Hundreds of people risked their lives by trespassing on the train tracks in the West Midlands last year, according to figures released today (Thursday, April 11).
Network Rail and British Transport Police statistics show 588 people diced with death in the region in 2016, leading to calls for greater awareness of the dangers, especially with children.
This is up by 11 compared to 2015, and from 502 incidents five years ago, while nationally one person trespasses every hour.
This shocking video of people moments away from disaster has been released in a bid to stop trespassing on the railway.
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.
Network Rail community safety manager Nick Jordan 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.
It’s not a game: they are real tracks, with real trains and real-life consequences.British Transport Police in the West Midlands Inspector Dave Rams
“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.
“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 only illegal, it is also very dangerous.
“Taking a short cut or messing 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 has launched a youth engagement programme, which aims to teach children in trespass hotspots about railway safety.
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.
In 2016, 58 children were caught trespassing by police in the region – one in Warwickshire – with boys aged 14 to 16 being stopped the most.
Inspector Dave Rams from British Transport Police in the West Midlands 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.”
New figures also highlight that youth trespass is more prevalent in areas where there is higher 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.
The organisation will be raising money for the charity and encouraging their staff to volunteer and help deliver these safety events.
To find out how to keep your children safe on the railway this summer visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/trespass or www.btp.police.uk/realitycheck.