Network Rail has released a hard-hitting video about the severe consequences of trespassing or messing about near the railway as a new survey reveals two thirds of parents have not discussed railway safety with their children. Furthermore, a quarter of mums and dads believe popular myths such as being protected from electric current by rubber soled shoes or that you wouldn’t be hurt if you only touched power lines for less than two seconds. Half don’t know that the electricity is on all the time.
As the summer holidays begin, Network Rail has launched the powerful video to specifically highlight the dangers of electricity. Tragically, 69 people have been electrocuted in the last ten years after coming into contact with the overhead wires or the ‘third rail’. A further 72 people have suffered injuries or trauma. Of the total, 23 were children aged 15 or under.
The video features a skin biology specialist and a Network Rail electrical engineer, sending a stark message about the power of the current used to run trains and the consequences of coming into contact with it. Mixed with graphic images of people who have suffered burns, the experts talk about how the power used in overhead wires is ten-times more powerful than an electric chair, and recount stories of people who have had their clothes set alight and the coins in their pockets melt.
Nathan Wood from Tamworth in Staffordshire was just 12 when a game he was playing with his cousin involving throwing a discarded domestic electrical wire over the side of a railway bridge resulted in him receiving a severe electric shock from the overhead wires. Now 25 and still suffering from the burns received, he gives his stark warning to others who may not realise the risks: “The first thing I remember after it happened was coming round and taking a huge deep breath. Noises were slowly getting louder and louder but I couldn’t get up. When the ambulance took me to hospital, I was screaming with the pain as they had to cut off my clothes which had stuck to me. It was like hell and I thought my life was over.
“I’m still suffering now, the cold really affects me and I get a lot of pain in my foot and can’t wear regular lace-up trainers. I also have to be careful in the sun as the scarring makes me more at risk to skin cancer. I want to warn kids that if you want to be someone, achieve something in your life, don’t do something stupid like I did, as it will change your life forever.”
Dyan Crowther, Network Rail’s director of operational services, said: “Thankfully the number of people killed or hurt on the railways is coming down but every death or injury is preventable. As our video and Nathan’s story shows, receiving an electric shock is horrific and could affect you for the rest of your life, if you’re lucky not to be killed.
“Our community safety teams work tirelessly with young people across Britain to warn them of the dangers and encourage them to get involved in safer and more positive activities. However, we are concerned that many parents are very much in the dark about the dangers of trespassing or playing near the railway. Even though the majority of trespassers aren’t hurt, these crimes are not harmless and can result in huge delays and costs. We hope that by getting out this stark warning we can help banish the myths about rail safety and ultimately save lives.”
The Network Rail survey of parents* also revealed:
- Around one in eight (13%) admitted they had messed about on the railway or trespassed by taking a shortcut across it
- 15% think that most of the time trespassing on the railway is harmless or that only people who don’t take care get hurt, this despite most knowing it’s wrong
- More than half don’t know that trains can be powered by electric rails and more than four in 10 don’t know they can draw their power from overhead lines.
- Nearly half (48%) didn’t know that the third rail power line is switched on all the time
- 14% thought that overhead power lines and the third rail only had electricity running through them when a train passes through
- Of the 68% that has not talked to their children about rail safety, nearly half said it was because they didn’t live near the railway. 23% didn’t think it was important or much of a risk.
- Of the 32% that had talked to their children about rail safety, more than half did so because they understood the risks and consequences involved. A further 8% knew of someone who had been killed or hurt on the railway.
- Encouragingly two thirds knew that trespassing on the railway is a criminal offence which carries penalties. Although 8% thought that under 18s couldn’t be prosecuted and 2% believe that parents can’t be held responsible for their children’s actions, which they can.
British Transport Police’s ACC Territorial Policing and Crime, Alan Pacey said: “Trespass sounds like a pretty harmless crime, but it isn’t. One of the worst jobs a police officer has to do is break it to a parent that their child has been seriously injured, disfigured for life or killed; and it’s so unnecessary. A little thought by parents and carers will save us having to make that painful visit.”
Gary Cooper, Head of Operations at the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “People playing on or near railways not only put themselves in serious danger of injury, they also cause disruption affecting thousands of passengers trying to go to work, visit friends or travelling for their business.
“We don’t want people hurt and we know how important running trains on time is to our customers. This is why train companies are working with the rest of the industry to keep people safe and to ensure record numbers of trains arrive on time.”
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