British Transport Police

British Transport Police

Infobox UK Police
name= British Transport Police/Heddlu Trafnidiaeth Prydeinig
area= National Rail Network, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, Midland Metro, Tramlink, Glasgow Subway, Sunderland line of the Tyne & Wear Metro
start= 1948
population= 1 billion passenger journeys
size= convert|10000|mi|km of track and more than 3,000 railway stations and depots.
officers= 3,002BTP Website]
title= Chief Constable
head= Ian Johnston CBE QPM
divname= Areas
divno= 7
stations= 88
HQ= London
budget= £187.7mBTP "Annual Report 2006/2007." p. 21]

web= [ British Transport Police]

The British Transport Police (BTP) ( _cy. Heddlu Trafnidiaeth Prydeinig) is a special police force [s.3(5) Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005] empowered to police those railways and light-rail systems in Great Britain for which it has entered into an agreement to provide such services [cite web |author= |title=Office of Public Sector Information Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (c. 20)|url=
accessdaymonth=17 July|accessyear=2008
] . British Transport Police officers do not have any jurisdiction in Northern Ireland [ s.31 Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003] , where policing of the railways is the responsibility of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.


As well as having natural jurisdiction of the system operated by Network Rail consequential to being a former part of British Railways, the BTP are also responsible for policing:

*The London Underground system
*The Docklands Light Railway
*The Channel Tunnel Rail Link
*The Sunderland line of the Tyne and Wear Metro (between Pelaw and South Hylton)
*The Midland Metro
*The Glasgow Subway (since early 2007)

In addition, the British Transport Police, in conjunction with the French Police aux Frontières, have responsibility for policing the international services operated by Eurostar. [cite web |author= |title=BTP site "About Us"|url=
accessdaymonth=17 July|accessyear=2008

It is not responsible for policing the rest of the Tyne and Wear Metro or the Manchester Metrolink or any other railway with which it does not currently have a service agreement; it can act as a constabulary for a transport system in Great Britain with which it commences a service agreement. It does not police any heritage railways.

It should be noted however that a BTP constable is not prevented from exercising the powers of a constable (in the local territorial force) in such places if the circumstances described in the "Powers and status of officers" paragraph apply (e.g. a BTP constable observing an appropriate incident on a passing tram or on a heritage railway while he happens to be in the vicinity has in relation to those incidents the same powers as a member of the local constabulary).

This amounts to c.10,000 miles of track and more than 3,000 railway stations and depots. There are more than 1 billion passenger journeys annually on the mainline alone.

Current establishment

The BTP has 2,818 Police Officers, 258 Special Constables, 210 Police Community Support Officers, and 1204 police staff throughout England, Wales, and Scotland (2007). Since May 2001, the Chief Constable has been Ian Johnston CBE, QPM, and the Deputy Chief Constable is Andy Trotter OBE, QPM.

The force is divided into seven areas [ [ Force Areas ] ] :

Despite the BTP's appearance on national television in "Railcops" [ [ Production Company for Railcops] ] it does not have a prominent profile but it is larger than, "inter alia", the following Territorial Forces:

Within England & Wales,
*Staffordshire Police
*Warwickshire Police
*Lincolnshire Police
*Bedfordshire Police
*Cambridgeshire Police
*City of London Police
*Cleveland Police
*Cumbria Constabulary
*Wiltshire Constabulary
*Derbyshire Constabulary
*Dorset Police
*Durham Constabulary
*Gloucestershire ConstabularyWithin Scotland,
*Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary
*Central Scotland Police
*Fife Constabulary
*Grampian Police
*Lothian and Borders Police
*Northern Constabulary
*Tayside Police



The first railway employees described as "police" can be traced back to 30 June 1826. A regulation of the Stockton and Darlington Railway refers to the police establishment of "One Superintendent, four officers and numerous gate-keepers". This is the first mention of Railway Police anywhere and was three years before the Metropolitan Police Act was passed. They were not, however, described as "constables" and the description may refer to men controlling the trains not enforcing the law. Specific reference to "constables" rather than mere "policemen" is made by the BTP website article [ A History of Policing the Railway] which states "The London, Birmingham and Liverpool Railway Companion of 1838 reports 'Each Constable, besides being in the employ of the company, is sworn as a County Constable". Further reference is made by the BTP in the page [ "The Scottish Railway Police"] to " "an Act of 1838 ... which according to J.R. WHITBREAD in 'The Railway Policeman' (Harrap, 1961) was the first legislation to provide for any form of policing of the railway whilst under construction, i.e. to protect the public from the navvies more or less." " .

