Transport for London has released to me copies of its funding agreement with British Transport Police and it makes very interesting reading.
Before getting to the document itself, the FOI response accompanying it assures me that “TfL works in close partnership with the BTP and the BTPA to ensure the most effective delivery of transport policing across TfL’s rail services as well as the rest of London’s rail network.”
Given the lack of CCTV enabled custody vans and the failure to roll-out body worn camera – BTP has tells me only 104 officers (7.5% of the division’s frontline) the whole of B division have cameras – I’m not entirely sure TfL’s been sufficiently leveraging this “close partnership” and ensured BTP’s London operations are as modern and transparent as the Met’s.
There’s definitely room for improvement in this area which I’ll address below.
But for its part TfL has been very transparent, sending me both its most recent funding agreement and a 2015 variation to it covering the Night Tube.
Unlike BTP’s FOI responses which apply a blanket exemption and then dare you to come back and fight your corner, TfL has provided all the requested information and applied the narrowest possible redaction by blanking out the location of the Emergency Response Units it pays BTP to supply.
As the FOI response says, disclosing their “may enable offenders to estimate likely response times to different parts of the network” – that’s a very real risk so it’s perfectly reasonable to withhold this information.
So what does the document reveal?
Just as BTP’s own evidence to Parliament makes a mockery of its refusal to say how many armed officers it has, so the force’s refusal to reveal officer numbers because people might try mapping resources across the network is rendered void by TfL’s disclosure.
For example, we know that seven new teams were created in January 2009 to deliver on Boris Johnson’s 2008 manifesto pledge to boost BTP numbers. The 2015 variation document reveals the latest composition and exact location of those teams:
12.2 At the start of the Agreement seven teams comprising one sergeant and six police officers policed outer London stations on designated lines travelling out of the following main stations agreed with the BTP:
- 12.2.1 Bromley South
12.2.2 Finsbury Park
12.2.4 Stratford / Ilford
12.2.5 Acton Mainline
12.2.6 Seven Sisters / Hackney 12.2.7 Wimbledon / Raynes Park
12.3 From 2015/16 two of these teams (Finsbury Park and Seven Sisters) / Hackney) will support the West Anglia transfer to London Overground and one (Stratford/Ilford) will support Crossrail stage 0 (initially referred to as TfL Rail Services) with effect from June 2015.
The document also confirms the strength and patrol duties of the Lewisham neighbourhood team which comprises “eight officers providing neighbourhood policing on lines towards Dartford.”
And while TfL (rightly) won’t say where the Emergency Response Units are based, I can tell you they’re operated by 14 officers.
And I’m sure many Tube passengers will be reassured by the fact that “twenty police officers have been trained to provide immediate medical care to people taken ill on trains”.
Of course, the real hole in BTP’s refusal to say how many officers it has is that the Mayor has already revealed how many officers he (through TfL) pays to patrol each transport mode.
TfL’s funding agreement goes further and breaks them down by rank (pages 8 and 9).
The risk from disclosure which BTP keeps talking about only really manifests itself if officer numbers are actually significantly lower. And the continued refusal to provide numbers will increasingly feed the perception that they are.
On the absence of bodyworn video, the lack of public debate around armed policing on the Tube & TfL network and different approaches to transport detainees, there are fundamental differences between how Londoners are policed outside (the Met) and inside (BTP) a station.
The funding agreement says a joint strategy group comprising of TfL and BTP members will:
“consider and agree the overall TfL strategy and policy for policing the underground and overground rail system within the Greater London area, taking into account the overall governance requirements and guidance from the BTP Authority (BTPA) and the Mayor’s strategy for policing the transport system (The Right Direction). “
and it seems that maybe this is part of the problem. No-one from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is included.
It’s true that this body primarily exists to oversee the Met but Sadiq should consider augmenting his attendees with either his policing deputy or one of her senior aides to ensure there’s greater consistency in the service Londoners get between the two forces.
For its part, TfL’s status as one of BTP’s largest funder means it could insist on the force aping the Met’s transparency and routinely publish data about its strength and performance so that Londoners can be assured their money is well spent.
The full documents are embedded below: