With thousands upon thousands of miles of track and with around 25,000 trains running on it every day often at speeds of 100MPH or more the railway network isn’t exactly what you call a playground. This article will explain and hopefully help you understand the dangers exposed to people when they decide to risk their lives unnecessarily on railway lines. On average there are around 28 million incidents reported each year to the British Transport Police and Network Rail with 11 million of them being trespass or vandalism related incidents committed by under 16s. On average 60% of the people involved are killed with many more sustaining horrific and often permanent injuries.
Every year vandalism causes million of pounds worth of damage to the network and affected Train Operating Companies and Network Rail have to clean up and repair any rolling stock and infrastructure that has been damaged. Vandalism is not only unsightly it’s also dangerous and can carry heavy fines and also prison sentences. Vandalism can include anything from graffiti spraying to stone-throwing through a train’s window. Would you feel safe at a station that has obscene words and messages sprayed all over the walls? Would you want to travel on a train with broken windows? Vandalism is a criminal offence.
Outside of the railway trespassing is only a civil offence which means that if you’re caught by the owner of the property you were trespassing upon it’s up to them to whether they decide to prosecute you. However on the railways it’s a criminal offence which means that if you’re caught you will automatically be trialled in a court of law. If found guilty this could lead to a fine of up to £1000 and even a prison sentence. Under no circumstances may you be allowed to have access on foot to a railway line unless you’re at a crossing or if the Police, station staff or on-board train crew instruct you to in an emergency.
When you’re crossing the line, think again about whether you’ve given yourself enough time to clear it before a train approaches. What if you trip over a rail or stumble on the ballast? Or maybe you get your feet trapped in a set of points moving? If this happens and you get hit by a train the person usually comes off worse. Did you know that a train running at 125mph in dry weather will take the length of 20 football pitches before it stops? It might sound obvious but there is no chance to avoid you and a train can’t swerve out of the way like a car.
An increasing number of railway lines are now being electrified by Network Rail either using 25,000v AC in an overhead line or with 750v DC in a third rail. Both can easily kill you or at the very least inflict serious permanent injury and you don’t even have to be touching the power source to be electrocuted as electricity can “arc” for quite a few metres. Electric lines can kill so do not go anywhere near them.
Every year, thousands of incidents happen at level crossings, some with tragic consequences. Whether the crossing involved has full barriers, half barriers, no barriers or a manual gate, every crossing needs to be treated with respect. If a crossing has no barriers make sure you look both ways and listen carefully, and at crossings required, make sure you contact the signalman. Should your car or vehicle get stuck at a Level Crossing make sure you immediately get everybody out of the vehicle and clear of the crossing and contact the signalman as soon as possible. Network Rail do a lot of work informing the public about railway safety and this video highlights some of the work they do and also points out what can happen if you jump the red lights.