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Visit to British Transport Police HQ Scotland on 3 April 2001

The Scottish Branch visited the Scottish headquarters of British Transport Police on Tuesday 3 April 2001. The visit began with an excellent introduction to the British Transport Police and the challenges faced by the force in Scotland by Assistant Chief Constable A. Forrest, the Area Commander for Scotland.

British Transport Police Scottish Headquartersd

British Transport Police Scottish Headquarters.

© John G. Fender 2001

He outlined the structure of the British Transport Police in Scotland, which has police stations around the country and pointed out that about 70% of the railways were in the Strathclyde PTE area. funding is received from Railtrack, Scotrail and the various train operating companies. Mr. Forrest went on to outline the policing strategies and the resources available, including CID officers, dog handlers, scenes of crime officers and other specialists. All officers undergo special training to enable them to work on the railways and officers attend the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. He pointed out that British Transport Police are also responsible for policing London's Underground, the Docklands Light Railway, the Midland Metro tramway system, Croydon's Tramlink and the Channel Tunnel in conjunction with the French and Belgian police forces. Illegal immigrants pose a difficulty, particularly at Waterloo Station where trains from the continent arrive.

After Mr. Forrest's talk, the group was taken on a tour of the building by Inspector A. McGuire beginning with a presentation on the history of British Transport Police by Constables M. McCabe and A. McLaughlin. British Transport Police can trace its history back to 1825 and is one of the oldest forces in Britain. Initially, railway companies were responsible for policing "the navigators" or navvies who built the railways. Once the railways were opened, the police became responsible for controlling the movement of the trains. To enable, each officer was issued with a pocket watch and a set of flags to signal trains. The British Transport Police can claim a number of "firsts" including being the first force to use the telegraph to facilitate an arrest, the first force to use plain clothes officers and the first force to employ women officers and in 1910 the force also introduced the first police dogs in Britain.

Each railway company had its own police force and with the groupings of 1923 these were amalgamated along with the railway companies. In 1949, when the railways were nationalized, British transport Police was created as a single force covering all railways and ports. In 1960 London Underground police were absorbed into British Transport Police. At one time British Transport Police was the second largest force in Britain. Today, British Transport Police has some 2,200 officers and approximately 500 civilian support staff policing some 10,0000 miles of track with over 23,000 stations and depots. the force deals with all types of crime, including murder, fraud, violent crimes, sex offences, theft etc. They also deal with offences specific to the railways such as obstructing trains and deal with many other types of incident occurring on the railways.

Central Scotland Group members visiting BTP HQd

Some of the Central Scotland Group Members who visited British Tranport Police's Scottish Headquarters.

© John G. Fender 2010

The group was then given a demonstration of the work of the dog handlers by Constable Connell. Firstly he explained how dogs can search and find items and Zuiko, a German shepherd ably demonstrated how to find a small item hidden in the grounds outside the headquarters building.

Next came a demonstration of searching for hidden explosives by a dog specially trained for this task. A small sample of Semtex hidden in a car was located very efficiently. Next, Inspector McGuire showed the group the cells and explained what happens when a prisoner is brought in to be charged. The procedure for holding identity parades was also explained. Next the group saw the Scottish Area control room, with its CCTV monitors and communications systems and afterwards Inspector McGuire answered many questions from members.

The Scottish Branch would like to thank Assistant Chief Constable A. Forrest for permitting the visit; Inspector McGuire for the tour of the headquarters; Constables M. McCabe and A. McLaughlin for their presentation on the history of British Transport Police and Constable Connell for his demonstration of police dogs at work.

Report by John Fender.


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