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We are committed to improving the personal security of public transport passengers. For example, new rail franchises now specify minimum levels of investment in public safety, and we are encouraging crime and disorder reduction partnerships to work with the transport industry in helping to tackle transport crime.
I commend the work of the British Transport police, for the simple reason that they have to look after not only the personal security of rail passengers, but station property. There is no comparable organisation to deal with bus and coach travel. I should like Congleton station to be improved, with better lighting, CCTV and eventually-we hope-customer information screens. When representatives of the British Transport police attended a meeting that I had convened, I discovered that there had been little liaison with the local constabulary. Will the Minister consider that point? It is important for the two sides to get together to deal with the problems.
I could not agree more. The situation the hon. Lady describes serves as a good example of why it is important that there is work going on at the local level through programmes such as the crime and disorder reduction partnership, which can bring together all those players in making sure that crime levels continue to decrease on our public transport, and particularly at railway stations. I, too, commend the work of the BTP.
In commending the work of the BTP, I hope the Minister will recognise that, in terms of numbers, over much of the rail network its resources are very stretched. Despite increased funding, its staff find they are having to cover vast areas. Will the Minister talk to ministerial colleagues about ways in which BTP funding can be enhanced and its work can be improved?
Obviously, I take every opportunity to work with colleagues to improve the position of the BTP and those involved in security at our stations. In 1997, there were just over 2,100 BTP officers, whereas there are now 3,200 police and community support officers patrolling our network. Obviously, the budget is a matter for the BTP authority.
All the research on this matter and the consultation that is conducted with consumers and customers of the public services show the importance of CCTV in deterring antisocial behaviour and in increasing safety, and the feeling of being safe, at stations. The number of CCTV cameras has increased, and they are now in 50 per cent. of overground stations.