Security on the railway - Transport Committee Contents

4  Outcomes

Crime statistics

22. The total number of crimes committed on the railway has declined in the past decade. There were 10 consecutive years of crime reduction up to 2013-14.[36] The BTP told us:

    It is predicted that by the end of 2013/14 there will have been a reduction of 25,717 offences (40%) in crimes on the overground railway since 2003/04. In terms of crimes per million passengers, the rate has fallen from 63.33 in 2003/04 to an expected 24.24 for year end 2013/14. Non-notifiable crime has fallen from 40.49 to 22.21 crimes per million passengers over the same period. In 2012/13 Transport for London's rail-based systems had 9.4 crimes per million passenger journeys and the predicted figure for 2013/14 shows a further 16% decrease. BTP's overall detection rate remains constant at around 40%, which compares favourably with that of forces in England and Wales.[37]

Bearing in mind that the number of people travelling on the railway has significantly increased in the past decade, the overall figures on crime reduction are encouraging and could be taken as evidence of effective performance by the BTP. However, we noted the marked decrease in the number of crimes committed in locations other than the railway in the past decade, which suggested that wider societal factors were also significant.[38]

23. Looking beyond the headline figures, we examined the number of crimes and detection rate in relation to particular offences committed on the railway. Comparing the statistics from 2003-04 with those for 2013-14, we identified that

·  Robbery reduced by 82% with a current detection rate of 42%;

·  Line of route offences reduced by 72% with a current detection rate of 24%;

·  Motor vehicle/cycle offences reduced by 35% with a current detection rate of 37%;

·  Theft of passenger property reduced by 53% with a current detection rate of 7%.[39]

24. In contrast with the overall trend in crime reduction on the railway, incidents involving assault and aggravated racial harassment have increased in the past five years. The number of common assaults increased by 6% from 3,632 in 2009-10 to 3,832 in 2012-13.[40] Projected figures for 2013-14 show that racially aggravated crimes increased by some 13%.[41] In addition, the most recent statistics showed a 21% increase in sexual offences on Britain's railways in 2013-14.[42] That increase might, as the BTP has argued, indicate a greater willingness by the public to report such crimes. Nevertheless, the BTP must continue to address emerging trends in crime through targeted initiatives, such as Project Guardian.[43]

25. We questioned why the BTP achieved a detection rate of only 7% in cases involving the theft of passenger property. The chief constable pointed out the intrinsic difficulty in investigating such cases:

    If someone gets on a train at St Pancras and travels to Leeds, and somewhere on that journey they have their purse or luggage stolen, do you record it at the end destination or at the beginning? That makes it very hard to analyse. If you look particularly at the London underground, where there are 1.1 billion passenger journeys a year, and the congested nature of it, the vast majority of these offences occur inside the train when people are very crowded together. You can begin to see that there is not an awful lot of evidence to go on. First of all, we do not know where the crime was committed. Often the property is not recovered, so you can't narrow it down. Nobody knows it has even happened until some time afterwards; it might be an hour afterwards. Although there is CCTV in a number of carriages, when you are talking about a very packed train, it is incredibly difficult to identify offenders.[44]

We acknowledge the practical difficulties in investigating theft offences but remain concerned by the BTP's 7% detection rate, which seems remarkably low.

26. The BTPA highlighted a factor which it believed skewed the detection rate in cases involving the theft of passenger property:

    In order to get insurance payments when you have lost your mobile phone, you have to report it to a police force. We get reports of mobile phones that have been stolen because without a crime number from us, if they think they have lost it or that it has been stolen on the railway, individual citizens cannot claim insurance … I am not making any aspersions, but it is quite important to bear in mind that the insurance companies don't pay up without a reference number.[45]

We were disappointed by that comment from the BTPA. The BTPA should focus on driving the BTP's performance rather than making unsubstantiated allegations about the victims of crime.

27. We asked the Minister whether she was concerned by the 7% detection rate in cases involving the theft of passenger property. She told us that she had "not personally discussed it with the chief."[46] She added that she would "go away and have these conversations."[47] The DfT is ultimately responsible for the BTP's performance (see paragraph 10). The Minister acknowledged that "there is always the potential to intervene around strategic priorities, targets and performance indicators."[48] We welcome the overall decrease in crime on the railway. However, there is no room for complacency, because the high-level statistics mask increases in serious crimes involving assault, sexual offences and racial harassment and areas where the BTP can improve its performance. The BTPA must fulfil its core function of setting the BTP challenging but achievable targets.

