I’d like to begin by thanking George Lewis, Chairman, BTPF for his kind words this morning.
The Federation plays an extremely important role. You are the independent voice of your members. And you represent their dedication, professionalism and expertise in everything you do.
I would also like to echo your tribute to Chief Constable Andy Trotter. He has a fantastic track record as a leader in the British Transport Police. As Deputy Chief Constable he reassured the nation following the July 7th terror attacks and of course he played an absolutely vital role in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic Games went so well.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish him all the very best for the future.
Last night’s bravery awards demonstrated the courage and heroism of those who serve in the force and I would like to congratulate everyone who won an award.
As a board member for Transport for London I saw first-hand how important the BTP are for keeping the capital safe and I was delighted to be invited to speak to you today because whether it is hunting cable thieves, tackling anti-social behaviour or preventing terrorism, each and every day of the year, the public know that when they need help most, you will be there.
So I’d also like to take this opportunity to say something that perhaps isn’t said often enough: thank you for everything you do.
Britain’s railways are a success story. They carry more passengers today than at any time since the Second World War and they are among the safest in Europe.
But over the coming years we must meet two major challenges in order to be successful in the future.
The first is that we all need to continue to deliver better value for money for the taxpayer and the farepayer.
By 2010, the operating costs of our railways were amongst the most expensive in Europe. After housing and heating, the cost of travel is the next most significant bill most households face. And, if they are going to get to work on time, it is just not something people can easily cut back on.
So we need to keep finding ways to improve services and save customers money.
The second challenge is overcrowding.
Passenger numbers have increased over recent years but infrastructure investment simply didn’t keep pace.
Investment in the country’s infrastructure was lower than in 1998 in every year to 2011. That’s left more people standing up for their journey and crowding on to platforms.
Looking ahead, passenger numbers are expected to grow by 14% more over the next five years. Rail freight is predicted to grow by 30% over a similar period.
So unless we invest now, we risk grinding to a halt.
That’s why between 2014 and 2019, Network Rail will spend over £38 billion running and expanding our railway. Just to take a couple of examples, that will see:
- 24 trains an hour on Thameslink through central London
- the return of non-stop services between Manchester and Liverpool.
And it will mean the closure of 500 more level crossings.
We are also building the first new north – south railway for a hundred years.
High Speed 2 will cut journey times between our major cities and it will unlock much needed capacity for much needed commuter and freight services.
The first phase alone is expected to support about 40,000 jobs – including employing 9,000 directly on the railway. Overall, HS2 will return over £2 worth of benefit for every £1 invested.
I hope the Federation can continue to be an influential voice welcoming HS2. As you point out Mr Chairman, we are making a substantial investment in HS2. And like any valuable investment we need to ensure it is protected appropriately.
Construction of Phase One is due to start in 2017 so we have a little time yet to consider how best to do so. We expect lead contractors to be initially responsible for their own security and trespass risk at each site. We will also expect them to implement appropriate control measures involving all interested parties.
I have said that Britain’s railways are a success story and what is absolutely clear is the British Transport Police are right at the heart of that achievement.
Passenger numbers are up but overall crime levels have fallen for nine consecutive years. That’s why - day and night, young and old – today people are generally feeling safer on our railways and disruption to services as a result of police activity has also fallen over recent years.
Those impressive achievements are underpinned by the unique foundations of the force and the specialist skills and knowledge of its officers.
First, there is your unrivalled commitment to innovation.
You embrace new technology that helps officers get to where they are needed more quickly and be even more visible for the public. For example, one of the problems people used to feel was being worried that if they saw anti-social behaviour in their carriage and rang the police they’d risk becoming a victim themselves.
So you launched a text messaging service last year that has made it much easier for passenger to report anti-social behaviour without drawing attention to themselves on the train.
Last month I visited Ebury Bridge where I saw for myself how you are using cutting edge technology to keep the railways safe, bring criminals to justice and save lives. I will continue to encourage Train Operating Companies to invest in high quality CCTV, ensuring that, working together, you are able to maximise the potential benefit for passengers and staff.
Second, the BTP have specialist skills that are essential for keeping the railways moving.
Skills that have cut the time it takes to clear non-suspicious and unexplained fatality incidents to an average of just 74 minutes. Saving passengers time, train operators money and supporting the country’s economy.
The British Transport Police also has a critical counter terrorism role. In 2011 we took the sensible and pragmatic step to provide the BTP with an armed capability. That has enhanced the safety of the public and the security of the railways. Last year you raised the important point that we needed to ensure that armed BTP officers were on the same footing as those in other forces. I am very pleased to say that, subject to Parliamentary approval, I can confirm this will be in place by the summer.
I would also like to honour the work you do preventing suicides on the network.
Every life lost is a tragedy.
I was in the cab with the driver returning from Crewe last week and we heard the news that someone had taken their life on the tracks just one train in front of us. In that moment, it was clearer than ever before for me what a traumatic experience it is for everyone involved. The work you do, through supporting initiatives like the ‘We’re in Your Corner’ campaign, is so very, very important. I want to do all that I can to help support any campaign that you and the industry want to take that will help prevent lives being lost.
And, finally, your partnership with the industry means you have a unique commercial perspective. That strong relationship has enabled you to embrace change, reduce costs and improve value for money. The move to the new divisional structure is just the latest example of the BTP’s ability to continue to adapt and improve.
A change that will see more officers and keep more eyes on the frontline, protecting the public, where they belong.
Mr Chairman, your speech referred to the Scottish Government’s desire to incorporate the British Transport Police into a Scottish Police force.
As you know there will be a referendum taking place in Scotland later this year. And the possible break-up of the BTP is one of the important and far reaching implications for the welfare of our citizens. We believe Scotland benefits from national networks that are unconstrained by international borders.
A single united country preserves key national institutions that we all too easily take for granted. Institutions like the British Transport Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who have served the people of our whole country well for many years.
Put simply, we are better together.
Britain’s railways are safer and more secure than they ever have been. The BTP play an essential role in keeping Britain on track.
The Tour de France, Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Rugby World Cup will mean the eyes of the world are once again on us over the coming years and millions of visitors will rely on our railways and on the BTP.
Over the coming years we will be making a record investment in improving and expanding Britain’s railways and you will be vital to ensuring that investment is a success.
I look forward to working with you to make that happen.