4. Governance and Accountability
Strategic rail planning is carried out at a UK level on a 5-year cycle as determined by the Office of Rail and Road. The BTPA is an independent body responsible for overseeing the BTP, setting its priorities and allocating its funding. Accountable to the UK Government's Secretary of State for Transport, its statutory functions including maintaining an effective and efficient police force to police the railways; entering into agreements for the provision of policing services by that force; setting annual objectives and issuing an annual plan for policing the railways.
The SPA is responsible for ensuring the delivery of the strategic police priorities set by Scottish Ministers. It produces a Strategic Police Plan which sets out the main objectives for the SPA and for policing in Scotland.
The Scottish Government proposes that, following integration, the SPA would become responsible for ensuring that railway policing priorities are included in its Strategic Police Plan. Railway policing priorities would be set by SPA following engagement with the railway industry in Scotland, and consideration will need to be given as to how the SPA can best engage with the rail industry and passengers.
Question 3: What do you see as the best way for SPA to engage with the rail industry and passengers in setting railway policing priorities?
4.1 101 respondents addressed this question.
4.2 A few rail industry and representative bodies expressed doubt that the SPA can achieve what they considered to be the very close and effective working relationship enjoyed between the BTPA and rail industry stakeholders. They emphasised the specialist nature of setting railway policing policy which they described as being set against the backdrop of rail context and not conventional policing, and which required a network-wide outlook which balanced wide-ranging objectives such as secure and safe travel with smooth operational running of trains.
4.3 One representative body highlighted what they anticipated would be duplication of effort in Police Scotland as well as BTP both having representation on relevant safety, rail security and rail union bodies.
Consistency with the BTP
4.4 Amongst those who provided substantive comments on how best the SPA can engage with stakeholders to set railway policing priorities, a recurring view amongst individual respondents was that the experience of the BTP would be invaluable as a steer towards effective practice:
"….the BTP has already many well defined methods of acquiring and acting upon both stakeholder & passengers feedback. These should be maintained" (Individual respondent).
4.5 Several respondents across three different sectors recommended that the SPA should prioritise aligning their objectives with those of the BTPA, particularly in order to maintain seamless cross-border operating:
"A network wide function allows a coherent strategic direction as well as an operational approach which ensures that incidents affecting the public and rail staff are managed and investigated in a consistent manner. The SPA will need to establish such arrangements with all operators of services relevant to Scotland, and ensure that these are consistent and complimentary to those in place with BTP" (British Transport Police).
Views on appropriate structures
4.6 Calls were made for a new Board to be established in Scotland with members appointed by Ministers and to include representatives with specialist railway knowledge. The Board was envisaged as including representation from all sectors of the rail industry in addition to BTP in England and Wales. The new Board was viewed as providing an authoritative body to which SPA would submit its policy proposals.
4.7 Strathclyde Partnership for Transport suggested that there could be effective engagement between Police Scotland and the transport industry in general, co-ordinated and governed by Transport Scotland in consultation with rail industry stakeholders and Regional Transport Partnerships.
4.8 A few respondents recommended that a person with specific rail knowledge should be appointed onto the SPA Board in order to inform the setting of railway policing priorities.
Views on ways to engage with stakeholders
4.9 Most respondents who addressed this question provided their views on methods and approaches which they considered that the SPA should adopt in order to engage with the rail industry and passengers in setting railway policing priorities. Several emphasised the importance of strong industry links which they described as working very well at present:
"Having the rail industry's voice heard will be a critical success factor. The rail industry strongly values its ability to influence and shape the activities of railway policing resulting in the setting of priorities and objectives that are highly specific to the rail environment" (Police Superintendent's Association of England and Wales).
4.10 A general view was that such engagement should be transparent in order to instil confidence in the public that railway policing in Scotland will continue to provide a safe and secure environment for passengers.
4.11 Overarching messages from respondents were that rail industry and railway users should be engaged with regularly and openly. Both formal and informal routes to engagement were identified and both online and face-to-face approaches to engagement specified.
4.12 Recommended forms of engagement included:
- Forums/focus groups with industry representatives/members of the public.
- Formal, regular meetings with rail industry stakeholders including Train Operating Companies, Freight Operating Companies, Rail Staff Associations.
- Public consultations.
- Public meetings/Town Hall meetings.
- Surveys of passengers/public.
- Use of online questionnaires targeting rail users.
- Use of social media/online live Q&A sessions.
- Engagement with railway user representative bodies.
4.13 One rail industry body recommended that engagement should not only focus on setting railway policing priorities, but should also include the monitoring and review processes.
4.14 Two local authority bodies and an individual called for engagement to encompass local issues and local communities, suggesting that this take the same form as consultation on local policing plans. One commented that local scrutiny committees should have a role to play.