Network Rail is urging local youngsters to stay away from railway lines and not treat them as playgrounds or targets for vandalism during the Easter holidays.
Alarmingly, trends of route crime are on the increase and offenders are getting younger – children as young as five years old have been caught putting objects on the track and eight year olds have been caught playing ‘chicken’ in front of high speed trains. Every single act of route crime has the potential to cause serious harm or even death and can have long term effects for those involved.
Modern trains move quickly and quietly and, unlike road vehicles, cannot swerve out of the way or come to a halt as rapidly. Trains can weigh several hundred tonnes and, travelling at up to 100 mph, can take almost a mile and a half to stop.
Stones and other missiles thrown at trains can have a devastating effect on both the driver and passengers as well as causing damage to trains and infrastructure costing many thousands of pounds.
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Network Rail is working with the British Transport Police, South Central and other partners to tackle railway crime head on by running a raft of educational initiatives including:
· Junior Citizen scheme visits – this initiative normally runs during school term time and really hammers home the anti-rail crime message to children. Network Rail will be taking part in Junior Citizen schemes in Crawley, Horsham, Reigate and Banstead and Epsom.
· ‘I Dare You’ plays to key crime hotspots – a powerful educational drama which highlights the dangers of playing on the railway. ‘I Dare You’ will be showing at the Epsom playhouse on the 25 and 26 March at 10.30 am. Nearly 200 local children will be attending the performance.
· Youth Education Officers will be touring local schools educating children on the dangers of playing on the railway.
In addition, Network Rail and British Transport Police will step up patrols of crime hotspots during the Easter holidays.
Anyone who sees somebody trespassing on or causing damage to the railway is urged to report them to the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. The number is open 24 hrs a day and the calls are free.
In the past 11 months 22 people were tragically killed in route crime incidents on Network Rail’s Southern Region and 45 resulted in injury. There were 49 incidents when trains just missed colliding with a trespasser. In total almost 4,136 incidents of rail crime were reported across the region during the year. Every incident has the real potential to result in death or serious injury.
Margaret Barker, Network Rail’s Route Crime Manager said, “ We are deeply concerned about the levels of trespass and vandalism on the railways. What might seem like a bit of childish fun is in reality plain stupidity, which could end up killing someone. The railway is not a playground and children and adults alike should stay away.”
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“The school holidays are a key problem time for rail crime. We are working hard to tackle this issue but I would appeal to local communities and parents to help us in our efforts. Real success in tackling route crime will only come about if the entire community works together with the rail
industry in a concerted effort to make children understand the very real dangers of the railway.”