Train firms warning over railway policing

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, which will see British Transport Polices operations north of the Border taken over by Police Scotland, was published yesterday. Picture: John Devlin
The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, which will see British Transport Polices operations north of the Border taken over by Police Scotland, was published yesterday. Picture: John Devlin
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Train companies have warned the Scottish Government that plans to integrate railway policing into Police Scotland could increase costs and undermine the response to incidents on the network.

The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill, which will see British Transport Police’s operations north of the Border taken over by Police Scotland, was published yesterday.

There is nothing in the proposal which suggests that railway policing would be truly immune from any future cost pressures within Police Scotland

CROSSCOUNTRY

But responding to a government consultation on the proposal, train operator CrossCountry said the plans represented a “massive risk” to the resilience of the network.

Meanwhile, Virgin Trains East Coast said it was concerned that extra money would be needed to “up skill” Police Scotland officers not currently used to policing the rail network.

And TransPennine Express said it was concerned about the response time for incidents north of the Border.

British Transport Police, which currently polices the entire UK network, is funded by Network Rail and train operating companies.

It is expected the majority of its officers will transfer to Police Scotland, although staff associations have suggested that some may not.

In its submission to the Scottish Government consultation paper, CrossCountry said the case for change had “not been addressed”, with “many questions unanswered”. It added: “There is nothing in the proposal which suggests the costs of railway ­policing will reduce, nor that railway policing would be truly immune from any future cost pressures within Police Scotland.

“The costs to the railway of a less effective railway policing arrangement in terms of disruption and the distraction arising from more general policing matters would far outweigh the direct costs of policing activity. The overall cost to the railway industry arising from a fragmented railway policing structure is therefore likely to increase.”

TransPennine Express said: “As an Anglo-Scottish operator we are concerned over the timely response to incidents just north of the Border (for example Lockerbie), the loss of a UK-wide consistent approach to major threats (such as terrorism) and the disconnection of the current close working between BTP officers in Scotland and the north of England.”

The legislation submitted by the Scottish Government gives power over railway policing to Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

The bill also requires the SPA and the chief constable to have regular contact with train operators.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “We will ensure railway policing has a strong future and is fully accountable to the people of Scotland.

“Safety will always be our top priority and rail passengers and staff will continue to receive the high standards of security on our rail network that they are used to, throughout the period of integration and beyond.”