ScotRail warns transport police merger plan could lead to delays

It is expected the majority of BTP officers will transfer to the national force. Picture: John Devlin

It is expected the majority of BTP officers will transfer to the national force. Picture: John Devlin

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ScotRail has warned controversial railway policing plans may lead to delays on the network and officers being called away for other duties.

The management of fatality incidents is another example of the different priorities of the BTP

David Lister

The Scottish Government wants to merge British Transport Police (BTP) functions into Police Scotland in a move which has been criticised by staff associations.

ScotRail, the country’s largest rail operator, said the plans were likely to impact on how quickly incidents are dealt with and could lead to a “loss of specialism” on the network.

Under the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, BTP’s operations north of the Border will be taken over by Police Scotland.

It is expected the majority of BTP officers will transfer to the national force, although staff associations have suggested that some may leave.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, ScotRail sustainability and safety assurance director David Lister warned the merger was likely to impact on travel times and increase delay costs for the industry.

He said: “The management of fatality incidents is another example of the different priorities of the BTP.

“A case study of a fatality at Carluke station in September 2015 provides a demonstration of this.

“Whilst BTP had been able to identify the incident as a nonsuspicious suicide through their interview with driver and investigation within 73 minutes of the incident occurring, the railway remained closed for a further 107 minutes, as Police Scotland wished to treat the incident as a scene of crime.

“This incident led to disruption to the UK rail network resulting in 760 delay minutes and an industry cost of approximately £160,000.

“Experience from the Dutch railway industry has also shown that the withdrawal of a dedicated railway police service and integration with the national police force can lead to a loss of specialism over time.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As Police Scotland have made clear, specialist railway policing expertise and capacity will be maintained and protected within the broader structure of Police Scotland, with improved access to wider support facilities and specialist equipment, providing an enhanced service provision to the rail industry and travelling public.

“Devolution of BTP was recommended by the Smith Commission, reached through cross-party agreement.”

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