Number of safety defects on T2 line to Macarthur

Waiting for an internal review by Sydney Trains of their handling of this request.

Dear Sydney Trains,

How many defects does Sydney Trains have on the T2 line to Macarthur?

How many are safety related? When were these first known about?

The NSW people have a right to know if the railways aren't safe to use so this information should be free of cost.

Yours faithfully,

N Aziz

Information, Sydney Trains

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Information, Sydney Trains

Good Morning,

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately Transport for NSW (TfNSW) cannot informally release information under the GIPA Act in response to questions.

In order for this unit to process your request, you will need to lodge an Access Application. Please review the TfNSW website information prior to making an application https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/about-u....

TfNSW agencies are required to decide an access application within 20 working days of receiving the application (subject to any suspension or extension required).

I have attached the online application link for your convenience:
https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/about-u....

Regards,

Grace Fong
Resource & Compliance Support Officer
Information Access Unit
Legal, Privacy & Information Access
Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

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Dear Grace Fong,

In their comments on the GIPA Act, the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) NSW states:

"The GIPA Act authorises and encourages the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies. It ensures that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against releasing that information. ... The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest."

"An access application should only need to be lodged as a last resort."

"It is generally presumed that all government agencies will disclose or release information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so."

Please can you set out the reasons for assessing a full Access Application is required in this case to access public safety critical information?

Alternatively, please advise how this assessment can be appealed to Sydney Trains / TFNSW.

Yours faithfully,

N Aziz

Information, Sydney Trains

Dear Mr Aziz

Your original email is requesting answers to questions. We are unable to answer your questions.

Please advise which documents you are seeking and please ensure to be specific, for example:- locations, dates, name of a report.

If the documents you have requested are not able to be proactively released, and are required to be reviewed, a formal application will be necessary.

Regards

Enza

Enza Kursun
Manager
Information Access Unit
Legal, Privacy & Information Access Branch
Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

T 02 9549 9610
Upper Ground 18 Lee Street Chippendale NSW 2008

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Dear Enza Kursun,

The request yesterday was made for access to existing, written government records or information in accordance with the GIPA act. (It is not as a 'q and a' discussion.) The GIPA NSW legislation does not advise a citizen should already know the name of an internal document containing the information requested before the GIPA request can be processed. This requirement does not seem in accordance with the intent of the legislation or IPC NSW policy.

Kindly refer to these statements in the legilsation please:

NSW legislation: Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 No 52
from https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/...

In Act Part 4 - Interpretation
- "government information" means information contained in a record held by an agency.

In Schedule 4
- In this Act, "record" means any document or *other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written form or by electronic process, or in any other manner or by any other means*.

Please could you confirm if sydney trains has no record or information (written or electronic database) of its defects and maintenance problems on the trains and buildings?

Referring to your enquiry about location/date/report name, please find more information to clarify below:

Location - T2 line - Macarthur station to Sydney Central station.

Date - "latest available"

Report names -
1. Management report for defect list (written or electronic copy) to show:
- total number of defects on this railway?
- how many of the defects are related to safety issues for passengers or staff?

2. Defect log - showing full description of the oldest defect in sydney trains list of defects. (Date first known about / where it is / what it involves (e.g. fault passenger alarm).

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

N Aziz

Jenie Kocanovski, Sydney Trains

Afternoon Mr Aziz,

I have raised your request with Sydney Trains and will provide you with an update once received.

Can you please provide me with your best daytime contact number.

Website link forwarded for your reference;
https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/project...

Regards
Jenie Kocanovski
Resource and Compliance Officer
Legal, Privacy & Information Access
Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

Upper Ground, 18 Lee Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9549 9627
(m) 0466 861 475

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Jenie Kocanovski, Sydney Trains

Afternoon Mr Aziz,

Thank you for your enquiry.
I raised your request with the relevant business area in Sydney Trains and advice has been received that this information is not available to be informally released.

Should you wish to consider a formal access application, I have attached the relevant link to the online application;
https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/about-u...

Please note: If a formal request is made, please ensure to include a timeframe and specifics (eg T2 line between Edmondson Park and Leppington) to support the terms of your request, map provided to assist.

https://transportnsw.info/sydney-trains-...

Regards
Jenie Kocanovski
Resource and Compliance Officer
Legal, Privacy & Information Access
Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

Upper Ground, 18 Lee Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9549 9627
(m) 0466 861 475

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Dear Jenie Kocanovski,

Thank you for your message.

Sydney Trains’ unexplained decision not to release public safety-related information to an informal request made under the GIPA NSW Act, and instead to require the same questions to be made through a formal application seems inconsistent with the GIPA NSW Act's stated objectives (Part 1, Section 3) – namely for government agencies to be “pro-active, open, fair and effective”. Without being aware of their reasoning, the decision appears to unnecessary.

