A dedicated police response vehicle is being used across south and west London to help reduce disruption to passengers caused by emergency incidents on the railway.
The vehicle, which has been commissioned and funded by the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance in partnership with British Transport Police, is the first of its kind to be used full-time and follows successful trials during the Olympics.
It allows railway engineers, driven by and accompanied by BTP officers, to get to incidents using blue lights and sirens which helps to reduce response times and decreases the length of delays to passengers.
The vehicle is being used to respond to incidents that are causing, or have the potential to cause, disruption on the Wessex route out of London Waterloo and has already had a positive impact on disruption levels.
Tim Shoveller, managing director of the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance, said: “This unique vehicle reduces the amount of time it takes to get to incidents on the railway which subsequently reduces the length of delays to trains and ultimately to our passengers.
“It covers one of the busiest sections of railway in the country which, when something goes wrong, has a knock on effect across the south and south west of England. The vehicle allows BTP officers and railway engineers to travel to an incident in the same way that other police vehicles can to an emergency, which enables us to clear incidents and carry out repairs more quickly.
“It proved its worth during the Olympics and we are confident it will continue to help us run a more efficient and effective railway.”
Superintendent Jason Bunyard, from BTP’s London South area, said: “Passenger safety will be improved by using the new vehicle to get engineers and equipment to the scene of incidents and to get trains moving again as quickly as possible.
“Because we understand the frustration caused to passengers who are held up by incidents on the railway, our aim is to get an officer there as soon as possible in order to get stuck trains moving again quickly.
“By getting the line moving sooner, there will also be fewer crowd safety issues in and around stations.
“Once at the scene, the officer driving the EIU vehicle will perform regular policing duties and work alongside colleagues to resolve any crime or safety issues and help get the network moving.
“This is an excellent opportunity for BTP officers to work with South West Trains and Network Rail colleagues, in a bid to keep the railway a safe place whilst operating to its best capacity.”
The vehicle, called an emergency intervention unit (EIV), has been in use for a month and has attended a number of infrastructure incidents which in the past would have caused longer delays to services. Other types of incident the vehicle has attended includes trespassers and helping reopen the railway after a passenger had fallen onto the track.
The vehicle has been modified to carry essential railway repair equipment and is police marked with Network Rail and South West Trains branding. It will be based at London Waterloo station and will cover the Wessex route as far as Epsom, Chessington South, Oxshott, Weybridge, Shepperton and Feltham.
It has been funded until March 2014 and as well as responding to emergency incidents, it will also be used to patrol known hotspots to help reduce incidents such as cable theft and vandalism. When available, it will be used on other railway routes which travel into south London when required.
The EIV is one method being used by the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance to improve the railway in the south and south west of England. More than £360m a year is spent on improving and maintaining the track and infrastructure across the route. A further £30m is being spent to improve the reliability of the power supply used to run trains.