British Transport Police

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Template:Use British English Template:Coord Template:Infobox law enforcement agency

The British Transport Police (BTP) (Template:Lang-cy) is a special police force that polices railways and light-rail systems in Great Britain, for which it has entered into an agreement to provide such services. 95% of the Force's funding comes from Britain's privatised train companies. British Transport Police officers do not have jurisdiction in Northern Ireland unless working under mutual aid arrangements for the Police Service of Northern Ireland in which case any duties performed on a railway will be merely incidental to working as a constable in Northern Ireland.


As well as having 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
  • High Speed 1
  • The Sunderland line of the Tyne and Wear Metro (between Fellgate and South Hylton)
  • The Midland Metro
  • Croydon Tramlink
  • The Glasgow Subway (since early 2007)
  • The Emirates Air Line

This amounts to around 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.

In addition, British Transport Police in conjunction with the French National Police - Police aux Frontières - police the international services operated by Eurostar.

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 have a service agreement; it can act as a constabulary for a transport system in Great Britain with which it commences a service agreement.

In certain circumstances, a BTP constable can act as a police constable outside of their normal railway jurisdiction as described in the "Powers and status of officers" section.


File:London Police Dogs.jpg
BTP officers patrolling with dogs in Waterloo Station

The BTP has 2,871 Police Constables,<ref name="ReferenceA"/> 218 Special Constables, 326 Police Community Support Officers, and 1334 police staff throughout England, Wales, and Scotland.<ref name=""></ref> Since June 2009 the Chief Constable has been Andy Trotter OBE, QPM.


The force is currently divided into seven areas:<ref>Force AreasTemplate:Dead link</ref>

Area Area Commander Area HQ Location
Scotland Chief Superintendent Ellie Bird Glasgow
North Eastern Chief Superintendent Terry Nicholson Leeds
North Western Chief Superintendent Peter Holden Manchester
London North Chief Superintendent Mark Smith London (Caledonian Road)
London South Chief Superintendent Steve Morgan QPM London (London Bridge Street)
London Underground Chief Superintendent Paul Brogden London (Broadway)
Wales & Western Chief Superintendent Peter Davies Birmingham

New Divisional Structure

File:BTP Divisions post-2014.png
The new four division structure from April 2014

From April 2014 the seven divisions will be reduced to four (one of which being non-geographical):

Division Areas covered Divisional Commander
A Force Headquarters and central departments (non-geographic) N/A
B London and the South East of England Chief Supt. Paul Brogden
C South West, North West and North East of England, Midlands and Wales Chief Supt. Peter Holden
D Scotland T/Chief Supt. John McBride

Neighbourhood Policing Teams

British Transport Police outlines the aims of Neighbourhood Policing as allowing dedicated teams to focus on certain sections of commuter lines; dealing with the issues therein and providing safer stations and safer journeys.<ref name=""></ref>

Each division has certain Neighbourhood Policing Teams, and the table below outlines the aforementioned teams:

British Transport Police: Neighbourhood Policing Teams<ref name=""/>
Division Neighbourhood Policing Teams Officer in Charge
Scotland Edinburgh Waverley; Glasgow Central; Glasgow Queen Street; Glasgow Subway; Stirling; Haymarket to Falkirk, North Ayrshire, T/Chief Inspector John Harrington
North Western Southport; Manchester; Wirral Chief Inspector Neil Moffatt.
North Eastern Leeds (covering West Yorkshire); York (East Coast Main Line); Nottingham (Robin Hood Line) Chief Inspector Dave Scott
Wales & Western Birmingham; West Midlands Cross City; Pontypridd; Newport Chief Inspector Sandra England
London North Euston; Kings Cross; Liverpool Street; Paddington; St Pancras Superintendent Richard Moffatt.
London South Clapham; Lewisham; London Bridge; London Bridge First Capital Connect; Victoria Hub; Victoria Loop; Waterloo Hub; Richmond; Bromley Chief Inspector Kate Forsyth
London Underground & DLR Inner London Central Line and Bakerloo; Inner London District and Northern Line; Inner London Victoria and Piccadilly Line; Met, Ham and Circle Line; Central Line East; Central Line West; Central Line North West; District Line East; District Line West; District and Circle Line South; Piccadilly Line West; Piccadilly Line North West; Piccadilly Line North; Northern Line North; Jubilee Line East; Jubilee Line North; DLR; East London Line Extension; Victoria Line North; Victoria and Northern Line South; Hammersmith and City Line; Bakerloo and Jubilee Line South; Bakerloo Line North; Metropolitan Line North West Chief Inspector Jenny Gilmer.


BTP has appeared on UK television in Railcops.

As of 2011 BTP had a strength of 2,866 regular police officers. In terms of regular officer numbers this means BTP is 19th largest police force in England & Wales and Scotland in comparison to the 45 territorial police forces of Great Britain.<ref name=""/>



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 to "an Act of 1838...which according to J.R. Whitbread in 'The Railway Policeman 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 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, which was subsequently amended by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003.

