Wednesday 18 Jul 2018
Life-saving campaign launched in South East as new figures reveal one teenager risks their life on the railway every four hours
- South East
Alarming new figures reveal more than a quarter of teenagers admit to risking their lives on the railways just weeks after a 12-year-old girl miraculously survived falling on a live rail in the south east.
The number of young people taking risks on the railways has gone up by almost 80 per cent in the last five years². 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.
One in 10 admitted to walking along the railway line - more than two fifths of those (42%) in the last year¹.
As a result the rail industry and the British Transport Police have launched a new campaign called ‘You vs. Train’. It is targeting teenagers to show them the potentially devastating consequences for them and their loved ones if they ignore warnings and go onto the railway.
We spoke to the mother of a 12-year-old girl from Lewes, East Sussex, who miraculously escaped with her life after coming into contact with the live rail.
Shelley Parkes, the injured girl's mother, has urged young people to stay away from the railways.
“I felt absolutely heartbroken when I heard what had happened, especially as it could have ended up a hell of a lot worse than it did,” she said.
“Please stay away from the train lines, even if your friends go near them, just stay completely clear as it’s so dangerous. The gates and fences are up for a reason.
“Thankfully we’ve still got her here, but it’s still got a knock on effect two weeks later where none of us are sleeping because of the nightmares. We’re lucky she’s still here as other people aren’t so lucky.”
Another story focuses on 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.”
The lack of knowledge about the potential dangers seems to be why children choose the tracks as a good place to take risks³, with only a third (37%) believing that the railway is extremely dangerous.
- Just under a third (31%) don’t believe that severe burns as a result of electrocution or electrocution by the overhead wires (31%) are risks you might face if you go on the railway tracks
- 15% think that it’s safe to walk on the railway track if you check a timetable to make sure there are no trains coming
- Almost a fifth (17%) think that getting a dropped/lost item (e.g. phone or football) from the railway track is relatively safe as long as you leave again straight away
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.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “Hundreds of people each year unintentionally take on the railway and lose. This year we have already seen a record number of young people losing their life or being injured on the track.
“The railway is full of both obvious and hidden dangers. The electricity on the railway is always on and always dangerous. Trains can also travel up to 125 miles per hour, so even if a driver can see your child, they can’t stop in time and they can’t change direction. Parents - please help us keep your children safe by educating them about what they take on when 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 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 4.7 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.
We are building a better railway for a better Britain.