Merg­ing po­lice forces could hit train trip times

Plan could also put trav­ellers’ lives at risk, says union

The Herald - - NEWS - KATRINE BUSSEY

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

Manuel Cortes, gen­eral sec­re­tary ofthe Trans­portSalar­iedStaffs’As­so­ci­a­tion, said the BTP is a “high­lyre­garded, su­per-ef­fi­cient” cross­bor­der 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. BTP does not want it, the BTP Fed­er­a­tion does not want it, rail unions do not 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 does not want it and the Scot­tish Tories do not want it.

“The driv­ers be­hind it are the First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Mathe­son and Trans­port Min­is­ter Humza Yousaf.”

The union leader added: “The BTP is a highly-re­garded, su­per­ef­fi­cient, well-em­bed­ded cross­bor­der ser­vice that needs ab­so­lutely no SNP fix­ing. It cer­tainly does not need merg­ing into the trou­bled Po­lice Scot­land, who sim­ply are not fit to take it over.

“It is a pro­posal the trans­port lead­ers Sir Richard, Sir Brian, Mr O’Toole and Mr Burchell ur­gently need to give a lead on.”

A Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “As Po­lice Scot­land have made clear, spe­cial­ist rail­way polic­ing ex­per­tise and ca­pac­ity will be main­tained and pro­tected within the broader struc­ture of Po­lice Scot­land, with im­proved ac­cess to wider sup­port fa­cil­i­ties and spe­cial­ist equip­ment.

“De­vo­lu­tion of BTP was rec­om­mended by the Smith Com­mis­sion, reached through cross-party agree­ment and in­te­gra­tion will also en­sure rail­way polic­ing is fully ac­count­able to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment.”

As­sis­tant Chief Con­sta­ble Bernard Hig­gins, of Po­lice Scot­land, said the force wel­comed wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to the de­liv­ery of the in­te­gra­tion pro­gramme.

He said: “The pri­or­ity for Po­lice Scot­land, as al­ways, is to en­sure we con­tinue to de­liver the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards in terms of ser­vice de­liv­ery and that all of our com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing peo­ple who work on and use the rail net­work, are kept safe.” A GER­MAN-BORN sil­ver­smith is re­turn­ing to Scot­land for an ex­hi­bi­tion 22 years af­ter her first solo show in the coun­try.

Si­mone ten Hom­pel, a de­signer and for­mer win­ner of the Jer­wood Award for vis­ual artists, first brought her work to the Scot­tish Gallery in Ed­in­burgh in 1995.

Her work has also fea­tured at the V&A and the Na­tional Mu­se­ums of Scot­land.Ms ten Hom­pel, who has taught at the Glasgow School of Art and Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art, has an ex­hi­bi­tion at the GSA’s Reid Gallery un­til Fe­bru­ary 23. Pic­ture: Colin Mearns

MANUEL CORTES: BTP is ‘high­lyre­garded and su­per-ef­fi­cient;.

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