Why is it always the easy questions that leave ’em stumped?

Which way to?

One of my New Year resolutions was to try and stop spending so much money on car parks, especially at train stations (£15 a day is now, frighteningly, actually good value). It’s for that reason that on Tuesday I was earwigging into a conversation involving two Metrolink staff about the problems they’re facing on the various extensions Manchester’s tram system is under going.

Annoyingly, as soon as someone asked them about this front page story from the Manchester Evening News involving a courtroom battle over a £42million contract for signalling, they annoyingly went quiet. Still, maybe it’s enough to prove the value of what you can overhear on a tram/train/bus.

It was, however, enough to prompt me to check out Transport for Greater Manchester’s page on What Do They Know to see what people had been asking about. It was just idle curiosity. Looking at the page, their recent track record on replying to FOIs isn’t great, and it appears that the old belief that it’s the simple questions which trip people up rings true for FOI too.

A C Higgins wrote:

Dear Transport for Greater Manchester,

I requested information from you (dated September 6) on the
extension project of the South Manchester Metrolink line however
have received no response.

Here is my request again, please could you acknowledge receipt of
the request this time.

Could you provide me with:

Current expenditure on the South Manchester extension,
total allocated budget at the outset of the work, and
projected total expenditure at completion next year?

Yours faithfully,

C Higgins

Not the world’s toughest questions – especially when you consider the level of information they are making freely available on their website for the South Manchester extension.

C Higgins emailed via What Do They Know on October 25. As is clear from his/her letter, it’s the second attempt to ask three simple questions:  How much was a project supposed to cost, how much has been spent so far and how much will it now cost to complete?

Of course, it could be that C Higgins’ first email – seemingly not posted through What Do They Know – has been responded to, but the perception on a public website is of an organisation not managing to answer the most basic of questions.

Either way, quite what is so hard to answer about those questions, I don’t know. Maybe hanging around on a tram to get the answer really is more reliable!

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