"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) 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. Although some were simultaneously County Constables." It is advisable however to study early newspaper reports and other historically accurate documents prior to discussing the role of these early railway policemen using sweeping statements of speculation.


A huge workforce was required to build the ever expanding railway system. These armies of rough workers - navigators, or "navvies" for short - 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 Franz Muller, who robbed and killed a fellow passenger on a North London Railway train 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 Railway

Each 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

File:British Transport Police vehicles.jpg
Two parked BTP vehicles in York

In 1947 the Transport Act created the British Transport Commission (BTC) which unified the railway system. On 1 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 Commission Police ceased to cover British Waterways property and exactly a year later when the BTC was abolished the name of the force was amended to the British Transport Police. 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.

In May 2011, the Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond announced that British Transport Police would create an armed capability of its own with the added benefit of additional resilience and capacity of the overall UK police armed capability. The BTP are deployed on armed patrols using Glock 17 pistols, LMT AR-15 CQB carbines as well as tasers.

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. Around 95% of BTP's funding comes from the train operating companies. 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. The police authority decides objectives. The industry membership represent 5 out of 13 members.

There is also substantial counter-terrorism funding from the Home Office.

The police authority has agreed its budget for 2011/2012 at £250.2M.


Template:See also 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 Wales

Template:Bquote [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 or her office.

Communications and Control rooms

As of March 2009, BTP operates two control rooms and one Call Handling Centre:

  • First Contact Centre: Based in Birmingham and responsible for handling all routine telephone traffic. This facility was created further to criticism by HMIC.
  • Force Control Room – Birmingham: Based in Birmingham – alongside the First Contact Centre – and responsible for the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, the North West of England, the North East of England, the South West of England and Scotland.
  • Force Control Room – London: Responsible for the Greater London area (including the London Underground and Mainline) and the Home Counties.

Powers and status of officers

General powers

Under s.31 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, British Transport Police officers have "all the power and privileges of a constable" when:

  • on track, (any land or other property comprising the permanent way of any railway, taken together with the ballast, sleepers and metals laid thereon, whether or not the land or other property is also used for other purposes, any level crossings, bridges, viaducts, tunnels, culverts, retaining walls, or other structures used or to be used for the support of, or otherwise in connection with, track; and any walls, fences or other structures bounding the railway or bounding any adjacent or adjoining property)<ref name="">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • on network, (a railway line, or installations associated with a railway line)<ref name=""/>
  • in a station, (any land or other property which consists of premises used as, or for the purposes of, or otherwise in connection with, a railway passenger station or railway passenger terminal (including any approaches, forecourt, cycle store or car park), whether or not the land or other property is, or the premises are, also used for other purposes)<ref name=""/>
  • in a light maintenance depot,
  • on other land used for purposes of or in relation to a railway,
  • on other land in which a person who provides railway services has a freehold or leasehold interest, and
  • throughout Great Britain for a purpose connected to a railway or to anything occurring on or in relation to a railway.

"Railway" means a system of transport employing parallel rails which provide support and guidance for vehicles carried on flanged wheels, and form a track which either is of a gauge of at least 350 millimetres or crosses a carriageway (whether or not on the same level).

A BTP constable may enter:

  • track,
  • a network,
  • a station,
  • a light maintenance depot, and
  • a railway vehicle.

without a warrant, using reasonable force if necessary, and whether or not an offence has been committed. It is an offence to assault or impersonate a BTP constable.

Outside natural jurisdiction

They need however to move between railway sites and often have a presence in city centres. Consequently, BTP officers can be called upon to intervene in incidents outside their natural jurisdiction. ACPO estimate that some such 8,000 incidents occur every year. As a result of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 BTP officers can act as police constables outside their normal jurisdiction in the following circumstances:

On the request of constable

If requested by a constable of:

  • a Home Office police force,
  • the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), or
  • the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC)

to assist him/her in the execution of their duties in relation to a particular incident, investigation or operation, a BTP constable also has the powers of the requesting officer for the purposes of that incident, investigation or operation.<ref name="">Template:Cite web</ref> If a constable from a territorial police force makes the request, then the powers of the BTP constable extend only to the requesting constable's police area.<ref name=""/> If a constable from the MDP or CNC makes the request, then the powers of the BTP officer are the same as those of the requesting constable.<ref name=""/>

On the request of a Chief Constable (Mutual Aid)

File:London Met Police riot gear.jpg
BTP Police Constable in riot gear aiding the Metropolitan Police in London during student protests, 9 December 2010

If requested by the Chief Constable of one of the forces mentioned above, a BTP constable takes on all the powers and privileges of members of the requesting force. This power is used for planned operations, such as the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles.

