Worrying report reveals a third of young people use their mobile phone while crossing the railway: Phone Smart - Two girls

Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Worrying report reveals a third of young people use their mobile phone while crossing the railway


New figures from Network Rail¹ reveal that almost a third (29%) of young adults admit to using their mobile phone while crossing the railway. A further two thirds (66%) also report using their phone when catching or getting off a train or tube.

The problem isn’t just on the railway either, with nearly two thirds (63%) of under 25 year olds admitting they use their mobile when crossing a road. Almost half (48%) report a near miss or accident when using their mobile phone around the transport network.

The Populus research on phone distraction also highlights that one in three young adults admit they would be more aware of their surroundings if they ditched their phone for 24 hours. Most spend time checking social media (63%) and surfing the web (44%).

While Britain still has the safest rail network in Europe, level crossings are one of the biggest public safety risks on the railway. In the last five years there have been more than 2,000 incidents on level crossings involving young people². 

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “Many people are aware of the issue of mobile phone distraction for drivers, but it is very worrying that so many young adults admit to putting themselves at unnecessary risk by using their phone when crossing the railway.

“We are investing more than £100m to improve level crossing safety across Britain as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan, but we also need everyone who uses level crossings to do their bit too. By paying attention to the warnings at level crossings and avoiding distractions, we can all keep ourselves out of harm’s way.”

Network Rail’s army of over 100 level crossing and community safety managers will be raising awareness of rail safety by holding safety events and encouraging young people to stay alert when on the rail network.

A huge 95 per cent of under 25 year olds report owning a smart phone and spend twice the amount of time on their mobile than the average user.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “As we advise drivers and pedestrians to avoid becoming distracted when they’re in a road environment, it’s essential that people are also fully aware of what’s happening around them when they use level crossings. Avoid being dangerously distracted by a mobile phone call, texting, using an app or listening to music through your headphones at a crossing so you’re well aware of what the warning lights, barriers and signs are telling you.

“Trains travel so fast that one could reach the crossing before you get to the other side if you cross when it’s not safe, and of course, the train has no chance of stopping or swerving to avoid a collision. Take special care at level crossings on footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way where there are no barriers or railway staff.”

To find out more about how to stay safe when using level crossings visit www.networkrail.co.uk/level-crossings/


Contact information:

Lucy Jones

Senior Campaigns Manager, Network Rail


Lisa Russell

Senior Media Campaigns Manager, Network Rail


Network Rail press office: 020 3356 8700

 Notes to eds:

  1. Populus phone distraction survey of 2000 GB adults, 24-29th August 2016. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at populus.co.uk
  2. Network Rail level crossing data September 2016

Guidance on level crossing use

  • Most crossings have a sign and lights or bells that alert you if a train is coming. Many will also have gates that close when a train is coming. If this happens wait until the train has passed
  • When crossing tracks at a railway crossing, you should: Stop and look both ways before crossing, listen for the train coming and for warning bells, if there are lights watch for them to flash
  • Stand well back from the tracks if a train is going by
  • Never try to cross the tracks if a train is coming. It can take up to one and a half miles for a train to come to a complete stop
  • Always make sure there are no other trains coming before crossing



Contact information

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About Network Rail

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.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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