Security on the railway - Transport Committee Contents

3  Strategy

Risk-based rail policing

14. In line with its specialist remit, the BTP has developed a risk-based approach to policing the railway that is designed to meet the needs of both the railway industry and the travelling public. It set out how it implemented that approach:

    Over the last 10 years BTP has assessed over 10,000 bomb threats and not once recommended closure. The financial saving for the rail industry achieved by avoiding unnecessary closure of the system through this approach is assessed in the billions of pounds. The wider economic benefit to the UK economy is higher. The investigatory methods BTP has developed also bring significant benefit to passengers and industry in terms of reducing delay and improving safety. For example, when BTP is the first responder to a fatality incident, closures last half the time, and cable theft incidents are dealt with in a third of the time when BTP is first on the scene.[25]

15. We explored the question whether the BTP's commitment to minimising delays might compromise security. The BTP pointed out that its first priority is passenger safety:

    We have established over many years a very mature relationship with the operators. I think they respect and understand that, if we ask for something to be done in the interests of security or preventing crime, we have taken into account the impact that it has. If we ask them to do it, there is a reason why we are asking them to do it … that is what comes from the strength of a specialised transport policing organisation that demonstrates on a day-to-day basis that it understands the context and is able to balance the public interest, which must always prevail, against the impact of our actions on the industry.[26]

The BTPA added that "this is a public police force; it is not G4S … at the end of the day, this police force has its own accountability and responsibilities as a public police force." We were convinced by the case for a risk-based approach to policing Britain's railways. We were impressed by the BTP's commitment to tackling crime while minimising delays for the travelling public.

Counter terrorism

16. The BTP has proven counter-terrorism capabilities. The DfT observed that those capabilities were "strikingly evidenced during the terrorist attacks on London in 2005" and highlighted the "BTP's role in helping to keep London running in the most testing circumstances."[27] The BTP has developed its approach to managing the risk posed by terrorism over several decades. It pointed out that its method was "developed through all the terrorism threats through the '80s and '90s".[28] It added that it

    rarely recommends to the train operators that they should close if we get a bomb threat. On the rare occasions that we do, they take it very seriously because they know that we apply a lot of thought and risk management to that decision.[29]

17. We examined how the BTP accessed the necessary intelligence to inform its counter-terrorism policing. We were concerned that the BTP might not have access to all relevant information because it did not fall within the purview of the Home Office (see paragraph 11). The BTP reassured us that it is

linked to all the national and regional structures. We are very closely linked, for example, with the Metropolitan Police and the counter-terrorism command, as well as with regional counter-terrorism structures throughout the UK. We are very closely linked into the security services and various other sources of intelligence data.[30]

The BTP has a proven record of successful risk-based, counter-terrorist policing, which depends on accurate and up-to-date intelligence. The BTP must maintain and develop its liaison links with other police forces and the security services to ensure that it has the latest intelligence on major threats.

18. Until 2010, the DfT maintained the Transport Security Directorate (TRANSEC) to co-ordinate its departmental-level response to terrorist and other major threats to transport. We examined how the DfT addressed such threats following the closure of TRANSEC. The DfT explained how it had reallocated its resources to cover different types of transport:

    The expertise still exists; it is just that it exists in different places. Rather than there being a single unit known as the Transport Security Directorate, a number of different units now look after different aspects for the different modes.[31]

Following the reorganisation of TRANSEC, it is important that the DfT maintains sufficient expertise at a departmental level to address major threats to both the railway and other transport modes.

Expanding specialist transport policing

19. Unlike railways, roads, ports and airports are patrolled by local police forces rather than by specialist police. For example, Gatwick airport is patrolled by Sussex Police because it is in Sussex.[32] We identified how the BTP's transport specialism allowed it to maximise security while minimising delays on the railway (see paragraph 14). We therefore explored whether specialised policing might usefully be applied to other transport modes. In particular, we questioned whether the BTP's remit might be extended to encompass airports. The BTP stated that there

    are transferrable skills for managing risk in the railway and managing risk in any transport network. I often look at extensive road closures when there has been a fatal road traffic collision and wonder how our approach might be applied in those sorts of circumstances. There is definitely scope. It is for others than me to decide whether that is the right thing, but we would be very willing to look at it.[33]

20. The DfT was not attracted by the notion of expanding specialist transport policing. It argued that

    much of the work around securing airports and ensuring that they are safe, particularly from terrorism and from serious crime … takes place beyond the airport perimeter. There is more logic to say that it should be for the local forces who are policing outside the airport perimeter also to be responsible for policing the airport itself.[34]

We were not convinced by that argument, because the BTP successfully polices railway stations while having no jurisdiction beyond those stations' perimeters. In its 2004 review of the BTP, the DfT expressed a more positive view on expanding the BTP's remit to include airports:

    Policing of airports involves the policing of a transient population and requires policing to be undertaken within a commercial environment. The risk management regime in the aviation industry, particularly with regard to bomb threat categorisation, was also likely to reflect the regime the BTP had developed on the railway network. BTP's specialist skills could therefore be readily adapted to the policing of airports.[35]

21. There may be value in applying BTP's specialist approach to policing the railways to other transport modes, such as aviation. In particular, if the BTP's funding structure and close working relationship with transport providers were replicated at airports, it could minimise delays, maximise security and reduce the cost of policing for the taxpayer. The DfT should examine the case for expanding the remit of the BTP to include (a) aviation and (b) other modes of transport.

25   BTP (SOR 010) para 1.4 Back

26   Q153 Back

27   BTP (SOR 010) para 6.1 Back

28   Q153 Back

29   Q153 Back

30   Q128 Back

31   Q83 Back

32   Q120 Back

33   Q157 Back

34   Q118 Back

35   DfT, Review of the British Transport Police, para 3.12 Back

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Prepared 5 September 2014