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British Transport Police

Category: Police

"People love working here. There's been a real boost to morale and our sickness levels have fallen. I've had people tell me that they now feel part of the British Transport Police rather than just a person processing forms in an office block."

Superintendent John Hennigan, Police Station Commmander

February, 2004

The British Transport Police (BTP) is the oldest police force in the world. It can trace its pedigree back to 1826 when a mention is made of the Police establishment on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The force therefore, pre-dates London's Metropolitan Police by three years.

The BTP have often been in the forefront of policing techniques. The first arrest to be made by the use of "information technology" was made in 1845 by Sergeant Williams of the Great Western Railway Police when he arrested a murderer after a description of the man was passed to him by the newly invented "electric telegraph" The Railway Police were one of the first to recruit women to their ranks and in 1908 the North Eastern Railway Police pioneered the use of police dogs.

British Transport Police is now the national police force for the railways providing a policing service to rail operators, their staff and passengers throughout England, Wales and Scotland. The Force is also responsible for policing the London Underground system, the Docklands Light Railway, the Midland Metro Tram System and Croydon Tramlink.

The new Central London Police Station is the latest venture in the British Transport Police PFI (Private Finance Initiative) contract between London Underground and Amey Property Services London Limited (APSLL). It has brought together staff from three sites Baker Street, Paddington and St James.

The PPP Forum interviewed Superintendent John Hennigan, Police Station Commander, British Transport Police Central London Police Station.

The new Jubilee library in Brighton has confounded many of the critics of PFI. The £14m project which is part of a £50m redevelopment of a run down area of Brighton city centre has won awards for architecture, construction, PFI, regeneration and sustainability.

The PPP Forum spoke to Sally McMahon Head of Libraries and ICT and Katharine Pearce Project Manager - Brighton New Central Library and Jubilee Street Major Projects Team, Strategy and Governance, Brighton and Hove City Council.

"This really is a "flagship" building. It's foreign to what we had before which was a series of three smaller offices working independently. Now we've been able to consolidated their functions and achieve economies of scale but the move has also allowed us to modernise our operational functions and this is translating into a demonstrable improvement in results."

The station was handed over by the developers on the 23rd September 2002 and officially opened the following summer by then Transport Minister, John Spellar. Police figures show that in 2003, robberies on the Underground were cut by almost a third (31%), vehicle crime in Tube station car parks was down by almost half (44%) and theft of railway property was cut by almost a third (32%). But an improvement in results is not the only benefit of the new building.

"People love working here. There's been a real boost to morale and our sickness levels have fallen. I've had people tell me that they now feel part of the British Transport Police rather than just a person processing forms in an office block. And we've already had one wedding after being open for only a year."

The building houses around 300 people. It has two floors of offices in addition to the police station on the first floor. The fully integrated Custody suite is on the ground floor and there is a basement garage, for the operational police vehicles.

"Everything in here is state of the art. Even the filing cabinets work on a barcode system, you just swipe a card and the cabinet delivers the file. It saves us acres of space. In the station we have the latest in computer fingerprinting technology. You put the hand on a screen which is scanned and sent straight off to the central fingerprint database. If there's a match on record, then we get a whole profile of the person sent straight back. We also have a video identification suite, paid for separately by the government, which cuts the cost and time of doing identity parades."

Maintaining the BTP tradition of being at the forefront of policing techniques, the station is also the first belonging to the transport police to have cells designated under the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act. That means it has cells, 10 in all, in which people can be held for more than six hours, as well as interview rooms, and a separate facility for the Forensic Medical Examiners, who attend frequently to visit prisoners.

"This is an operational step forward for the British Transport Police. For the first time we're not dependent on the Met if we need to hold people for longer that six hours. In fact there are times when we can help them out now when they run out of space in their own cells."

The inclusion of designated cells meant the station needed a more senior ranking police officer than originally planned as station commander and in 2002, Superintendent John Hennigan was appointed. By then, the PFI process was well down the line.

"I found there were a few problems with the contract by the time I got involved and ideally I would have preferred to have been there from the start. I think we suffered from not having a "working copper" involved in the design of the building and our record keeping could have been better through the process. As it turned out the power and data points were in the wrong places and some operational issues had not been fully understood. Consequently we needed to change a few things when we moved in. We needed panic strips by the interview rooms and proper storage for operational equipment like the CS spray canisters. The building was up to Home Office standards but not an operational police officer's standards."

Superintendent Hennigan also introduced regular consultation both internally with the contractors and externally with the local community.

"All through the first year we had weekly meetings with the contractors to try to iron out some of the teething problems of the new building. People working here would come along and explain their issues to the facilities managers who would be able to deal with any problems. We don't actually need them now but still meet once a month to make sure things keep running smoothly.

As far as the local community is concerned, there were some worries about how much noise and disruption the police station might cause, even though there had been an old Metropolitan Police station on the site in the past. This is a residential area and we've worked closely with community leaders to minimise any potential problems. In fact our presence has meant that crime levels have dropped locally so people are pleased that we're here now."

The £50 million project will run for 23 years at the end of which the building will be returned to the government fully maintained and operational. London Underground's costs have been reduced by the inclusion of a retail unit on the Tottenham Court Road frontage of the building which is currently rented by Marks and Spencer as a food outlet.

The payment mechanism for the project is based upon service delivery. APSLL receive revenue based upon the standard of services that they provide. They will be measured against their ability to deliver services within agreed time scales and will be rewarded for their high performance in this area.

The building of the new Central London Headquarters and Police Station at Tottenham Court Road will provide better geographical coverage of the London Underground network by BTP officers which will bring increased security for passengers.

BTP will benefit from high quality accommodation designed to fulfill the long term policing strategy of British Transport Police.