Network Rail helicopter on crime patrol in South East as railway trespass hits six-year high: NR helicopter

Friday 18 Aug 2017

Network Rail helicopter on crime patrol in South East as railway trespass hits six-year high

South East

Network Rail’s helicopter and crew spend most of their time flying over the country’s 20,000 miles of railway, looking for potential faults with track and electrical equipment or alerting local team to trees brought down in high winds. This summer, the helicopter has also been helping keep the South East’s railway running smoothly by looking for trespassers and other criminals on the tracks.

As trespassing hits a six-year high on the railway, our helicopter has even spotted a family by the lineside, with a pushchair and child (see picture attached).

Crime on the South East’s railway has cost taxpayer-funded Network Rail £20m in the last three years, with the most common offences including trespassing on the tracks, vandalism and theft. In the South East, where trains are powered by the 750v conductor rail, the power has to be turned off when people trespass on the line, causing huge delays for passengers. 

Just last Friday (11 August), a trespasser on the tracks at Norbury in south London caused delays to more than 100,000 passengers on lines connecting London Victoria with Gatwick Airport and the south coast. More than 800 trains were delayed for a combined 12,000 minutes – an average of 15 minutes per train – with disruption lasting until the end of the day’s service.

Network Rail’s chief operating officer in the South East, Andy Derbyshire, said: “Crime on the railway delays passengers, hurts the economy and costs the rail industry millions of pounds every year. That’s money that we’d all much rather was spent on maintaining and improving the network.

“We know that the summer months see an increase in trespassing. With the major work we have going on this coming August bank holiday, we need to use every tool at our disposal to keep any disruption to passengers to a minimum.

“Our helicopter will be patrolling known crime hotspots and this coming weekend – August 19-20 – they’ll be taking a British Transport Police officer up with them. The officer will be able to directly liaise with units on the ground to tackle any crime they see and keep trains running smoothly.”

Inspector Becky Warren said: “We’re determined that the rail network remains a safe and secure place for people to travel and work. Every day, we police the journeys of more than six million passengers, making sure everyone gets home safe, secure and on time.

“This operation alongside Network Rail gives us another way to ensure the railways are kept safe throughout the busy summer holiday period.”

On normal patrol flights, the Network Rail helicopter liaises with Network Rail control centres in Three Bridges and central London when crime is spotted. These reports are collated by a dedicated route crime manager, who uses the information to target helicopter patrols and ground-level security more effectively.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - Chris Denham
Media relations manager (South East route)
020 3357 7969
07515 626530

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Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

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