Alarming new figures reveal more than a quarter of teenagers confess to behaving in a way that could endanger their life on the railway – and one in admitted to walking along the railway line.
The figures were revealed at the start of a new campaign, You Vs Train, which aims to drive home the devastating consequences of ignoring the warnings and stepping on to railway tracks.
It has been launched by the rail industry and the British Transport Police.
At its heart is the story of Tom Hubbard – a young boy who suffered life-changing injuries in 2014 when he was electrocuted by the overhead power cables.
He suffered third degree burns across 57 per cent of his body, and he has been left to deal with the serious physical and psychological consequences.
Tom said: “I woke up 11 days later in the burns unit at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital wrapped from head to toe in bandages, heavily medicated and unable to string a sentence together.
“I don’t think I knew what was real and what wasn’t. When the doctors and my mum came to speak to me a few days later, the enormity of what had happened finally hit me. They explained how lucky I was to be alive, but it was going to be a long road to recovery.
“Four years on I’m still affected by the events of that day and every time I look in the mirror I’m reminded by that one decision to go on the railway. The accident has made me more of an introvert and cautious of trying new things, often opting to stay in during the day to avoid people and wear hoodies and long-sleeved tops to hide my scars, even on hot days”
The lack of knowledge about the potential dangers seems to be why children choose the tracks as a good place to take risks³, with only a third (37%) believing that the railway is extremely dangerous.
Just under a third (31%) don’t believe that severe burns as a result of electrocution or electrocution by the overhead wires (31%) are risks you might face if you go on the railway tracks
15% think that it’s safe to walk on the railway track if you check a timetable to make sure there are no trains coming
Almost a fifth (17%) think that getting a dropped/lost item (e.g. phone or football) from the railway track is relatively safe as long as you leave again straight away
The new data also highlights some worrying seasonal peaks in the number of incidents, with the summer holidays seeing more than double the number of young risk takers
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “Hundreds of people each year unintentionally take on the railway and lose. This year we have already seen a record number of young people losing their life or being injured on the track.
“The railway is full of both obvious and hidden dangers. The electricity is always on and always dangerous. Trains can also travel up to 125 miles per hour, so even if a driver can see your child, they can’t stop in time and they can’t change direction.
A short film re-enacting Tom’s story will be launched across social media and shown in cinemas throughout the summer. Tom’s family will also feature in the campaign to show how his accident has impacted on them.
Davie Gray, BTP Scotland Chief Inspector, said: “We want his story to be heard – the tracks are not a playground. They’re incredibly dangerous and, as Tom’s story shows, can easily result in serious injury or worse.
“We hope the campaign will help young people to understand the risks, and help them to make the right decision and stay away from railway lines. Equally, it will also help them understand that bad decisions don’t just affect them, but they will have a deep and lasting impact on their families and friends as well. This campaign is not just for our young people but also their friends and family.”