5. Funding Mechanism
The BTP in Scotland is funded through contributions from the railway industry, whereby Network Rail, Train Operating Companies and Freight Operating Companies enter into a Police Services Agreement ( PSA) with the BTPA, in terms of which they pay for the core policing services they receive.
The exact costs payable under each PSA are calculated through the current version of the BTPA Cost Allocation Model which calculate the contribution for each PSA holder based on a number of factors including staffing levels, track access charges, station usage, train kilometres, footfall data, size of railway network, patronage and crime levels. The Scottish Government considers that this model could not easily be replicated for an area such as Scotland which is heavily dominated by a single franchise, ScotRail, which operates a significant majority of all rail services in Scotland.
Question 4: What amendments to the current cost allocation regime should we consider?
5.1 Fewer than half of respondents addressed this question, although the precise number cannot be ascertained as amongst these it was not clear whether some were indicating that there should be no change to the current cost allocation regime or that there should be no change to the current BTP structure.
5.2 Many respondents commented that they did not have sufficient information nor knowledge to provide a substantive response to the question. Some called for more detailed disaggregated information to be made available prior to decisions being taken to amend the current cost allocation regime. One rail industry respondent remarked that once amended, the allocation of costs should be regularly reviewed in order to assess its effectiveness and make adjustments if necessary.
Views on general principles
5.3 Even though some respondents considered that detail may currently be lacking, many respondents provided their view on general principles which they recommended should underpin any new cost regime:
- Should be fair, so that those who get the most from railway policing pay their fair share of costs for this. Costs should be commensurate with service level provision.
- Amendments to the cost allocation regime should not be about cost-cutting.
- The cost allocation regime should be transparent.
- Volatility in the allocation should be avoided so that there is some certainty about costs year-on-year to help with budgeting.
- PSAs should take account of local circumstances and maintain a degree of local accountability in addition to accountability between purchaser and provider of services.
- The new regime should be established as a priority.
- Costs to Train Operating Companies and Freight Operating Companies should not rise and could indeed fall due to efficiencies arising from the merger of BTP with Police Scotland.
5.4 The principle of no detriment regarding costs to operators was raised by several organisations including rail industry and representative bodies, with one rail industry organisation calling for a clear statement to this effect.
5.5 Several respondents from different sectors called for funding raised for BTP services following integration with Police Scotland to be ring-fenced:
"You must ensure that the railway Policing is funded separate to the main Police Scotland so as not to dilute the response to Policing the railway" (Individual respondent).
Views on additional front-end costs
5.6 Several respondents identified additional costs which they considered would result from the integration process and would need to be factored into budgeting. These included the general cost of change; training costs; re-branding and awareness costs; purchase of new vehicles and equipment; cost of pensions of BTP staff. The latter was raised by many respondents as a priority to be addressed, with concerns that the merger would result in a loss of pay and conditions including pension rights currently within BTP contracts.
Views on additional considerations
5.7 A recurring theme amongst representative bodies and rail operators was how to accommodate franchises which operate across the border into a cost allocation regime which is Scottish-based. The case of the Caledonian Sleeper was raised by a few who highlighted that most of its mileage is undertaken in England. One rail industry respondent suggested that this operator may need to be treated differently from Scotrail which operates only in Scotland. Another view was:
"As a cross border train operator who pays for policing services it is important we maintain one single charging regime and that the charging regime is clearly proportioned and accountable to a railway specific board." (Virgin Trains East Coast).
5.8 A few industry respondents and one representative body cautioned that there could be adverse impacts on PSA holders for services in England and Wales as a result of the merger. For example, there could be an increase in costs due to the need to sustain the viability of some services which may be put under threat by the proposed integration.
5.9 Strathclyde Passenger Transport ( SPT) identified possible implications of widening the function the BTP in Scotland to general transport policing. They suggested that this would require other transport operators be called upon to fund policing in other areas of transport, e.g. bus service operators; tram companies; ferry services. They commented that SPT pays a contribution at present through a contract arrangement for BTP presence.
5.10 One rail industry respondent proposed that a degree of current BTP centralised costs should be funded by Police Scotland in order to enable Police Scotland to draw upon specialist support from England and Wales when required.
Views opposing amendment
5.11 As noted at the start of the chapter, it was difficult to disentangle the views of those opposed to amending the cost allocation regime from those opposing integration of BTP into Police Scotland.
5.12 Amongst those appearing to oppose any changes to the cost allocation regime, a few substantive comments were made. A few individuals commented that the current regime is fair and should continue to be used. One respondent from the rail industry provided their view that the regime could be usefully replicated in Scotland given that the overwhelming majority of railway policing in Scotland is to support Scotrail passengers.
Question 5: What do you think should be included in a revised PSA to maintain or enhance the policing service currently provided?
5.13 Approximately half of respondents addressed this question, again some responses lacking clarity on whether the respondent opposed the merger itself, or the proposal to revise PSAs. Some respondents stated that they did not know what PSA meant or that they lacked the knowledge required to provide a considered response.
5.14 One theme across a few different sectors was that the current PSA had been subject to extensive collaborative work between the BTPA and the industry and any proposed revisions should also be scrutinised by key stakeholders:
"The current Police Service Agreement ( PSA) was developed after extensive discussion between the British Transport Police Authority ( BTPA) and the industry. It would require considerable review to see how the need for 2 PSAs can result in sufficient alignment of costing, objectives and measures, particularly where there is scope for cross border issues to arise. PSAs would relate to two different jurisdictions which would have to be understood and considered by railway PSA holders - something which is not an issue for PSA holders under the current model" (XC Trains Ltd (CrossCountry).
5.15 Other respondents also alluded to the issue of cross-Border services and highlighted that these would require particular attention in revised PSAs.
5.16 A recurring view amongst many individual respondents was that the PSA should remain unchanged. They argued that it worked well at present and should be kept as similar as possible so as not to lose anything in the merger. One individual suggested maintaining the status quo in the short term with a view to revision at a later stage.
Views on what should be included in a revised PSA
5.17 Most commonly respondents recommended that any revised PSA includes a commitment to maintaining at least the current levels of railway police; another strong theme was that a commitment should be included to the effect that policing of railways will be undertaken by specialist railway police officers with dedicated training. One exception was that of SPT who called for a commitment for the provision of policing of the wider public transport network including the Subway.
5.18 A few respondents recommended that a revised PSA include commitment to enhanced levels of frontline policing.
5.19 A few rail industry organisations considered that PSAs should include commitments to funding specialist areas such as maintaining links with the BTP regarding areas requiring a consistent UK-wide approach ( e.g. terrorism); and commitment to developing Problem Solving Plans annually or as new risks emerge.
5.20 Two rail industry respondents recommended revised PSAs cover commitment to providing detailed annual Policing Plans.
5.21 Other recommendations included:
- Tougher key performance indicators in order to create tighter links between the costs of provision of the police service and performance.
- Commitment to continuous improvement and cost reduction.
- Commitment to provide mobile solutions to policing a wide area ( e.g. higher specification vehicles).
5.22 An emerging theme amongst a few individuals was for more emphasis on community, neighbourhood and local policing to be reflected in PSAs.