Green group makes EU noise over rail pollution

A NEWLY-FORMED environmental law group is trying to launch a court action against Railtrack under European rules on access to information.

London-based EarthRights is seeking legal aid for a client whose request for information on machinery noise levels was turned down. It hopes to use the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 to force Railtrack to release details about a contractor's machinery.

But Andrew Litherland, Railtrack principal litigation solicitor, says: “The regulations apply to public authorities or bodies that have public responsibilities for the environment. Railtrack doesn't have such responsibilities therefore the regulations do not apply.”

The case raises wider issues about the accountability of former State bodies which are privatised, according to Toller Beattie solicitor Peter Scott.

Scott has launched a ground-breaking High Court action to extract information from South West Water Services

If newly-privatised public utilities are exempt from the rules there will be a discrepancy between information available in the UK and EU, says Scott.

The European directive recognises that publicly available information is one of the factors ensuring high environmental standards are enforced.

EarthRights solicitor John Dunkley says legal aid was refused and the group is seeking counsel's opinion, with a view to judicial review of the Legal Aid Board's decision.