Thursday 13 Apr 2017
Number of people risking their lives trespassing in the south west hits four-year-high
- Across Britain, one person trespasses on the railway every hour, putting their lives in danger
Alarming new figures from Network Rail and the British Transport Police (BTP) reveal more people than ever are risking their lives on the rail network by trespassing on the tracks in Network Rail’s Wessex route, which covers Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire[i].
The data, which looks at trends over the last four years, shows trespass incidents are at all-time high in the region, while nationally one person trespasses and dices with death every hour.
Last year alone there were around 1,100 incidents where people risked their lives on the rail network to the south and west of London - a 22 per cent rise on the previous year.
Research also shows young people are more likely to take a risk on the tracks, with seasonal peaks in incidents coinciding with the spring and summer school holidays.
Becky Lumlock, route managing director at Network Rail, explains: “Every April we see a huge rise in the number of people taking a risk on the rail network and it’s worrying that these numbers seem to be going up. Britain has the safest railway in Europe but still too many people lose their lives on the tracks. The dangers may not always be obvious but trains can travel up to 125 miles per hour, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.
“On top of that, the South Western railway is electrified with third rail, which means there is an extra track running along the ground that is electrified with 750 volts of electricity. Anyone trespassing on the railway could easily come into contact with the third rail, and the power is enough to kill a person.
“It may seem harmless to take a shortcut, or fun to play on the tracks, but this is not only illegal, it is also very dangerous. Taking a short cut or playing around on the tracks can result in serious life-changing injuries or death.”
In response to the seasonal surge in incidents and to tackle the problem of youth trespass, Network Rail and BTP have jointly launched a schools engagement programme, which aims to teach children in trespass hotspots about railway safety. Additionally, the ‘Tackling Track Safety’ programme will be rolled-out to more than 100 schools across Britain, using sport to educate children about the dangers across the network.
Chief Inspector Sarah White from BTP in the south east said: “We believe the number of children we encounter trespassing every year is sadly, just the tip of the iceberg.
“Every single day we are called to the tracks because a train driver has had to sound their horn or apply their emergency brake In a desperate bid to avoid youths on the line, who then run off, seemingly unaware of the danger they have put themselves in.
“We continue to do all we can to keep youngsters safe by patrolling areas where we know they’re likely to trespass and prevent them from doing so.
“However, we cover thousands of miles of track and we cannot tackle this issue alone. That is why we are urging parents and young people to heed this warning and take a reality check when it comes to trespass. It’s not a game: they are real tracks, with real trains and real-life consequences.”
New figures also highlight that youth trespass is more prevalent in areas where there is higher socio-economic deprivation. To help tackle this Network Rail has also joined forces with children’s charity Barnardo’s to deliver safety education in specific areas of need and where trespass rates are high. The organisation will be raising money for the charity and encouraging its staff to volunteer and help deliver these safety events.
To find out how to keep your children safe on the railway this summer visit www.networkrail.co.uk/trespass
About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 19 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Every day, more than 4.6 million journeys are made in the UK. 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.