Fear of crime

28. We welcome the public's increased use of the railway in the past decade.[49] If the railway is to sustain its popularity, the public must perceive that it is a safe way to travel. The Rail Delivery Group explained how passengers' perceptions of their personal safety were fundamental to the viability of Britain's railways:

    Fear of crime is an important issue for the rail industry, especially at stations. Passenger growth, and the general health of the industry, could be undermined if stations were to become places people would rather avoid. As an illustration, compare the new Kings Cross with the rather dingy and unwelcoming old station.[50]

29. We heard that the reduction in crime on the railway has been mirrored by an increase in passengers' perceptions of their own personal security. Passenger Focus surveys showed that 76% of passengers rated their security as 'good' or 'very good' in autumn 2013 compared with 68% in 2008-09.[51] The Rail Delivery Group highlighted a similar trend in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS):

    There has been a significant improvement in passengers feeling secure at stations, going from 62% in 2007 to 71% in 2012. Similarly, security on trains has increased from 70 to 79% over the same period. These contrast with the welcome but smaller improvement in overall passenger satisfaction from 81% to 85% over the same period.[52]

30. Passenger Focus observed that "the NRPS only reflects the views of those passengers who are actually travelling by train, so in effect it is talking to people who have already accepted the potential risks to their personal security associated with train travel."[53] That observation corresponds with research conducted by the Applied Criminology Centre, University of Huddersfield, which found that improved security measures result in increased demand for rail travel.[54] In other words, some people would like to travel by train but do not do so because of their fear of crime. That provides a commercial incentive for train operating companies to invest in passenger security.

31. The Applied Criminology Centre examined security measures at 322 stations. It found that the following measures reduced crime at railway stations:

·  the presence of station staff;

·  the presence of CCTV;

·  measures to improve lines of sight across the station;

·  the presence of ticket barriers, and the ability to secure station property and spaces therein;

·  the extent of routine activity associated with the presence of shops and cafes.[55]

In line with that research, the BTP told us that "more uniformed officers will be available to patrol at stations and on trains when the public feel most vulnerable—these late night deployments will provide a visible presence to reassure passengers and reduce the fear of crime."[56]

32. The Applied Criminology Centre highlighted the relationship between security at railway stations and security at railway station car parks. It found that investment in car park security had no influence on vehicle crime unless it was accompanied by a corresponding investment in station security, in which case the combined effect produced a 48% reduction in vehicle crime.[57]

33. Secure Stations is a BTP-accredited scheme for managing security and adopting measures to reduce crime at railway stations. The scheme was launched in 1998. In 2011, there were 1,245 Secure Stations in Britain. Safer Parking is managed by the British Parking Association on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Approximately 400 stations have gained Safer Parking accreditation for their car parks. The increase in the number of accredited stations and car parks has been driven by the inclusion within rail franchise negotiations of commitments by train operating companies to extend the proportion of stations covered by the two schemes.[58]

34. The DfT, the BTP, Network Rail and train operators must address not only crime, but the fear of crime in order to maintain and grow the railway. Visible policing is a proven means of enhancing passengers' perceptions of security. We therefore welcome the BTP's plan to deploy more officers on patrolling railway stations at key times. To fulfil its oversight role, the BTPA must monitor the implementation of the BTP's deployment of more officers at railway stations and examine how this affects passengers' perceptions of their personal security.

35. We approve of the inclusion of compliance with the Secure Stations and Safer Parking schemes as a factor in rail franchise negotiations. However, Secure Stations are of little benefit if passengers cannot get to and from them safely. To secure full value from such investments, improvements to railway station security should be accompanied by complementary improvements to station car parks.

Vulnerable children and young people

36. We took compelling written and oral evidence from the charity Railway Children on the experience of vulnerable children and young people at railway stations.[59] Railway Children described the risks to children and young people in and around railway stations:

It is no mystery why King's Cross and Manchester Piccadilly have red light areas just outside the train stations. You have transient populations, mostly of men, and that is where people will gather when they know there are vulnerable people and people passing through. It is why pick-pockets and others are there as well—to exploit people who have a number of things on their mind and are not concentrating … We know that some of the sexual exploitation taking place on concourses is gang-related and quite organised in some areas.[60]

37. Because the BTP patrols railway stations and engages with people who are travelling without tickets, it encounters a significant number of vulnerable children and young people. Between April 2012 and August 2013, the BTP picked up 90 runaway children at Euston, 185 runaway children at King's Cross, 115 runaway children at Paddington, 239 runaway children at Liverpool Street and 140 runaway children at Euston Underground.[61] The BTP told us that the problem is not confined to London and that its officers encounter vulnerable children and young people in major railway stations across Britain.[62] Railway Children pointed out that those figures, which are the best available, may be unreliable and could understate the problem:

We sent out an FOI to BTP a number of months ago to see how many young people who were picked up … were subsequently found to be missing … We got the response from BTP that it would be too costly to look through all of those because a lot of them were manual written forms.[63]

The BTP acknowledged that "the data is undoubtedly there" and agreed to "go away and look at how we can make the data more visible."[64]

38. Accurate data are crucial to, first, defining and, secondly, solving problems. We welcome the BTP's assurance that it will examine its available data on runaway children and young people. We look forward to seeing the results of its analysis, which will inform not only our inquiry but the work of charities such as Railway Children. If that analysis of the BTP's data requires significant resources, the DfT should make them available to facilitate the protection of vulnerable children and young people.