The modern British Transport Police was formed by the British Transport Commission Act 1949 [ [ reference in Transport Police (Jurisdiction) Act 1994, s.1] ] which combined the already-existing police forces inherited from the pre-nationalisation railways by British Railways, those forces having been previously formed by powers available under Common Law to parishes, landowners and other bodies to appoint constables to patrol land and/or property under their control. This is distinct from the establishment of a police force by statute, as applicable to the Metropolitan Police in 1829; BTP did not have jurisdiction on a statutory basis until the enactment of the Transport Police (Jurisdiction) Act 1994, [ [ Transport Police (Jurisdiction) Act 1994] ] which was subsequently amended by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 [ [ Explanatory Notes to Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 - Background - paragraph 59] ] .

"Policeman" v. "Constable"

Some early 19th century references to "railway police" or "policemen" do not concern constables but instead describe the men responsible for the signalling and control of the movement of trains (it is still common colloquial practice within railway staff for their modern equivalents in signal boxes and signalling centres to be called "Bobbies"). These personnel carried out their duties mostly in the open beside the track and were often dressed in a similar manner (e.g. a top hat and frock coat) to early police constables but were not directly concerned with law enforcement. Historical references (including those originating from the BTP itself) to when the first group of true "constables" was organised to patrol a railway should be treated with caution. This warning is repeated by the Metropolitan Police (MP) in their [ Metropolitan Police Records of Service] web page dealing with MP records of service which on the matter of records of other forces held by the Public Record Office (now the National Archives) states :- " The occasional references to 'Police Department' in the railway staff records relate to signalmen, etc "


A huge workforce was required to build the ever expanding railway system. These armies of rough workers brought fear into rural Victorian England. The Special Constables Act 1838 was passed which required Railway and other companies to bear the cost of constables keeping the peace near construction works.

Historical crime

The continually expanding network of railways gave criminals new opportunities to move around the country and commit crime. The railways were pioneers of the electric telegraph and its use often involved the arrest of criminals arriving or departing by train. On 1 January 1845 a Railway Police Sergeant became the first person to arrest a murderer following the use of an electric telegraph.

In 1838 the Royal Mail was conveyed by rail for the first time. The first mail thefts were reported shortly afterwards. In 1848 the Eastern Counties Railway lost 76 pieces of luggage in just one day, and by the following year thefts from the largest six railways amounted to over £100,000 a year.

The first railway murder was committed by a German, who robbed and killed a fellow passenger on a train in North London in 1864.

The first arrest abroad by the British Police was made in 1874 when a Metropolitan Police Inspector accompanied by a Railway Police Inspector went to the United States to arrest an embezzler.


From 1900 several railway companies re-organised their police forces. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway virtually reformed their police force from scratch in that year, followed by the Great Eastern Railway, the North Eastern Railway and Midland Railway in 1910, the Caledonian Railway in 1917 and lastly the Great Western Railway in 1918.

Inter-war years

The Railways Act 1921 amalgamated over one hundred separate railway systems (of which about 20 had organised police forces) into four groups:-
*The Great Western Railway
*The London and North Eastern Railway
*The London, Midland and Scottish Railway
*The Southern RailwayEach had its own police force controlled by a Chief of Police. These four forces were organised in the same way; each split into a number of Divisions headed by a Superintendent, divided into a number of Divisions Posts led by an Inspector. Detectives worked with their uniformed colleagues at most locations. Many ' non-police' duties were retained however, with officers acting as crossing keepers or locking and sealing wagons.

World War II

During the war the strength of the Railway Police doubled. With many men conscripted, Special Constables and Women Police were again employed.

