Stansted Airport

by Steve Daly

Stansted Airport Railway Station, 1991.


Looking at the list of Police Posts on the website, I suddenly realised that one was missing – Stansted Airport.

This was, I believe a fairly short-lived post, which was set up in c.1991 and lasted for no more than a couple of years, as at the time the workload for BTP officers at Stansted Airport was very low and it must have been very difficult to justify having officers based there permanently.  Indeed, more often than not, they were elsewhere on the area due to the lack of numbers!

As I recall there were 2 uniform Constables posted there from the outset; one was transferred from King’s Cross, while the other I believe was transferred from Cambridge.  They were based in a small office on the station platform, located just behind the Station Supervisor’s office.  They were supervised by the Cambridge Sergeant.  Their role at the outset, was to patrol the Stansted Airport railway station and deal with any incidents occurring there.

At the time I was a uniform Constable with Essex Police, stationed at Stansted Airport and a member of the dedicated team that patrolled the airport passenger terminal between the hours of 06:00 hours and 02:00 hours.  I was stationed at the airport from August 1990 until I retired from the police service in August 2004, although from 1994 onwards I was responsible for training and contingency planning for the Airport Division.  Our Terminal Policing Unit was set up from the opening of the new passenger terminal in March 1991.  From the outset I used to include the railway station in my patrol pattern, and built up a relationship with the station staff.  When the BTP officers were posted there, I quickly built up a similar relationship with them, and at quieter times would often collect the on-duty BTP officer and invite him to come on patrol with me around the terminal and the satellites.

It was just before the introduction of the BTP unit at Stansted Airport that I was responsible for a change in policy in relation to dealing with incidents on railway property.  Until this incident, we would deal with anything on the station and ask the railway staff to “just let BTP know out of courtesy”, as we realistically knew we could be waiting sometime for a BTP officer to turn up, as in those days very few were allowed to drive on blue lights and therefore would be travelling from anywhere between King’s Lynn and Harlow at normal road speeds!

On this day, a Stansted Express service arrived at the Airport from Liverpool Street and when staff went through the train they found an unattended holdall in the overhead luggage rack.  This was not long after the IRA had brought the railway network to a standstill with well placed devices and hoaxes at key locations across the country one Friday.  I had been on a course at the Home Office Emergency Planning College at Easingwold, north of York that day and recall us being told that all train services through York had been suspended, which was not appreciated at the end of a week long course when we were all due to return home, many of us via York station!

On the day that the train arrived with the unattended holdall in the overhead luggage rack, I was on duty.  I was also OIC of our mobile x-ray unit at the Airport, so I was asked to attend and have a look.  At the time we were using a piece of x-ray kit that we had obtained from the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) guys, which was large and heavy and needed lead shielding when in use such was its power! (subsequently replaced by a much lighter and more portable unit).  The dilemma I faced was that I could not see into the holdall and could not get the x-ray unit up level with it in order to x-ray it, as a result my dynamic risk assessment was not looking favourably upon this holdall!  So I took a deep breath, declared “an Act of Aggression Ground”, and told the station staff to evacuate the station and stop all trains while we waited for EOD to turn up from Colchester!

Of course this totally “stopped the job” between Liverpool Street and Cambridge!  As a result, while my own bosses praised me for my action, BTP bosses were less than impressed I gather!  The holdall turned out to be harmless, but on the positive side, that incident alone persuaded my bosses to spend the money on the more portable x-ray equipment that replaced the ex-Army kit.


Webmaster’s note:
Stansted Airport has now been added to the Police Posts list.