39. We were surprised to learn that, unlike other police forces, the BTP is not subject to specific targets in relation to child protection. Railway Children stated:

    If you look at police outside BTP, they have their own specialist child protection and they have links with their local authorities as part of the safeguarding board. I always find it quite strange that the BTP people I have been in contact with do not seem to have those connections.[65]

The BTP explained that its national remit posed specific challenges in relation to child protection, because, unlike local police forces, it had to deal with local authority child safeguarding boards from across the country.[66]

40. We asked the BTPA why it had not set the BTP targets in relation to child protection. The BTPA replied:

What would be our targets? … They [runaway children] have come from somewhere. Their home county is where they have targets … We could certainly think about how we should deal with them in custody and care. One of the things that we have been thinking about is how we communicate with their local forces … to send them back to where they will be long term. These are very often long-term issues … Let the record show that I give you my assurance that I will take it away and look at it.[67]

Although the welfare of a runaway young person or child is the long-term responsibility of a local authority safeguarding board, it is the BTP's short-term responsibility while that young person is in its care. The BTPA must set the BTP appropriate targets in relation to child protection to bring the BTP in line with other police forces and to capture the extent and importance of the BTP's responsibilities.

41. We asked the Minister whether she was aware of the issue of vulnerable children and young people at railway stations. She replied:

No; I focused much more on the broader issue of vulnerable people, without particularly identifying vulnerable children. As a consequence of this meeting, I will make sure that I am getting as briefed on vulnerable children as I have been on vulnerable people in the more generic sense.[68]

Child protection at railway stations is an emerging issue. We commend Railway Children for raising it, which allowed us to alert the Minister. The DfT should ensure that the BTPA sets the BTP appropriate targets on child protection. In addition, the Minister should convene a seminar involving departmental officials, the BTP, the BTPA, Railway Children and other NGOs and the Transport Select Committee to ensure that policy and practice in this area is fit for purpose.

Cable theft

42. The theft of power supply and signalling cable delays passengers, and cable is expensive to repair and replace.[69] We have maintained a focus on cable theft throughout this Parliament, notably in our Cable theft on the railway Report which we published in January 2013.[70] Incidents of cable theft have declined since the publication of that Report. The Minister stated:

During 2011-12, there were 845 cable theft incidents. That cost the industry around £12 million and caused 344,000 delay minutes, which is obviously significant. Moving to 2013-14, we had 179 cable theft incidents costing the industry about £2.5 million with about 68,000 delay minutes.[71]

43. In our Cable theft on the railway Report, we recommended that "the Government amends the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 and introduces measures to improve the audit trail for metal purchases, by requiring that sellers prove their identity before metal is traded at scrap yards."[72] The DfT explained how it implemented our recommendation:

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which came into force in October 2013, aims to clamp down on rogue traders and gives local authorities and the police new powers to inspect premises. Additionally legislation now prohibits cash transactions, creates a register of scrap metal dealers, and requires that all transactions are fully verifiable/auditable, including through a requirement to provide name and address details.[73]

The Minister told us that that legislative change was "absolutely crucial" in tackling cable theft.[74] We welcome the sharp decline in incidences of cable theft, which has translated into reduced delays for the travelling public and decreased costs for Network Rail.

36   DfT (SOR 002) para 5 Back

37   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.1 Back

38   Office for National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales period ending March 2014 Back

39   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.4 Back

40   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.7 Back

41   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.8 Back

42   "Railways sex offences rise by 21%", BBC, 21 August 2014 Back

43   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.2 Back

44   Q150 Back

45   Q172 Back

46   Q115 Back

47   Q117 Back

48   Q91 Back

49   DfT, Rail Trends Great Britain 2012/13 Back

50   Rail Delivery Group (SOR 009) para 4 Back

51   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.9 Back

52   Rail Delivery Group (SOR 009) para 12 Back

53   Passenger Focus (SOR 007) para 2.4 Back

54   Applied Criminology Centre (SOR 006) para 3.4 Back

55   Applied Criminology Centre (SOR 006) para 3.1 Back

56   BTP (SOR 010) para 2.11 Back

57   Applied Criminology Centre (SOR 006) para 3.3 Back

58   Applied Criminology Centre (SOR 006) para 2.1 Back

59   Railway Children (SOR 003) Back

60   Q30; Q37 Back

61   Railway Children (SOR 003) Back

62   Q147 Back

63   Q25 Back

64   Q142 Back

65   Qq27-28 Back

66   Q136 Back

67   Qq140-141; Q146 Back

68   Q111 Back

69   DfT (SOR 002) para 27 Back

70   Transport Select Committee, Fourteenth Report of Session 2010-12, Cable theft on the railway, HC 1609 Back

71   Q114 Back

72   Transport Select Committee, Fourteenth Report of Session 2010-12, Cable theft on the railway, HC 1609, Recommendation 3 Back

73   DfT (SOR 002) para 31 Back

74   Q113 Back

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Prepared 5 September 2014