Post war

In 1947 the Transport Act created the British Transport Commission which unified the railway system. On 1st January 1949 the British Transport Commission Police were created, formed from the four old railway police forces, canal police and several minor dock forces.In 1957 the Maxwell-Johnson enquiry found that policing requirements for the railway could not be met by civil forces and that it was essential that a specialist police force be retained. On 1 January 1962 the British Transport Police ceased to cover British Waterways property. [cite web
title=Sharpness Dock Police (1874 - 1948)
format= |work=
] In 1984 London Buses decided not to use the British Transport Police. The British Transport Docks Board followed in 1985.

The force played a central role in the response to the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Three of the incidents were at London Underground stations: Edgware Road (Circle Line), Russell Square and Aldgate stations.

On 15 July 2006, a Dog Section Training School was opened at the Force Training establishment near Tadworth, Surrey.

How the BTP is funded

The British Transport Police is largely funded by the train operating companies, Network Rail, and the London Underground - part of Transport for London. [cite book |title=British Transport Police Annual Report 2004/2005 |url= |format=PDF |accessdate=2006-04-11 |pages=8] Other operators with whom the BTP has a service agreement also contribute appropriately. This funding arrangement does not give the companies power to set objectives for the BTP but there are industry representatives serving as members of the police authority [ Police Authority] . The police authority does, of course, decide objectives. The industry membership represent 5 out of 13 members.

The police authority has agreed its budget for 2007/08 at £187.8M – a 9.9% rise [ Police Authority announcement] .


Constables of the BTP are required by s.24 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 to make one of the following attestations depending on the jurisdiction in which they have been appointed:-

in England and Walescquote
I ... ... ... of the British Transport Police do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence, and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully and according to law.
Police Act 1996, Schedule 4 as amended.

The attestation can be made in Welsh.

in Scotland:Constables are required to take the oath referred to (but not defined) in s.16 Police (Scotland) Act 1967. which is in simpler form merely declaring faithfully to execute the duties of his office. ["The Scottish situation is unique as no oath is set out in legislation. The onlyrequirement is that a declaration be made before a sheriff or Justice of the Peace inappropriate terms for the position of appointment." [Review of Oaths and Affirmations, New Zealand Ministry of Justice, May 2004] ]

Communications and Control rooms

As of October 2008, BTP operates four control rooms and one Call Handling Centre across England, Wales and Scotland.

*Force Call Handling Centre. Based in Birmingham and responsible for handling all routine telephone traffic. This facility was created further to criticism by HMIC [cite web |author= |title=HMIC - Baseline ssessment Project|url=| accessdaymonth=17 July|accessyear=2008] [cite web |author= |title=BTP - Control Room Project|url=| accessdaymonth=20 Jan|accessyear=2008] .
*Force Control Room - London: Responsible for the Greater London area (including the London Underground and Mainline) and the Home Counties.
*Force Control Room - Birmingham: Responsible for the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, the North East of England and the South West of England
*Manchester: Responsible for the North West of England
*Glasgow: Responsible for Scotland

By March 2009 the number of Control Rooms will be reduced to just two: Force Control Room Birmingham and Force Control Room London.

Powers and status of officers

British Transport Police officers are constables with the same powers as constables of territorial police forces when on railway property. They can also exercise their powers throughout England, Wales and Scotland if on railway business. They need however to move between railway sites and often have a presence in city centres. Consequently, BTP officers are called upon to intervene in incidents outside their natural jurisdiction. ACPO estimate that some such 8,000 incidents occur every year. In these circumstances, BTP officers can act under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 [Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, s.100(2)] which states: Members of the British Transport Police Force have in any police area the same powers and privileges as constables of the police force for that area:-(a) in relation to persons whom they suspect on reasonable grounds of having committed, being in the course of committing or being about to commit an offence, or(b) if they believe on reasonable grounds that they need those powers and privileges in order to save life or limb or to prevent or minimise personal injury.A Territorial Force can request BTP assistance in which case the BTP officer will - for the purposes of the investigation or operation only - have the same powers and privileges as constables of the requesting force [ [ s31 Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003] ] [ [ s100 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001] ]

BTP uniforms are similar and the rank system identical to other British police forces. Officers often wear distinctive black jerseys with a black and white chequered pattern on the yoke; officers in Scotland have adopted the same uniform as the Scottish forces.

A BTP constable does not lose the ability to exercise his powers when off duty except for those functions which require the wearing of a uniform.

