Police who protect railways are 'ridiculously underfunded'

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Police who guard Britain's railways suffer "ridiculous" underfunding, and lack the full powers needed to do their job, a committee of MPs warned yesterday. It called for a major review of the British Transport Police, saying they did not have sources similar to those of other forces.

Police who guard Britain's railways suffer "ridiculous" underfunding, and lack the full powers needed to do their job, a committee of MPs warned yesterday. It called for a major review of the British Transport Police, saying they did not have sources similar to those of other forces.

Members of the Commons transport committee, told budget cuts could reduce the number of officers in London, criticised the "unwieldy" way the force is paid for by train companies and the Government. MPs also raised concerns about a deficit in the BTP pension scheme and warned it had insufficient support staff.

Gwyneth Dunwoody, the Labour chairman of the committee, said: "It seems ridiculous that the British Transport Police is underfunded and cannot operate in the same way as other police forces. It is expected to keep in line with Home Office forces but has no automatic access to funding for the many initiatives."

The report warned: "The force has been rightly expected to demonstrate the same standards and expertise as a county force but it has been left underfunded and without all the tools it needs [for] its task." The BTP is restricted to policing the rail network, without the full range of powers given to other police constables.

Labour MP Brian Donohoe, a member of the committee and a BTP special constable, said: "You have got to restrict yourself to the premises of a railway station or an underground station or on the trains. In a technical sense, you have to get the approval of the force in which you are pursuing people before you can continue, and that seems wrong." The report found the BTP would need 1,000 more support staff to bring it in line with the best-supported forces.

Tony McNulty, a junior transport minister, told BBC Radio 4: "I announced in March that we were looking in full at what the BTP force is for, what its capabilities are and should be and how they should be paid for."

Theresa May, the shadow transport spokeswoman, said: "The safety of rail passengers is paramount and the Government needs to address this issue urgently."

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