Customer surveys carried out by Abellio ScotRail on ticketless travel: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/18/03055
Date received: 19 October 2018
Date responded: 15 November  2018
Information requested
  • Details and findings held relating to customer surveys carried out by Abellio ScotRail on  ticketless travel.
  • Any information (correspondence etc.) between Transport Scotland and ScotRail related to customer uptake of ticketless/smart technology.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested relating to customer surveys carried out by Abellio ScotRail on ticketless travel because an exemption under Section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. The reason why that exemption applies is explained below.  

For background, ScotRail’s 2015 Ticketless Travel Survey was carried out within the required timeframe. In 2016 a derogation was agreed with Transport Scotland for the survey to be delayed and undertaken early 2017 due to the impact of the Queen Street closure. With the derogation it meant that to fall back in line with the specified dates the next survey should have been undertaken by June 2017. However, this would only have been 4/5 months after the previous survey, therefore a further derogation was agreed for the next survey to be undertaken in June 2018.  I have attached copies of ScotRail’s Ticketless Travel Survey reports for 2015 and 2017. The Ticketless Travel Survey report for 2018 is currently being prepared by ScotRail.

Also attached is information related to customer uptake of Smart ticketing for 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, and 2018/19 (to date). 

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. 

This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of Abellio ScotRail. 

Disclosing this information would be likely to give Abellio ScotRail’s competitors an advantage in future similar tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice Abellio ScotRail’s ability to submit competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their commercial business. Releasing the documents with this information redacted satisfies public interest in understanding the extent of ticketless travel, and what Abellio ScotRail are doing about it. 

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is public interest in disclosing information as part of open and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of companies which tender for, or enter into, Scottish Government contracts, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at
FOI-18-03055 - re uptake of smart technology - TABLE 1 (002)
FOI-18-03055 - ScotRail ticketless travel survey - 2015 (002)


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Phone: 0300 244 4000 

The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 

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