On 1 July 2004 a Police Authority for the British Transport Police was created. [ [ s18 Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003] ] BTP Officers became employees of the Police Authority, prior to that, they were employees of the Strategic Rail Authority.

Accident investigation

Until the 1990s the principal investigators of railway accidents were the Inspecting Officers of HM Railway Inspectorate, and BTP involvement was minimal. With major accidents after the 1988 Clapham Junction rail crash being investigated by more adversarial public inquiries, the BTP took on a more proactive role in crash investigations. Further reforms led to the creation by the Department for Transport of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch who take the lead role in investigations of accidents.

Crime on the railway

Operation Shield is an initiative by BTP to reduce the number of knives carried by passengers on the train network. This initiative came about after knife crime began to rise and also because of the murder of a passenger on a Virgin Trains service travelling from Glasgow [ [ BBC News Website: Man quizzed over stabbing 28 May 06 (accessed 19 Mar 07)] ]

Route crime

Route Crime [ [ Office of Rail Regulation (accessed 21/12/06] ] collectively describes crimes and offences of trespass and vandalism which specifically occur on railway lines and can affect the running of train services. It is a minor but significant cause of death on British railways. The overwhelming majority - 95% in 2005 [ [ 1 ] ] - of deaths are suicides with the rest being attributed to trespass. [ Route Crime, Railways Online (accessed 21/012/2006)] ]

Graffiti costs rail firms over £5m a year in direct costs alone [ [ BTP: Issues, graffiti (accessed 19 Mar 07)] ] The BTP maintains a graffiti database which holds over 1900 graffiti tags, each unique to an individual vandal. in 2005 BTP sent 569 suspects to court (an increase of 16% on 2004 figures). Surveys show that fear of crime is exacerbated by graffiti. [The Sharp End Issue 16 (published for the Home Office and sent to every Police officer, SC and Support Staff in England & Wales)]

The BTP deals with hundreds of instances of theft each day including stolen property and the theft of metals such as copper from railway safety equipment [ [ Railway thieves risk their lives. TrackOff] ] In the North West Area BTP has joined forces with Lancashire Constabulary and Network Rail to combat thefts of metals from railway lines in an initiative called Operation Tremor. The BTP established Operation Drum in 2006 as a national response to the increase in metal theft offences and also chairs the relevant Association of Chief Police Officers working group [ [ BTP Operation Drum European Day of Action Press Release] ] .

It is estimated that:
* 17 million offences of criminal trespass on the railways are committed annually by adults
* 10 million offences of criminal trespass on the railways committed annually by children


BTP is unique in that it achieved all its operational targets for the last reporting period [ BTPA Announcement] .

Special Constabulary

British Transport Police first recruited Special Constables in a trial based in the North West Area in 1995, and this was expanded to the whole of Great Britain.

Many Specials are recruited from the wider "Railway Community" and those working for Train Operating Companies are encouraged by their employers.

Under the terms of the Railway and Transport Safety Act 2003 and the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, BTP special constables have identical jurisdiction and powers to BTP regular constables; primary jurisdiction on any railway in Great Britain and a conditional jurisdiction in any other police force area. British Transport Police Special Constables do not wear the 'SC' insignia (a crown with the letters SC underneath) on their epaulettes unlike their counterparts in the majority of Home Office police forces.

Proposed merger

Although the British Transport Police is not under the control of the Home Office, and as such was not included as part of the proposed mergers of the Home Office forces of England and Wales in early 2006, both Ken Livingstone and Sir Ian Blair have stated publicly that they want a single police force in Greater London. As part of this, they wish to have the functions of the BTP within Greater London absorbed by the Metropolitan Police. However, following a review of the BTP by the Department for Transport, no changes to the form and function of the force will be implemented, and any merger will not happen [ [ Department for Transport - Review of British Transport Police undertaken by DfT 2005-2006 ] ] .

ee also

*List of UK Police forces
*Operation Perseus
*Policing in the United Kingdom

*Transit police

External links

* [ British Transport Police]
* [ British Transport Police Special Constabulary website]
* [ Track Off]
* [ BBC Crimefighters: British Transport Police]
* [ Teaching Zone - free school resources]


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