 2010, available at:
http://thepost.ie/news/ireland/chief-engineer-takes-iarnrod-eireann-to-high-court-48414.html

Any remedies (ie maintenance, repair, and construction) on sections of the network with restrictions in place because of the likelihood of embankment collapse, flooding, landslides etc are likely to affect “the state of the elements of the environment” mentioned in 4 a of the regulations.

Speed restrictions relating to the state of track, track bed, bridges or foundations are all “built structures.” These can be seen as
covered under “built structures inasmuch as they are, or may be, affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to
in paragraph (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c)”;

Given that the main reason for speed restriction is safety, all speed restrictions can without question be linked to the “state of human
health and safety” as mentioned in section 4 (f) of the regulations. Issues of human health and safety and the state of the environment
around the railway network are of the utmost importance given affect environment impacts can have on state of human health and safety of railway passengers and staff.

Speed restrictions can affect or are likely to affect the energy use, noise, and emissions of trains — all of which elements are covered
under section 4 (b).

Given the growth of the motorway network, the speed of rail transport – mostly passenger transport but also freight transport — can be a key decider on what transport mode a person or company uses, speed restrictions can have an affect on user choice and increase the possibility that potential passengers or freight will be transported using forms of transport which have greater affects on the environment – this affects state of the elements mentioned in sections 4 (a) and the factors mentioned in 4 (d) of the regulations. It also is under 4 (c): “measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements,”

The possible use of express intercity buses instead of trains now for passenger use is also covered 4 (c) as a measures and policy, and
under 4 (e) [ie to allow for cost-benefit and other economic analyses].

If you have any question about this request please contact me using the below email address.

Regards,

Cian Ginty