British Transport Police’s new female leadership should be the catalyst for accelerating gender balance at the top – Alastair Dalton
Transport remains a very male-dominated industry in Scotland so the appointment of more female leaders should be celebrated and highlighted.
I unexpectedly came across welcome news this week that British Transport Police (BTP) now has a woman in charge north of the Border, two months after the force appointed its first female chief constable since its origins at the birth of the railways nearly 200 years ago.
Chief Superintendent Gillian Murray this week took temporary charge of its D division, aka Scotland, following the retirement of Eddie Wylie, while counter-terrorism specialist Lucy D’Orsi joined from the Metropolitan Police to lead the force in March.
I’d like to think these two women at the top of railway policing will mark an acceleration of greater diversity among those running such the vital and expanding transport sector – as it surely will again, post-Covid.
They join other female leaders such as Caledonian Sleeper managing director Kathryn Darbandi, who has been in post since January, and Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley, who was appointed in 2018.
Xplore Dundee, the city’s main bus operator, leads the way in that part of the industry, with Christine McGlasson succeeding Elsie Turbyne as managing director in 2018.
There are other women in senior positions with Scottish transport operators and associated bodies, but they remain vastly under represented at every level despite signs of levelling-up progress.
This is crucial for girls to identify female role models within transport and consider it as a future career, as LNER has shown with its train driver initiative and Stagecoach Bluebird for bus drivers.
Having women at the helm of public transport organisations is particularly significant since they account for the majority of passengers.
For BTP, there’s the added dimension of people’s safety while travelling, particular women, which rightly became a media focus following the death of Sarah Everard after her disappearance in London in March – but it must continue to be highlighted.
Chief Constable D’Orsi, making her virtual debut north of the Border on Tuesday, told an online meeting of the Scottish railways policing committee of her mission to make the railways a “hostile environment for criminals” – echoing a previous Scottish BTP chief who said stations and trains should be safe havens in city centres.
She said BTP would also continue its industry-leading work with other vulnerable groups, such as “people in crisis” – those who took their own lives on the railway or had suicidal thoughts – and their families.
Ms D’Orsi also talked about the importance of caring for missing children, who were often drawn to the rail network.
Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Murray has become divisional commander in Scotland after returning from a secondment with the police in Bermuda, where she headed its professional standards department to crack down on police corruption, as she had done at BTP, which sounds very Line of Duty AC-12.
She said one the one of the big issues to be tackled was anti-social behaviour and violence among young people, such as the mass gatherings on Ayrshire beaches which have plagued previous summers and will have been a horrendous experience for other passengers on trains to the coast.
More power to her elbow – and may she encourage more women to join the police and feel safer travelling by train.