ALARMING new figures reveal that 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 Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, and Surrey.
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, said: “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 a 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 the British Transport Police 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 British Transport Police in the south east, said: “We believe the number of children we encounter trespassing every year is 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 are 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.”
To find out how to keep your children safe on the railway this summer, visit networkrail.co.uk/trespass.