More people than ever are risking their lives by trespassing on train tracks in and around west London, according to Network Rail and British Transport Police (BTP)
New figures from the two organisations show there were 1,100 incidents with people trespassing last year – an increase of 22% on the year before.
The statistics cover the Network Rail Wessex route, which runs through Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire.
Network Rail and BTP released footage earlier this year showing two people “recklessly running across a level crossing as a train approaches.
'A huge rise'
Route managing director at Network Rail, Becky Lumlock, 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 hours, so even if they see you, they can't stop in time.”
Trespassing incidents on the Wessex route
The research from Network Rail and BTP also shows that young people are more likely to take a risk on the tracks, with peaks in incidents coinciding with spring and summer school holidays.
In 2013, there were 706 trespassing incidents on the Wessex route, jumping to 1,103 in 2016.
This mirrors a jump in the national picture as there has been a rise from 6,655 incidents in 2012 to 8,265 in 2016.
'Enough to kill a person'
Ms Lumlock added: “On top of that, the South Western railway is electrified with third rail, which means there is an extra track running along the ground 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.”
Trespassing incidents across England, Scotland and Wales
BTP and Network rail are now working with schools in an attempt to prevent youngsters from taking risks on train tracks.
Network Rail said the figures show youth trespass is more prevalent in areas where there is higher levels of deprivation, so it is working with children's charity Barnardo's to deliver safety education in specific areas.
Just the tip of the iceberg
BTP chief inspector, Sarah White, 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 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.”
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