Other stuff*

This blog in the last while have been taken over by my AIE request on Irish Rail speeds, but I am at other stuff. Not everything will go to appeal, by using AIE you can get things notable and not so notable that you may not be given otherwise, see my AIE guide here.

Keep an eye on DublinObserver.com at least once a week if you have an interest in Dublin news.

On FOI and AIE: Here and there I should be uploading some updates, mostly small bits which are not online. And I’m working on new requests. For example, I have just submitted a request for data and contracts on Dublin Bikes under AIE, and under FOI — the city manager’s diaries, the Dublin City Council’s FOI logs, and their expenses database (thanks to Gavin at thestory.ie for pushing me to do the latter, and for letting me nick his preemptive defences for the same).

* must try harder on post titles

Commissioner accepts appeal case against Irish Rail

My appeal case against Irish Rail rejecting my Access to Info on the Environment  (AIE) request on railway speeds has been accepted by the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (part of the Information Commissioner’s office).

Irish Rail rejected my request claiming rail speeds is not environmental information, I in turn rejected this, requested an internal review which said the same as the first denial and then I appealed to the Commissioner.

Unlike FOI, Irish Rail and others are covered by AIE. It’s also free to start with, although the appeal is €150.

There’s a bit of a wait now for Irish Rail to say their part and for myself to give further input if needed.

Here’s my appeal:

23 September, 2010

Dear Sir / Madam:

Under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007, S.I. No. 133 of 2007, and Directive 2003/4/EC on access to environmental information, I wish to appeal an Internal Review decision by Iarnrod Eireann – Irish Rail (which I will refer to here as ‘Irish Rail’).

Irish Rail has decided that the information I seek is not as far as the regulations are concerned environmental information. I reject this.

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 rejected this and on July 13 I sent an email outlining why and seeking an internal review.

On August 20, still without a reply, I asked Irish Rail again when I should expect a reply. On the same day Irish Rail said this that they expect a response to the internal review next week, and they apologised for the delay.

It was only today, September 2, when I received that reply. The reply to my request for an Internal Review from Irish Rail quoted the regulations and said:

“The definition of “Environmental Information” clearly relates to emissions to the environment, and administrative decisions “likely to affect” the elements and factors referred to.”

“I fail to see how the use of Temporary Speed Restrictions could fall into any of these categories; this information is purely of an operational nature, and by definition, are of a transient nature.”

“Therefore, I concur that the release of such information is not warranted under the Access to Information on the Environment legislation.”

It is my view that:

1. the Internal Review and the original decision are incorrect and misunderstand the scope and meaning of ‘environmental information’ as defined by the regulations;

2. the Internal Review does not in any way engage with my reasoning or any of the detail within my request for an Internal Review, and that;

3. the Internal Review is flawed as it deals with “Temporary Speed Restrictions” where the request was for “all current speed restrictions”.

As per my request for internal review, it is for the following reasons 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].

Further to this, Irish Rail’s reply from the requested Internal Review stated that “I fail to see how the use of Temporary Speed Restrictions could fall into any of these categories; this information is purely of an operational nature, and by definition, are of a transient nature.” I have outlined above how any rail speed restrictions could fall into the definition of environmental information, but in reply to the comments of the temporary speed restrictions being “operational” and “transient” in nature, being so does not exclude it from also being environmental information.

Finally, speed restrictions of all sorts and the reports on such have a major impact on the railway network and are heavily related to environment, the safety of the railways, as well as the viability of the network and have major consequences for State environmental policy and how State money is spent on the environment and environmental measures and manures which affect the environment.

Regards,

Cian Ginty

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

List of Irish Rail Environmental Impact Statements

I recently requested all the Environmental Impact Statements done for or by Irish Rail since 2000, using Access to Information on the Environment.

On July 12, Irish Rail replied saying: “As requested on 11th June, below is a list of EIS documents commissioned by or for Iarnród Éireann since 2000.  Should there be any further addition to this list (awaiting confirmation from one division), I will let you know.”

– Kildare route project
– Glounthane – Midleton line
– Clonsilla- Pace line
– Laois Traincare depot
– Tara street station 2000 & 2009 – 2 separate reports
– Drogheda DMU depot
– Footbridges at Clonsilla & Coolmine ecological report only
– Reillys crossing – Environmental report
– Ceannt Station Galway Masterplan

The EIS for the Dart Underground has been since released at http://www.dartundergroundrailwayorder.ie/

the information age of then...

Quick guide to Access to Information on the Environment

the information age of then...
Image by jaeming, Some Rights Reserved

Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) is a free powerful tool for getting information from public authorities. Don’t get put off by the name, it’s wide ranging in scope.

Thanks to Gavin Sheridan (of thestory.ie) for writing about this first on journalist.ie. The following is also based on the Department of the Environment’s more detailed guide for public authorities, the regulations, as well as my own limited experience of requesting information under AIE.

Continue reading “Quick guide to Access to Information on the Environment”

Different headgear

Road Safety Authority’s promotion of helmets

Different headgear
My first Access to Information on the Environment request was successful. The request took advantage of the wide range of the definition of environmental information, it was as follows:

Under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations, S.I. No. 133 of 2007, I am seeking all research on which the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has based its advice that cyclists should wear a helmet.

If the RSA cannot provide the above because it is third-party research which the RSA does not hold the copyright to, then this request should be viewed as a request to provide the details of the above information (ie title of the research, name/s of author/s, date/s published, volume and issue numbers, publications in which such were published etc).

It is preferred if this information is given in electronic format (plain text, word, PDF etc) and send by email. Otherwise in the same type of format sent on CD or DVD to below postal address.

[my contact details]

Strange request most people may think, but the bicycle helmets issue is a heated subjected among cyclists. The released information and discussion on it is here.

My main point on this topic, as mention in the discussion, is that:

it’s wrong that such agencies are spending public money on what makes them be seen to promote safety rather than promoting actual proven safe cycling methods. And given the RSA’s position, further public money is spent by other agencies, departments, local authorities etc which follow the advice. Money which could be spent on cycle training or just providing better advice.