Wednesday 18 Jul 2018
Life-saving campaign launched as youths accessing rail tracks in Cambridge nearly doubles in four years
Alarming new figures show that the number of young people taking risks on the railway track has nearly doubled in the Cambridge area in the last four years.
In 2014-15, 7 youths risked their lives on the tracks, compared with 12 in years 2017-18.
Across the country, in the last 12 months alone, seven young people under the age of 18 have lost their lives and a further 48 people have received life changing injuries. The new data also highlights some worrying seasonal peaks in the number of incidents, with the summer holidays seeing more than double the number of young risk takers, compared to the winter months1.
As a result the rail industry and the British Transport Police have launched a new campaign - called ‘You Vs Train’, which targets teenagers to make them face the serious and devastating consequences for them and their loved ones when they make the potentially life-changing decision to ignore warnings and go onto the railway, with its obvious and hidden dangers.
At the heart of the You Vs Train campaign is the story of Tom Hubbard – a young boy who suffered life-changing injuries in 2014 when he was electrocuted by the overhead power cables. Tom suffered third degree burns across 57% of his body and he has been left to deal with the serious physical and psychological consequences ever since.
Tom explains: “I woke up 11 days later in the burns unit at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital wrapped from head to toe in bandages, heavily medicated and unable to string a sentence together. I don’t think I knew what was real and what wasn’t. When the doctors and my mum came to speak to me a few days later, the enormity of what had happened finally hit me. They explained how lucky I was to be alive, but it was going to be a long road to recovery.
“Four years on I’m still affected by the events of that day and every time I look in the mirror I’m reminded by that one decision to go on the railway. The accident has made me more of an introvert and cautious of trying new things, often opting to stay in during the day to avoid people and wear hoodies and long-sleeved tops to hide my scars, even on hot days.”
A survey of youths in the Anglia region showed that the lack of knowledge about the potential dangers seems to be why children choose the tracks as a good place to take risks2, with only just over a fifth (21%) believing that the railway is extremely dangerous.
- Only 14% ranked retrieving their phone from the track as a high risk
- 11% admitted that they had walked along the railway tracks in the past
- Over a quarter (27%) don’t think the electricity from overhead cables would be powerful enough to kill someone walking along the track
- Nearly a fifth (19%) thought it was legal to walk along the tracks
- 21% don’t think trains run at night
However, 80% said that if they were seriously injured from going on the tracks, they’d feel worried about upsetting their mum. Over half (54%) said they would be upset about upsetting their dad, or their brother or sister (53%) and 31% said they’d be worried about upsetting their friends. This is the focus for the new campaign.
Richard Tew, Network Rail’s head of safety for Anglia, explains: “The railway is full of both obvious and hidden dangers including the electricity, which is always on and always incredibly dangerous. Trains travel up to 100 miles per hour, so even if a driver can see your child, they can’t stop in time and they can’t change direction. As a father I’m urging all parents in the region to help us keep your children safe by sharing our campaign with them so they know what they are taking on if they step on the track.”
A short film reenacting Tom’s story will be launched across social media and shown in cinemas throughout the summer. Tom’s family will also feature in the campaign to show how Tom’s accident has impacted them.
BTP Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith said: “We hope that by sharing Tom’s story, young people who might have previously considered trespassing on the railways will think twice.
“We want his story to be heard – the tracks are not a playground. They’re incredibly dangerous and, as Tom’s story shows, can easily result in serious injury or worse.
“We hope the campaign will help young people to understand the risks, and help them to make the right decision and stay away from railway lines. Equally, it will also help them understand that bad decisions don’t just affect them, but they will have a deep and lasting impact on their families and friends as well. This campaign is not just for our young people but also their friends and family.”
The rail industry is also working together to roll out a new schools engagement programme, where community engagement managers from across Network Rail, British Transport Police (BTP) and Train Operating Companies will be out teaching thousands of children about railway safety. BTP officers will also be stepping-up patrols across the country.
To watch Tom’s video and find out how to keep your children safe on the railway this summer visit: www.YouVsTrain.co.uk
About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Every day, there are more than 4.8 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.