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BTP: Rail industry ‘nervous’ about policing integration

Proposals which may see British Transport Police (BTP) integrated into a national infrastructure force have raised concerns across the railway industry, BTP chiefs have revealed.

BTP bosses made the admission during an evidence session in front of the Transport Select Committee last week as part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into rail safety.

It is implied that under the proposals the DfT will no longer be responsible for policing the railway as under the current system.

“It is quite right that there are a number of concerns across industry and the key stakeholders we work with, including some of the public,” said BTP’s deputy chief constable Adrian Hanstock.

“There is some true uniqueness about the British Transport Police, which I think is treasured by the industry and stakeholders, and that is reflected in quite a bit of the feedback we have received about nervousness about some of these proposals.”

According to Hancock, a national infrastructure review of policing has arisen from the government’s desire to have a “more flexible armed policing capability” following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Elsewhere in the discussion, the BTP said that around 10% of its budget is now directed towards counter-terrorism arrangements, calling it the biggest crime risk to the rail network.

The chief constable of the BTP and DCC Hancock are understood to have attended sessions with the DfT to talk through the risks and opportunities that would be presented by the change.

Transport committee member Clive Efford raised concern that specialist skills might be lost as a result of the BTP integrating with a wider police force.

DCC Hancock emphasised that transport policing is different due to the specific needs of a transport environment along with the “commercial imperative” and the butterfly effect that decisions in one location may have elsewhere on the rail network.

“Railway policing requires specialisms, and I think we have managed to put across our point very well,” said British Transport Police Authority’s interim chief executive Charlotte Vitty when asked to elaborate on the proposals.

“We are awaiting the outcome of that review, but we are very confident about how much we were able to put across in terms of what we do as a police force and what would need to be considered post any decision,” she added.

The BTP is likely to hear some of the proposals for infrastructure policing from the Cabinet Office by the end of January, representatives told the committee, stressing that nothing has yet been formally announced.

“As a police force that operates in this way, we are in a bit of an invidious position, because of course we have to follow the will of parliament, and we will do that; we recognise that our role is actively to support government direction,” DCC Hancock said.

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Anthony Woodward   28/01/2017 at 13:31

My concern with BTP policing trains is 'response time'. If I witnessed an incident that I considered warranted a police presence, I would call 999 to hopefully alert a local police response, rather than contacting the BTP directly, simply on a perceived response time basis. However, as is the case at airports, a constant police presence at major railway stations is an absolute necessity and therefore, the maintaining of dedicated officer teams for that sole duty would seem logical.

John   06/02/2017 at 14:59

Anthony, in following your logic it would actually create a delay in a police response. The local police simply phone BTP who then dispatch officers. If the job is not life or death/ serious injury the local force will not send officers. Even if it is they most likely will only do so if the BTP response time is excessive in their eyes, however the local force has to prioritise all their jobs not just railway jobs like BTP.

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