Mum calls for more rail safety education on anniversary of her son’s tragic death - as trespass incidents hit 18,500 for second year running: Harrison Ballantyne Image1200 x 675 social22

Tuesday 27 Jun 2023

Mum calls for more rail safety education on anniversary of her son’s tragic death - as trespass incidents hit 18,500 for second year running

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As the school summer holidays approach, the mother of a young boy who was electrocuted by overhead power cables is calling for children to be taught about rail safety as a matter of urgency. 

Today (27 June) marks the sixth anniversary of the day that 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne died. He was struck by 25,000 Volts of electricity after trespassing into a rail freight yard located more than a mile away from his home. Harrison’s mother – Liz Ballantyne - has joined forces with Network Rail and the British Transport Police (BTP) to ask that parents and carers talk to their children about the dangers present on the railway, as a matter of priority, before the school holidays begin.  

Latest figures show that there were 18, 517 trespass incidents on the British rail network in the last financial year (2022/23), 20 per cent of which (around 3,700) involved young people under the age of 18. 

Ms Ballantyne said: The summer holidays should be about freedom and I always encouraged Harrison to go out and have adventures. I taught him about “stranger danger” and to be careful around water, but I just hadn’t realised that I needed to teach him about rail safety as there was no railway station near our village. I learnt of its importance too late, but I don’t want others to suffer as I have. Please sit down with your children and loved ones and talk to them about the dangers present around, the railway so they know how to keep themselves safe whilst they are out having fun.” 

The tragic tale of Liz’s son has been made into a short film Harrison’s Story, part of Network Rail and BTP’s anti-trespass You vs Train campaign. The film was launched last year and has been played to hundreds of thousands of school children, helping to significantly reduce trespass in the high priority areas where it has been shown.  

Trespass is a huge problem on the railway with thousands of incidents recorded each year. Though last year saw a drop in the number of trespass incidents involving young people, overall trespass numbers remain too high – almost one for every mile of track in the country - and are yet to drop to the levels recorded in the pre-Covid years.  

Louise McNally, trespass prevention lead at Network Rail, said: “Harrison’s Story has been a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that trespass can have, not only to the trespasser but also their loved ones and the wider community. It is important that we share his story and learn lessons from it so that we can ensure that another family does not suffer as the Ballantynes have.” 

BTP Superintendent Alison Evans added: "As the summer holidays approach we urge parents and carers of young people to talk about trespass and rail safety and warn them of the dangers of straying onto the railway. 

"We continue to share Harrison's story in the hope that it will resonate with others and make a difference. 

"The rail network can be a deadly place; trespassing can result in devastating injuries or death. Please spread the word to stay off the tracks - it could just save a life." 

The You vs Train campaign aims to educate the public of the dangers present on the railway to deter them from trespassing and keep them safe from harm. Key rail facts that it teaches include: 

  • Trains can travel at speeds up to 125mph. If the brakes are applied it can take the length of 20 football pitches for a train to come to a complete stop. 
  • The electricity used to power the railway – 25,000 volts in the overhead cables and 750 volts in the third rail – is on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  
  • You don’t have to touch the electricity sources on the railway to be at risk of harm. Electricity can jump and arc -just as it did in Harrison’s case 

To learn more about the You vs Train campaign, visit  

Notes to Editors

  1. Total trespassing incidents on the railway: 


All trespass  

Child trespass 













Statistical information provided by the National Disruption Fusion Unit. 

2. Full details on the ORR’s investigation into the trespass incident involving can be found here: Company fined £6.5 million after death of 11-year-old boy at freight terminal | Office of Rail and Road ( 

3. Harrison’s family have collaborated with the rail industry to create another film, building upon Harrison’s Story, which is being used as a training tool to provide guidance on how to improve risk management processes. A huge amount of work has taken place in the rail industry since Harrison’s death and the film highlights the progress that has been made, as well as serving as a reminder of the tragic consequences if things go wrong.  


British Transport Police is a national specialist police force that polices the railway network of England, Wales and Scotland providing a service to rail operators, their staff and passengers across the country. 

BTP also police the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, the Midland Metro tram system, Croydon Tramlink, Tyne and Wear Metro, Glasgow Subway and Emirates AirLine. 

The force polices more than 10,000 miles of track and more than 3,000 stations and depots - tasked with ensuring the safety of the millions of people who use and work on the railways. 

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