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Lack of free off-duty rail travel a 'real source of frustration'

BTP Federation Chair Stuart Cowan said it is 'nonsensical' that other forces can have such agreements in place but no such provision exists for those who police the railway.

The Chair of the BTP Federation is exasperated at the lack of progress on free off-duty rail travel for BTP officers, arguing that such provision would relieve one "burden" in a climate where police pay has suffered a real terms pay cut of 17%.

BTP officers and PCSOs are not currently entitled to free off-duty rail travel, something Stuart Cowan says is compounding the financial difficulties they already face.

He told Police Oracle: "At the moment, the cost of living and particularly the cost of travel to and from work means we’ve got cops that go to foodbanks. Officers come to me and say, ‘I’m having to make a choice, do I heat the house or I buy clothes for my kids?’

"How sad is that? From a human decency point of view, how can that be right? And they expect officers to be ready to deal with everything to the best of their ability.” 

This lack of provision was confirmed by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), whose spokesperson said that BTP officers and PCSOs can travel up to 70 miles for free from home to work under a scheme administered by its subsidiary Rail Staff Travel Ltd (RST).

Mr Cowan says this isn't entirely correct, and is "a bit convoluted depending on when you started". He stressed that many officers don't benefit from this at all.

However, the situation with free off-duty rail travel is clear - there is no entitlement.

Though the scheme is administered by RST, government support is key to reversing this position.

To this end, Mr Cowan has asked to meet with the Minister of State at the Department for Transport (DfT) Huw Merriman. 

While Mr Merriman replied to the Chair's November letter, he did not expressly commit to a meeting on this issue. When asked about this, the DfT said it did not wish to comment.

This ongoing impasse is a "real source of frustration" for Mr Cowan, who says the back and forth distracts from the reality on the ground.

He said: "Who’s suffering? The members, the officers who come into work every day. I think that’s something that can often get lost in it."

Though clear that free off-duty rail travel would not resolve the wider issues around police pay, Mr Cowan feels this concession would at least take away one "burden".

“If other forces have agreements in place, then why can’t the force who police the railway not have an agreement in place? It’s completely nonsensical."

“One of my real frustrations is when people just talk and they don’t act. I think we’ve let it go long enough now," he added.

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