What is the issue being addressed?

Merseyrail recognised an issue with the impact of people in crisis on its staff, its train services and the local community. The Triage Car Project was designed to support people in crisis on the railway. The aim was to support Merseyrail staff, reduce repeat trespass offending among those in crisis, and reduce train delays from trespass events.

How was the issue solved?

The Triage Car project enrolled a mental health nurse to work alongside BTP officers.  Their aim was to provide immediate care, assessment, and treatment for people in crisis on the railway.  In 2019, there was a 6-month pilot on the Merseyrail network.  The Triage Car operated on late shifts at selected locations, based on analysis of peak times for trespass incidents.  The high-visibility patrol aimed to improve partnership working, increase support for railway staff, reduce repeat offending, and reduce train delays. 

The Triage Car responded to calls from Merseyrail staff about people in crisis or in ways that suggested a possible trespass incident.  The BTP officer and Mental Health Nurse were able to make an appropriate response to each situation that they attended.

What were the outcomes / key benefits?

The success of the Triage Car can be seen in these results:

  • Many interventions were able to direct people to alternative care services, which reduced Mental Health Act detentions by 75%.
  • The Triage Car team was able to direct one person to the departments best suited to her particular needs, to prevent re-entering the railway environment. She came to police attention only four times in the 6-month trial period (about once every six weeks), where on average, this used to happen almost every two weeks.
  • Assessments by the Mental Health Nurse meant that another persistent offender was arrested on 3 occasions and received a custodial sentence each time. This significantly reduced the number of incursions onto the track and eliminated the need for 126 hours of police attendance at hospital.  Industry costs were cut from £72,300 too £7,500.
  • Across all incidents, 609 hours of A&E time were saved by providing immediate care, assessment and treatment for people in crisis on the railway.
  • The Triage Car project reduced the impact of trespass incidents on the rail network in reported numbers, delay minutes and cost to the industry.
  • Increase in arrests and prison sentences to repeat offenders.
  • £85,536 of BTP time (1584 hrs) reinvested in the rail network and officers time saved.
  • Its success has led to approval for additional joint funding.

Lessons learnt

  • Use of more structured out-of-hours referral process means people get quicker access to the aftercare they need.  (Previously people who have been in the station distressed, and in need of support, would have had to go home and see support services the next day.)  Guidance and support have reduced future presentations at stations.
  • Providing mental health and vulnerability awareness training for BTP and Merseyrail staff is likely to have a beneficial effect


Neil Hutchinson, Head of Security & Prosecutions

Lee Phillips, Security Manager.