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Every week we take a look back through our history archives at stories and events in our rich history of policing the railways.

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1996 – Officers’ work praised after Docklands bombing

Officers in east London were called into action on the night of 9 February 1996 when a bomb was detonated on the Isle of Dogs near the Canary Wharf financial district. The area was quickly evacuated an hour before detonation following a coded warning by the IRA, though two people died and 39 injured in the resulting blast.

Four BTP officers were among the first of the emergency services on scene, with the explosives-laden lorry located directly underneath Docklands Light Railway (DLR) lines leading to South Quay station.

The four officers were:

  • PC Mike Evans, who was blown of his feet by the force of the blast.
  • PC Steve Tucker, who made a lucky escape after he discovered he was stood next to the lorry carrying the explosives minutes before detonation.
  • PC Andrew Ralph, who provided a running commentary of information back to the Force control room via radio as the bomb exploded.
  • PC Richard Walker, who worked to set up inner cordons around the South Quay station area.

"We knew there were a lot of people trapped" said PC Mike Evans. "We were evacuating people to a nearby hotel and then remained on duty until 3am, but we were glad to see it through to the end, having been involved from the start."

Though the attack saw dozens of casualties, Malcolm Hutchinson, DLR’s Managing Director, praised the “excellent communication between DLR and BTP throughout” and paid tribute to the “courage and professionalism of the officers involved”. Sir Paul Condon, Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time, wrote to BTP Chief Constable of the day Desmond O’Brien to commend the actions of the four officers, noting that “their help in such difficult circumstances was deeply appreciated”.

2003 – Parliament paved the way for new-look BTP

The Railways and Transport Safety Act passed through the House of Commons in late January 2003. The Act clarified our powers and authority on railway policing, paved the way for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to join us, and proposed the establishment of the British Transport Police Authority (BTPA). In the debate all parties recognised the unique task British Transport Police faces. The then-Home Secretary Alistair Darling also called for an independent board to oversee the British Transport Police, replacing the Strategic Rail Authority.

He told Parliament: "[This Act] puts the British Transport Police's jurisdiction over the railways in England, Scotland and Wales on a clear and wholly statutory basis for the first time in its history. That is a welcome step forward."

John Redwood MP, Former Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, also welcomed the proposed changes: "We have many reasons to be grateful to that force for the work that it does on behalf of so many people," he said. "It is right that they should have the status that will be accorded them in their incorporation under the Bill. They will be recognised for doing an extremely important public safety job."

The Act was granted Royal Assent and made law in July later that year, and the British Transport Police Authority was set up in 2004. Ever since then it's been tasked with ensuring an effective and efficient police force for the railways.

In another change introduced by the new Act, we started recruiting PCSOs on 13 December 2004, who to this day form a vital part of our frontline force.

More history

January 2013 archive collections >

  • Chancery Lane derailment
  • Near-fatal attack at Finsbury Park
  • 150 years of the London Underground

Timeline of our history

British Transport Police History Group