CONCERN over the need for more transport police in the area was raised by Twickenham MP Vincent Cable this week.

The MP posed a question to transport secretary Alistair Darling about the absence of proper funding arrangements for the transport police, which results in a serious lack of police on the railways.

It was stressed that due to this shortage the problems of criminal damage and anti-social behaviour at local stations would not be curbed.

Mr Cable said: "The transport police play a crucial role as a specialised force to counter terrorism on the railways and the underground but they are seriously over stretched.

"It is difficult to get any kind of priority attention for problems like the gangs who operate through Hampton Wick or the graffiti, which is far worse on the railways than anywhere else.

"If they take on community support officers this has to be funded out of their front line police budget. The transport police are one of the oddities of the policing system and as long as they are funded in such an unsatisfactory way, the service will be erratic."

A report has recently been released as a contribution to the review of the British Transport Police (BTP) being undertaken by the Department for Transport together with BTP and the Home Office.

The review is considering future funding options for the BTP and forms part of the Secretary of State's Review of the Railways which will conclude in the summer.

A DfT Spokesperson said: "The BTP is mainly funded by the industry, not government. However, it has more officers now than at any time for over a decade.

"Funding this year has increased by almost £25 million and there will be an extra 100 officers on the tube this year."

"The government has committed funds to the BTP where necessary, for example £4.6 million to fund new transport police radio systems and anti-terrorist vehicles and equipment. In addition £3.3 million over three years to fund the fight against street crime in and around tube and major rail stations in London.

"We value the British Transport Police and their work very highly, they play a key role in the fight against crime and terrorism on our transport system."