Number of people risking their lives on the railway hits 10-year-high
New figures reveal one person every hour trespasses on the railway and puts their life in danger.

Alarming new figures from Network Rail and British Transport Police reveal that more people than ever are risking their lives on the rail network by trespassing on the tracks¹. The data, which looks at trends over the last ten years, shows that trespass incidents are at an all-time high and that at least one person trespasses and dices with death every hour.

Last year alone there were more than 8,000 incidents where people risked their lives across the rail network, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year². Young people are also the most likely to take a risk, with just under half of those killed under the age of 25¹.

The data also highlights some worrying seasonal peaks in the number of incidents, with spring and summer seeing more than double the number of trespassers, compared to the winter months.

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety 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 the electricity on the railway is always on and trains can travel up to 125 miles per hour, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.

Simon Munn, a British wheelchair basketball player who was part of the hugely successful Team GB at both the Rio 2016 Paralympics and the London 2012 Paralympics, tragically lost his leg in a railway accident when he was 22 years old. Simon has enjoyed some great success as a Paralympian, but the events that set him on that path are harrowing.

“I decided to walk home from the pub. I didn’t live too far, just across the railway. I had somehow ended up on the wrong side of the track. I had to walk an extra five minutes to get to a crossing. I thought, ‘nah, I’ll just jump over, it will save me time’.

“As I crossed the track I got my foot caught. I don’t know how long I was there, but I heard the train coming. I couldn’t move. Trains moving that fast can’t stop in time to miss you and they can’t swerve. It’s too late by then.

“I spent the next few weeks in hospital and had to have my leg amputated. Now I really know what the cost of trespassing and taking shortcuts can be. I was lucky it wasn’t my life. For anyone who messes around on the railway or thinks that it’s safe as long as you can’t see a train, I would say the dangers are real. It’s not cool, it’s not funny. It’s not worth the risk.”

• 72% of all trespassers who died over the last 10 years were struck by a train
• Another 17% were electrocuted
• The other 11 per cent were killed by a fatal fall on or near the railway
• Most trespassers highlight taking a short cut (42%) as their main motivation for committing the crime, followed by thrill-seeking (19%).

In response to the seasonal surge in incidents and to tackle the problem of youth trespass, Network Rail is launching a schools engagement programme where community safety managers will be out teaching thousands of children about railway safety. The ‘Tackling Track Safety’ programme will involve more than 100 schools across Britain, using local sports clubs to help educate children about dangers.

Network Rail’s community safety managers and BTP officers will target areas where numbers of trespass incidents are high.

The new figures also highlight that youth trespass is more prevalent in areas where there is 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. Network Rail staff will be raising money for the charity and encouraged to volunteer and help deliver these safety events.

Officers from British Transport Police will also be stepping-up patrols across the country.
Superintendent Gill Murray from BTP 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 tens of 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.”

Allan Spence continues: “As the railway gets busier and we electrify more lines to improve services, we must work harder to keep young people safe by making them aware of the dangers. It may seem harmless to take a shortcut, or fun to play on the tracks, but this is not just illegal, it is also very dangerous. Taking a short cut or messing around on the tracks can kill or maim you. Parents, peers and family can help press home our simple message: keep off the tracks”