Spontaneous requirement outside natural jurisdiction

A BTP constable has the same powers and privileges of a constable of a territorial police force:<ref name=""/>

  • in relation to people whom they suspect on reasonable grounds of having committed, being in the course of committing or being about to commit an offence, or
  • if they believe on reasonable grounds that they need those powers and privileges in order to save life or to prevent or minimise personal injury.

A BTP constable may only use such powers if he believes on reasonable grounds that if he cannot do so until he secures the attendance of or a request from a local constable (as above), the purpose for which he believes it ought to be exercised will be frustrated or seriously prejudiced.<ref name=""/>

The policing protocol between BTP & Home Office forces set outs the practical use of these extended powers.


Channel Tunnel

When policing the Channel Tunnel, BTP constables have the same powers and privileges as members of Kent Police.

Cross-border powers

A BTP constable can:

  • when in Scotland, execute an arrest warrant, warrant of commitment and a warrant to arrest a witness (from England, Wales or Northern Ireland),<ref name="S136">Template:Cite web</ref> and
  • when in England or Wales, execute a warrant for committal, a warrant to imprison (or to apprehend and imprison) and a warrant to arrest a witness (from Scotland).<ref name="S136"/>

When executing a warrant issued in Scotland, a BTP constable executing it shall have the same powers and duties, and the person arrested the same rights, as they would have had if execution had been in Scotland by a constable of a police force in Scotland.<ref name="S136"/> When executing a warrant issued in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, a constable may use reasonable force and has specified search powers provided by section 139 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.<ref name="S136"/>


BTP uniforms are similar and the rank system identical to other British police forces. The distinctive black jerseys with a black and white chequered pattern on the yoke have been replaced with Black Windstopper fleeces. Officers in England, Wales and Scotland have now adopted the same uniform as the Scottish forces.

A BTP constable does not lose the ability to exercise his powers when off duty, however the officer must be in possession of their warrant card to exercise statutory powers.

On 1 July 2004 a Police Authority for the British Transport Police was created. BTP Officers became employees of the Police Authority, prior to that, they were employees of the Strategic Rail Authority.

Accident investigation

A British Transport Police motorcycle in London

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

File:British Transport Police bilingual sign.jpg
Sign of British Transport Police at a railway station in Wales

Operation Shield is an initiative by BTP to reduce the number of knives carried by passengers on the rail 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.

Route crime

Route Crime collectively describes crimes and offences of trespass and vandalism which 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 – of deaths are suicides with the rest being attributed to trespass.<ref name="autogenerated1">Route Crime, Railways Online (accessed 21/012/2006)Template:Dead link</ref>

Graffiti costs rail firms over £5m a year in direct costs alone The BTP maintains a graffiti database which holds over 1900 graffiti tags, each unique to an individual. 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 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 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.

It is estimated that:<ref name="autogenerated1" />

  • 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 achieved 8 of the 12 operational targets for the year 2010/2011.

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 Railways 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 some of their counterparts in some Home Office police forces.

Police Community Support Officers (PCSO)

File:PCSO on duty at Newport.jpg
A PCSO of the British Transport Police on duty at Newport railway station

British Transport Police are the only special police force that employ Police Community Support Officers (PCSO). Section 28 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 allows the BTP Chief Constable recruit PCSOs and designate powers to them using the Police Reform Act 2002 which previously only extended to Chief Constables or Commissioners of Territorial police forces

The BTP started recruiting PCSOs on 13 December 2004. The first of them went out on patrol for the first time on Wednesday 5 January 2005. They mostly work in the force's Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs).

Unlike most other forces, BTP is one of only three forces to issue their PCSOs handcuffs, the other two being North Wales Police and Dyfed-Powys Police. This is in addition to leg restraints. The issuing of handcuffs to PCSOs has been controversial. BTP PCSOs also utilise generally more powers than their counterparts in other forces.

As of May 2012 BTP had 326 PCSOs throughout England and Wales.

Although BTP police's in Scotland it does not have any PCSOs in Scotland due to limitations of the Police Reform Act 2002, the law that empowers PCSOs which does not extend to Scotland. Although unlike police officers there is no formal transfer process BTP is known to often attract PCSOs already serving in other police forces.

One of BTPs PCSOs is credited with making the forces largest ever illegal drugs seizure from one passenger when on 30 September 2009 PCSO Dan Sykes noticed passenger James Docherty acting suspiciously in Slough railway station only to find him in possession of £200,000 worth of Class C drugs. PCSO Sykes then detained Docherty who was then arrested and later imprisoned after trial.

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 the then London mayor Ken Livingstone and then head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair stated publicly that they wanted a single police force in Greater London. As part of this, they wished 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 were implemented, and any proposed merger did not happen.

See also


  • List of UK Police forces
  • Operation Perseus
  • Policing in the United Kingdom
  • Transit police



External links

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Template:UK home nations police forces

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