New plans to get to the ‘route’ of policing need on Britain’s railway

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Apr/May 2014

The British Transport Police Authority has unveiled national plans for policing Britain’s railways which they say will deliver policing that gets to the ‘route’ of what matters most to the rail industry. Authority chair Millie Banerjee explains more.

The British Transport Police Authority (BTPA), which oversees the work of the British Transport Police (BTP), sets the force’s local and national targets each year. This year the emphasis for the plans has shifted from area-based to line of route – a move which is expected to deliver more efficient and effective policing.

BTPA and BTP spent much of last year carrying out in-depth consultations with those who own, operate, work or travel on the railways to understand what policing priorities mattered to them most.

Adopting a ‘bottom-up’ approach, they worked with those on the ground to ensure decisions taken at the top reflect policing priorities on specific routes and responded to the needs of the industry more widely.

We have set ourselves ambitious targets to meet by 2019 so it is important to build on the momentum of the successful work carried out over the last two years.

In delivering this year’s plans we took a three-pronged attack. We spent time talking to the rail industry about what they wanted.
We worked closely with those at the front end of rail service delivery to get the bottom of what they needed and then we responded, looking at what we could do to help achieve the priorities, even restructuring the force to support delivery.

The force restructure, completed on 1 April, involved replacing the previous model of seven force areas with three divisions covering all of Britain, each with an Assistant Chief Constable with an operational overview.

The restructure is expected to enhance relations with stakeholders, who now have a clear direct line of contact. It will deliver better value for money, improve performance and visibility and facilitate better integration with the rail industry. Each division is made up of sub-divisions (eight in total nationally) with corresponding local policing plans which will reflect policing needs on the ground.

On track

The 2014-15 national targets for the BTP are:

• Reduce crime by 4% on last year’s figures 

• Reduce police-related delay by 6%

• Non-suspicious fatalities to be cleared in 90 minutes

• Average partial re-opening time to be no more than 45 minutes on four-track lines

• Spend at least 60% of budget on frontline resources

• Less than 7.3 days per employee off sick

• Achieve passenger confidence rating of at least 77.5%

BTPA, which celebrates its ten year anniversary in July, commended the force on successfully reducing crime on the railways year-on-year. Passenger confidence continues to rise since the authority was set up in 2004.

BTP carried out a number of successful operations last year (2013-14) including those that supported targets around reducing disruption on the railway lines, a key measure of the forces performance.

Operation Avert was set up in response to a spike in the number of fatalities over a four month period.

The force stepped up patrols at 75 locations across the country and increased their work with local services to provide support for vulnerable people, to minimise trespass incidents and suicide attempts on the railway.

The operation was highly successful, partly owing to the increased engagement activity with local services and train operators to provide support for vulnerable people within hotspot areas – resulting in a reverse in the trend.

Acting Chief Constable Paul Crowther said: “As a police force we are always looking at how we might better meet the needs of the industry and the travelling public. Last year, we piloted two approaches to fatalities and disruption to see how we might create a more effective response.

“By working with stakeholders and targeting intervention at vulnerable people, with support from the appropriate health
authorities, Op Avert was very successful at reducing the number of fatalities. This new approach will continue in 2014-15.

“In addition, we have looked at how we might reduce the impact fatalities have on delays on the network, whilst ensuring we can carry out our investigations sensitively. The partial re-openings of track, where possible, has successfully reduced delay minutes to the industry and the impact on passengers. This approach has enabled BTP to continue to carry out our work sensitively and appropriately, but with a reduced impact on services. The partial re-opening of lines, at key sections of the network, is now a target for 2014-15.

“Throughout 2014-15, we will continue to look at ways in which we can evolve our approach to deliver the responsive, effective policing service passengers and the industry deserves.”

This year a 6% reduction is expected in police-related disruption minutes. The force has already started work on areas they believe will help them reach the target including identifying vandalism, trespass and crime hotspots.

We will be monitoring how the plans are received and the impact they have over the course of the year.

To support the plans we have also ensured that any savings the force made last year are ploughed back into frontline resources including investment in 200 more officers and new technology to ensure efficient and effective policing.

We also intend to do much more work around passengers, determining what factors build passenger confidence in the force and promote confidence in the use of rail transport systems.

Strategic aims

The authority’s National and Local plans feed into the authority’s wider strategic aims to:

• Help keep rail transport systems running

• Help make rail transport systems safer and more secure

• Deliver value for money through continuous improvement

• Promote confidence in the use of rail transport systems.

Promotion for Paul Crowther

Paul Crowther has been named the new Chief Constable of British Transport Police, following a stint since January as Acting Chief Constable while Andy Trotter OBE QPM led the Strategic Command Course at the College of Policing.

Chief Constable Crowther joined the force in 1980, rising to the post of Deputy Chief Constable before this latest promotion.

The BTP said he is the first ‘home grown’ officer to be selected for the top post for more than 50 years. He will take over later this year.

He has been the national police lead for the Metal Theft Task Force, for which he was recently appointed an OBE, as well as suicide prevention and CCTV.

Andy Trotter has had a distinguished 45-year career in the police service, and has been BTP Chief Constable for five years.

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