Union warns against British Transport Police merger plans

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Merging the British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland with the country’s “troubled” police force could spark “big delays” for travellers and hit rail firms in the pocket, a union leader has warned.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes claimed the BTP is a “highly-regarded, super-efficient” cross-border service and Police Scotland “simply are not fit to take it over”.

The Scottish Government’s planned merger between the two forces north of the Border should be “binned before it causes real and lasting damage to rail security and jeopardises passengers’ lives”, he insisted.

Ministers at Holyrood have put forward legislation that, if passed, would give power over railway policing to the force and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) watchdog.

The Railway Police (Scotland) Bill also requires the SPA and Chief Constable to have regular contact with train operators on rail policing matters.

BTP deputy chief constable Adrian Hancock has already told MSPs the plans could create an unnecessary ‘’border’’ for officers and he would prefer a new Transport Police Scotland to be created instead of the force being absorbed into Police Scotland.

With transport company chiefs due to take part in a joint rail safety committee meeting later this month, Mr Cortes wants the merger plans to be top of the agenda.

He also called on industry leaders such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, Stagecoach founder Sir Brian Souter, Tim O’Toole of First Group’s Transpennine Express and Arriva UK managing director Chris Burchell to “give a lead” on the issue and speak out against the plans.

Mr Cortes said: “No-one involved in the rail industry wants this merger. “The BTP don’t want it, the BTP Federation don’t want it, rail unions don’t want it and rail company bosses need to come clean with the public because they are said not to be in favour of it either. UK cross-border rail safety is way too important to be reduced to a devolution issue. Scottish Labour don’t want it, Scottish Tories don’t want it. The drivers behind it are the SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her justice minister Michael Matheson and her transport minister Humza Yousaf.”

The union leader added: “The BTP is a highly-regarded, super-efficient, well-embedded cross-border service which needs absolutely no SNP fixing. “It certainly doesn’t need merging into the troubled Police Scotland, who simply are not fit to take it over.”