please empty your brain below

Working in the TfL FOI dept must be a strange, but sometimes amusing, job.
Great stuff.

The TfL FoI request that sticks in my mind was someone asking about the "Flags" on Bus Stop Poles, which elicited a long and detailed response about the various different components and all their possible variations.
"I wonder how many dogs get stolen? Ah, I know who'll know, let's ask Transport for London." Really?
My wife used to work at a great London institution, and often had to deal with FOIs. Broadly speaking, they were split between people who, to put it kindly, had too much time on their hands, and tabloid newspapers either trying to stand up a story, or confect one about the secrecy of said institution, cost to the taxpayer etc.
In a previous career, I used to be part of the FOI team at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. We got a few odd requests there, but nothing so obscure as some of these TfL examples!
I’m all for public accountability of organisations like TfL but looking at those questions it seems the FOI system is abused by cranks, curtain twitchers and enthusiasts and I wonder how much money it costs TfL to staff and provide this service…..though I shall not be submitting an FOI request to obtain this information as it is not really any of my concern!
There is however, one public body funded by the taxpayer that is curiously totally exempt from the freedom of information act. The Monarchy.
TfL would be up there in a league table of FOI requests received. Far more than National Highways (prev. Highways England) or Network Rail and double that of many governments departments. Analysis of the 8,000 - 9,000 FOI's received by Government every quarter provided by the Institute of Government suggests the Department of Works and Pensions are league leaders, followed by the MOD.
The 184 activist in Alexander Park Road is still going strong.
I process FOI requests for the housing department of a local authority. They generally follow a similar pattern (less from enthusiasts though) A big percentage come from regular vexatious complainers.
I have only once put in an FOI request to TfL.

They had changed the patterns of the routes of the trams and it was no longer reflected accurately on their website or in any literature they produced. It was, however, accurately displayed inside the trams with a new route map. Despite requests, months later the old misleading one was still being displayed on the website.

In frustration I put in a FOI request for an up-to-date route map of the tram system and pointed out that updating their website would be sufficient to comply with the request.

Instead I got a phone call from London Trams offering to leave a couple of route maps in reception for me to pick up. I am now the owner of two four-foot-long tram route maps as displayed inside the trams.
Ianvisits recently posted a link to a dynamic map of all TfL property assets, which I think will feature in some future FoI responses. (And it is very interesting for the curious, too; the map is based on a UK wide OS base layer).
Love this!

"Our hold music is written independently by our staff."
Great stuff. If information is available already on the TfL or any other website, then FOIs are answered simply by pointing to that, which does make life easier. Getting the IT or website team to agree to add more to the website may be beyond the powers of the FoI team, though...

A lot of the info TfL hold will fall under the Environmental Information Regulations which give more access to information if there's an environmental, health, or geographic angle.

I trained many public authorities on FOI and EIR when they first came in - it was very interesting which bodies were confident about complying with the law and which would publicly say they were going to refuse all requests...
The MoD were very good - because they'd always had to think about their information and whether it would be safe to have released. Many other orgs had no clue what info they held nor how to find it.

Obviously I then ended up with the job of answering requests. A lot of people don't believe Govt's answers regarding UFOs...
The scaffolding license one is interesting. The companies typically don’t have storage yards and move scaffolding directly from site to site. Therefore it’s normal for scaffolding to be up far longer than needed as basically free storage for their float of excess kit.

It must cause some vein bulging amongst angry letter writers “who’s paying for this scaffolding to be up so long?” etc.
From experiencing answering FOIs (for a Council not TfL) - i would say the questions can be categorised as;
1. Commercial organisation trying to find out what the Council spends on something / who provides a service – so it can try and sell the Council something.
2. University students writing to every Council trying to get a cheap data set to analyse and base a dissertation on.
3. Journalists writing to every Council trying to generate a story.
4. Requests about a service the Council doesn’t provide – as the person asking hasn’t done the most basic amount of research. Big overlap with 2 and 3 here.
5. Questions from someone upset with the Council asking for huge amounts of data largely to waste time.
6. Genuine questions that there is a public benefit in the Council answering. These were probably about 25% of the total.
Matt, having similar experience I'd concur with most of your breakdown except I've hardly ever seen any of your type 6.
I've been in the public sector myself since FoI came into force. I see Matt's No. 1 as the most popular request. An extra one to add to Matt's list: Staff making FoI requests about their own organisation!
I presume the LT Museum has a copy of the 1969 Rule Book Section 11 which includes the duties of Guards. I was issued a reprint dated 1977 in 1978.
I can't find the entry you wrote probably many years ago about replacement buses on the DLR, in which you pondered on the lack of dotmatrix displays on London buses. I think that was you.

dg writes: No, it wasn't me.

Anyway, if it was, I thought you might be interested to know they seem to be testing some on a couple of buses on route 184 - very high-definition ones that you need to get close up to realise they're not the usual roller-blind type. Anyway. Now you know.

dg writes: Already seen them, thanks..

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