SAFETY SURVEY: MYTHS MEAN PARENTS PUT CHILDREN AT RISK IN NORTHANTS: Back burns suffered by Nathan Wood aged 12 after coming into contact with overhead wires on the railway

Tuesday 26 Jul 2011


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New parents’ survey reveals majority don’t teach their children about keeping safe near the railway and do not understand the dangers of electricity

“I’m still suffering": Young man seriously burnt after electric shock when aged 12 warns others not to make his horrific mistake

New shock video released to warn of dangers

Network Rail has released a hard-hitting video showing the severe consequences of trespassing or messing about on the railway as a new survey reveals two-thirds of parents (65%) in the east of England have not discussed railway safety with their children – compared with only 15% who have not discussed road safety. A quarter of mums and dads believe popular myths, such as being protected from electric current by rubber soled shoes or that you wouldn’t be hurt if you only touched power lines for less than two seconds. Half don’t know that the electricity on our railways is always switched on.

As the summer holidays begin – and with more than 100 reports of trespass and vandalism across Northamptonshire last year – Network Rail has launched the powerful new video to specifically highlight the dangers of electricity. Tragically, 69 people have been electrocuted nationwide in the last ten years across the country after coming into contact with overhead wires or the third rail. A further 72 people have suffered injuries or trauma. Of the total, 23 were children aged 15 or under.

The video features a skin biology specialist and a Network Rail electrical engineer, sending a stark message about the power of the current used to run trains and the consequences of coming into contact with it. Mixed with graphic images of people who have suffered burns, the experts talk about how the power used in overhead wires is ten-times more powerful than an electric chair, and recount stories of people who have had their clothes set alight and the coins in their pockets melt.

Nathan Wood from Tamworth in Staffordshire was just 12 when a game he was playing with his cousin involving throwing a discarded domestic electrical wire over the side of a railway bridge resulted in him receiving a severe electric shock from the overhead wires. Now 25 and still suffering from the burns received, he gives his stark warning to others who may not realise the risks: “The first thing I remember after it happened was coming round and taking a huge deep breath. Noises were slowly getting louder and louder but I couldn’t get up. When the ambulance took me to hospital, I was screaming with the pain as they had to cut off my clothes which had stuck to me. It was like hell and I thought my life was over.

“I’m still suffering now; the cold really affects me and I get a lot of pain in my foot and can’t wear regular lace-up trainers. I also have to be careful in the sun as the scarring makes me more at risk to skin cancer. I want to warn kids that if you want to be someone, achieve something in your life, don’t do something stupid like I did. It will change your life forever.”

Dyan Crowther, Network Rail director of operational services, said: “Thankfully the number of people killed or hurt on the railways is coming down but every death or injury is preventable. As our video and Nathan’s story show, receiving an electric shock is horrific and could affect you for the rest of your life, if you’re lucky enough not to be killed.

“Our community safety teams work tirelessly with young people across Britain to warn them of the dangers and encourage them to get involved in safer and more positive activities. However, we’re concerned that many parents seem to be in the dark about the dangers of trespassing or playing near the railway. Even though the majority of trespassers aren’t hurt, these crimes are not harmless and can result in huge delays and costs. We hope that by getting out this stark warning we can help banish the myths about rail safety and ultimately save lives.”

Inspector Mike Steer, of British Transport Police, said: "Trespass sounds like a pretty harmless crime, but it isn’t. One of the worst jobs a police officer has to do is break it to a parent that their child has been seriously injured, disfigured for life or killed; and it's so unnecessary. A little thought by parents and carers will save us having to make that painful visit."

Gary Cooper, head of operations at the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said: “People playing on or near railways not only put themselves in serious danger of injury, they also cause disruption affecting thousands of passengers trying to go to work, visit friends or travelling for their business.

“We don’t want people hurt and we know how important running trains on time is to our customers. This is why train companies are working with the rest of the industry to keep people safe and to ensure record numbers of trains arrive on time.”

Network Rail’s survey of parents* in the east of England also revealed:

  • Just over one in ten (11%) admitted they had messed about on the railway or trespassed by taking a shortcut across it.
  • 15% think that most of the time trespassing on the railway is harmless or that only people who don’t take care get hurt, this despite most knowing it’s wrong.
  • Four out of ten (40%) don’t know that trains can be powered by electric rails though three-quarters (74%) know they can draw their power from overhead lines.
  • More than half (54%) didn’t know that overhead power lines, which can carry up to 25,000 volts, are switched on all the time.
  • 14% thought that overhead power lines and the third rail only had electricity running through them when a train passes through.
  • Of the 65% that has not talked to their children about rail safety, more than half (57%) said it was because they didn’t live near the railway. One in five (18%) didn’t think it was important or much of a risk.
  • Of the 35% that had talked to their children about rail safety, more than half (51%) did so because they understood the risks and consequences involved. A further 15% knew of someone who had been killed or hurt on the railway.
  • Encouragingly two thirds (65%) knew that trespassing on the railway is a criminal offence which carries penalties. However, 14% thought that under-18s couldn’t be prosecuted and 2% believe that parents can’t be held responsible for their children’s actions, which they can.

Notes to editors

Approximately 40% of Britain’s rail network is currently electrified. Plans are in place to electrify the railway from London to Oxford, Newbury and Cardiff and between Manchester, Liverpool and Blackpool over the next six years.

*The parents’ survey was conducted for Network Rail by OnePoll - part of the SWNS Group – the UK's largest independent press agency and newswire service. The sample size was 2000 parents across Britain with children under 18 and conducted in July 2011.

About Network Rail’s work
Network Rail has a dedicated team of community safety managers who work with the British Transport Police, rail industry partners and youth groups and agencies to tackle anti-social crimes and provide safer and purposeful alternatives.

Recorded trespass and vandalism incidents April 2010-March 2011
Whilst adults commit more crimes, young people take more risks and their actions are more dangerous – such as playing chicken and graffiti spraying in hard to reach locations. Adult crimes tend to be more platform-to-platform trespass and taking short cuts.


  • There were 71 recorded incidents of trespass and 31 recorded incidents of vandalism in the county over the last 12 months. It is believed that the true figure is much higher as many incidents are in remote areas, at night, not seen by CCTV or railway staff and so go unreported.*
  • The worst ‘hotspot’ areas for trespass and vandalism in the county are Corby (25 reported incidents), Northampton (19), Kettering (14) and Wellingborough (7).
  • Almost 100 near misses where a train narrowly avoided striking a person.
  • 13 reports of stones, bricks and other objects thrown at trains including plastic sheeting and traffic cones. These often resulted in delays and damage to trains.
  • Three incidents of children playing chicken with trains, all in the Corby area.
  • Six reports of spraying graffiti – we know most graffiti is not reported as taggers seek hard to reach locations often at night.
  • Four incidents of laser pens being shone into train drivers’ eyes.
  • 11 incidents of objects placed on the line, including shopping trolleys, planks of wood, car tyres, concrete and wooden pallets.


*Whilst sometimes difficult to ascertain the intentions of individuals, these figures do not include cable theft or attempted cable theft.


** Trespass fatalities: In some instances, the Coroner’s Court has yet to classify the fatalities, so this figure is subject to change. This does not include the number of people killed at level crossings or suicides.

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