Marcus | 25.10.2004 13:21 | London
While the new Freedom of Information Act will require TfL to publish the majority of information that it holds, there are, of course, some exemptions. Most significantly, TfL will not be able to distribute any material that is covered by the Data Protection Act. For now, the precise movements of individual commuters in London should be known *only* to TfL and its relevant subsidiaries, the security forces, including the police and the military, the Government, and the Queen.
What will be interesting to see is whether or not TfL are prepared to publish accurate logs of journey times within the city. This will finally provide a reliable means with which to assess the performance of the transport system. Although TfL presently publishes estimated journey times for each of its lines, these are often wildly overoptimistic and clearly do not take into account the length of time that travelers spend waiting on platforms. It could be extremely embarrassing for the London Underground to reveal that journeys did in practice take considerably longer than they claimed. Perhaps TfL, and other authorities, will be reluctant to keep such accurate records if their performance is put so clearly on display.
TfL says nothing about the surveillance of travelers on its own web site, but the following resources give some background to the current system, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and government policy:
From Mayor's Question Time 17/9/2003:
Roger Evans: ...you might try to scrap weekly and monthly travelcards and replace them entirely with the Oyster Card pay-as-you-go system. Can you assure Londoners that travelcards are safe?
Ken Livingstone: I would veto such a suggestion because I think there will always be some people – a small minority – who for ideological reasons will not want to use the Oyster Card because they will think it is an intrusion into their liberty and so on because it has this small radio receiver
... then later in the session:
Ken Livingstone: It is my intention to try and get virtually every Londoner to use the Oyster Card...
From the London Project Report, Prime Minister's Strategy
Unit, July 2004:
We recommend that... Government should continue to work with TfL to exploit the full potential of the Oyster smartcard ticketing system, and to improve the quality and accessibility of travel information.