With less than a month to go until Network Rail finally falls under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act, the body has said it is expecting to receive almost 6,000 requests during the next 12 months.
This figure is higher than was predicted by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) when it made the body subject to the Act.
“The impact assessment MOJ published with the section 5 order included an estimate of 3600-5600 requests per year for us, based on what comparable organisations included in their monitoring statistics get,” said Mark Farrow, head of transparency at Network Rail.
“Our own estimate is at the upper end of that range (we’re saying up to 6000 in year 1 to our staff), but based on similar rationale.”
If the rail organisation receives anywhere near this number it will be among most received by any public authority in year. The Department for Work and Pensions received 5,600 FOI requests during the entire of 2013, which was more than any other central government authority.
The MoJ forecast that during the first nine months where the authority is covered by the FOI Act it will receive 17% more requests than it would otherwise receive.
“On the basis of the Ministry of Justice’s own calculations, it is expected that Network Rail will receive between 3600 and 5600 requests per annum in steady state, based on requests
received for central government departments in 2013,” the MoJ said in the impact assessment it published.
Farrow said that Network Rail has spoken with government departments as well as Transport For London to help produce their own forecasts.
He said that the body are keen and have done everything possible not to be caught out by an influx of requests when the authority is officially covered from April 1. Farrow said: “All we can do is prepare in the expectation that to start with we’ll get more requests rather than fewer”.
The FOI Act has been in operation for 10 years and the Ministry of Justice foresees that Network Rail’s inclusion for the next 10 years will cost anywhere between £5.9m and £10.7m.
It’s best expected estimate falls in the middle of this at £7.4m – although 2015 will be a “financial discount year”.
The first calendar year is expected to cost £1.13m to respond to requests and internal reviews, this then drops to £0.82m (in 2015 GBP) for each year.
Network Rail says it has spent £472,000 between June 2014 and January 2015 in preparation for the Act’s implementation.
The 10 year forecast for Network Rail’s response to FOI requests can be seen below.