Their decision seems not to be aligned to the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC)’s policies. The IPC website (link below) states:

"The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest. It is generally presumed that all government agencies will disclose or release information, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so.”

“Under the GIPA Act agencies are encouraged to *proactively and informally release* as much other information as possible. An access application (also known as a formal application) should only need to be lodged *as a last resort*."

"The GIPA Act authorises and encourages the proactive release of information by NSW public sector agencies (and) ensures that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against releasing that information."

Link: https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/fact-sheet-in...

The information sought is in the NSW wider public's interest, is simple and short, and does not refer to any private or personal records.

1. As the manager of Sydney Trains GIPA process, can the Managing Director of TFNSW Corporate Services confirm whether they fully support Sydney Trains' decision not to fulfill the informal request for safety information and to require a formal access application with unquantifiable costs to the NSW citizen?

2. Please can you ask Sydney Trains what reasons it has - by reference to the GIPA NSW Act and IPC policies - to withhold simple, public safety related documents requested informally? Please can they also confirm they will release all the requested information if a formal application is made?

Yours sincerely,

N Aziz

Jarrod Whitbourn, Sydney Trains

Dear N Aziz,

I note your below request and that you have already received a number of responses from this office in relation to your enquiry.

Could you please provide a contact telephone number so that I can discuss this matter with you.

Kind regards,

Jarrod Whitbourn
Associate Director, Information Access Unit
Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

T 02 9549 9585 (Teams) |
18 Lee Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

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Dear Jarrod Whitbourn,

Thank you for your message. I do not wish to discuss any matters in a manner that is 'off the record', nor to give TFNSW additional personal information that is irrelevant and not required by law. I request that TFNSW continue to correspond on this GIPA request in writing.

To date, the messages from TFNSW have not addressed the valid informal access request made under the GIPA (NSW) Act on 13 Oct 2020, two weeks ago.

To summarise matters to date:

1. TFNSW's message on 14 Oct 2020 from Grace Fong stated that the TFNSW "Information Access Unit" office "cannot answer questions" and that a "formal access application" was necessary.

2. In response, statements from the GIPA (NSW) Act were provided and extracts from the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) NSW policies to demonstrate to TFNSW that neither of Ms Fong's statement was correct.

3. On 14 Oct 2020 a message from TFNSW's Enza Kursun was sent stating (again) the TFNSW "Information Access Unit" office "cannot answer questions" and that it was necessary for GIPA applicants to know "specific details e.g. dates" and the "name of a report". Once again, this advise is not consistent with the GIPA Act or IPC policies, either in fact, nor in the spirit intended by the law.

4. In response to that, more advice was provided on 14 Oct 2020 to the TFNSW Information Access Unit, to describe the legal background and to offer any more details that might help TFNSW to locate the simple and unambiguous information.

5. One week later, on 21 Oct 2020, a one-line response was forwarded from TFNSW's Information Access Unit on behalf of Sydney Trains stating the "information was unavailable informally".

6. Despite further detailed statements given to a third Information Access Unit employee, Jenie Kocanovski, on 23 Oct 2020, the original informal request under GIPA on 13 Oct 2020 remains unresolved as do the two questions addressing TFNSW and Sydney Trains' responses to the enquiry. For reference, these are:

Q1. As the manager of Sydney Trains GIPA process, can the Managing Director of TFNSW Corporate Services confirm whether they fully support Sydney Trains' decision not to fulfil the informal request for public safety information, and to require a formal access application with unquantifiable costs to the NSW citizen?

Q2. Please can TFNSW ask Sydney Trains what reasons it has - by reference to the GIPA NSW Act and IPC policies - to withhold simple, public safety related documents requested informally? Please can Sydney Trains confirm they will release all the requested information if a formal application is made?"

Please could you set out TFNSW's timeline for responding to all matters raised (under and outside of the GIPA Act) - in accordance with the GIPA Act's prescribed schedule?

If the original informal request remains unresolved by 3 Nov. I will look to raise the lack of progress and apparent withholding of information related to rail transport public safety with our local MP, the Minister and/or the media.

Yours sincerely,

N Aziz

Jarrod Whitbourn, Sydney Trains

1 Attachment

Dear N Aziz,

 

Thank you for your email.

 

I note the advice and assistance that has been offered to you from this
office and my own offer to call and discuss your request with you.

 

Unfortunately, we are not able to progress this matter. This is for a
couple of reasons: the first is that you have not provided sufficient
information for us to identify the information that you are seeking access
to. To this extent, I note your email dated 13 October 2020 in which you
ask ‘How many defects does Sydney Trains have on the T2 line to Macarthur?
How many are safety related?  When were these first known about?’ For such
a request to be actioned we would need to understand what you mean by
‘defects’ as your definition may be different to what the business area
considers to be a defect. For example, the repair of a particular item on
the train may be recorded as a defect – in that it requires repair, but
not a defect which would interfere with the normal operation of the train.
Further, as a matter of practicality, we would ask that you specify a
particular timeframe. Without this timeframe, dealing with such an enquiry
would require a substantial amount of time and, because you have not
specified particular line of enquiry, may not be information which is
relevant or of interest to you.

 

Secondly, as you have been informed in earlier correspondence, information
of the nature that you are enquiring about may be sought through an access
application under the GIPA Act. There are various reasons why this
information is not suitable for informal release and I would be happy to
discuss these with you.

 

Each year the transport agencies receive about 2,000 access applications
under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act). Many
of these applications are received from Members of Parliament, media
organisations, community groups and private sector business. The
information which is requested is similar to the type of information to
which you have requested access. If you do not wish to make an application
yourself, your local member may be able to assist you, or make an
application on your behalf.

 

My team would be happy to assist you should you wish to make an
application. I also repeat my earlier offer to discuss your request in
more detail and have provided my direct number below. Beyond these offers
of assistance, I cannot be of any further assistance to you and,
accordingly, will not respond to any further emails.

 

 

Kind regards,

 

 

Jarrod Whitbourn
Associate Director, Information Access Unit

Corporate Services
Transport for NSW

 

T 02 9549 9585 (Teams) 
18 Lee Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

 

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Dear Jarrod Whitbourn,

Thank you for your email.

1. If the only issue preventing Sydney Trains from responding to the original informal request under GIPA (NSW) Act was that TFNSW required the applicant's preferred definition of "defect", and the timeframe for which the information is sought, it is unfortunate that TFNSW and Sydney Trains have so far declined three times in writing to respond to the request. Additionally, it is very regrettable the simple enquiry has involved, so far, 4 government staff members from TFNSW alone, required 5 prior emails from TFNSW prior to seeking clarification, and taken 2 weeks before the clarification was sought. However I will address the points you raise:

2. The definition of 'defect' is per Sydney Trains' definition of the term and if this doesn't exist, the common meaning of the word. It would be highly concerning if a multi-million dollar public rail transport operator has no method to log any 'maintenance, technical, functional, safety issues' associated with its buildings and equipment' when public safety is of prime concern. Please can you confirm if any list of equipment with defects is held by TFNSW or its agencies and if this information is registered electronically?

The 13 Oct application sought the number of existing defects that are safety-related. If a computer database is used, a search of this should be quick and simple to determine how many records exist, and how many of these are flagged as a risk to public or staff safety. Is there no priority setting done on fixing defects? (To address your specific point, if a train has a defect that does not affect public safety, it is still a defect.).

3. Regarding the timeframe, it is unnecessary to narrow the enquiry by this irrelevant criteria. If a record of the backlog of defects on the railways exists electronically (or on paper), it should be a trivial search the database to locate the oldest unresolved defect. (For example, if a passenger safety alarm has been logged at any time as defective and has still not been fixed, it remains a "public safety defect" requiring attention.) Thus a time range is irrelevant and does not impede the request.

4. I have to decline your suggestion to have discussion with you by telephone, as this GIPA-related communication is not open to scrutiny, not available to the public on the record, and is unnecessary.

Based on the GIPA NSW Act and Information and Privacy Commissioner policies I can see no reason why the government will not make available public safety-related information, without payment of fees by the NSW citizen. If Sydney Trains still refuses to release the information informally, can you cite the provisions of the GIPA Act that this is decided under?

5. Your email comments "about 2000" access applications are received each year - and that these are "similar" to the information sought in the 13 Oct 2020 application. However,
a) The mandatory TFNSW Public Disclosure Log shows in the period 1 Oct 2019 to 1 Oct 2020 only 55 disclosures were completed, of which 1 in every 4 was released only "partially". These figures equate to less than 3% of the "2000 application" receiving any form of response, and 2% of the total requests being fulfilled in full. Please can you confirm if this interpretation is correct?
b). From a review of the titles of previously (full or partially) responded to requests, only one out of the 55 requests related to defects across any mode of transport, and that one enquiry asked how many speed cameras were not functioning. Can you refer to any other "similar" enquiries that addressed public safety defects please?

Please can you raise with Sydney Trains the informal access application made under the GIPA NSW Act on 13 Oct 2020, as clarified above and provide the completed responses, ASAP?

Yours sincerely,

N Aziz