When it’s You vs Train, there’s no winner

When it’s You vs Train, there’s no winner

Published 30 March 2021 | Average read time
2 min read
John Halsall

John Halsall, region director, Southern

For most people, the loosening of lockdown in the coming months holds the promise of good times ahead and happy days. But for some of us – the railway and the emergency services – there’s a worry too.

Last time we “unlocked” in summer 2020, we saw a massive and immediate rise in trespassing, much of it driven by young people.

I manage the Southern region, which includes the Wessex, Sussex and Kent routes, and the rises here amongst youths were shocking:  48% in Wessex, 40% in Sussex and 38% in Kent from month to month. Our routes are mostly electrified with the conductor rail, which puts 750Volts at ground level, so trespassers aren’t just facing the danger of being struck by a train, but electrocution too.

We’ve never seen anything like these rises before and with young people a notoriously difficult market to reach at the best of times – we’ve got a challenge ahead of us.

Now schools are back, we’re urging parents to talk to their children about the real and present danger of going anywhere near railway tracks. We’re also working with schools and have produced a new film as part of our You v Train campaign. There’s a clear message here for all parents, guardians and teachers – if the trains don’t get you, the electricity in the conductor rail will. 

Parallel lines

The ripples from incidents where trespassers are hurt or killed spread widely and rapidly, starting from the incident itself and spreading through friends, parents, our colleagues on the ground to the train crew too. 

The delays from simple trespassing are a pain – we have to turn the power off more often than not – but the after-effects of a life-changing or even fatal injury are far, far more significant and what keeps us awake at night.

The good news is, since the You vs Train campaign was created in partnership with British Transport Police in summer 2018, the number of incidents across the railway had been significantly decreasing year. So if we can get through the next few months without seeing that massive spike like we did last year, we can expect the numbers to start moving the right way again.

Again, I urge you to watch the films with your children, you can find them on the You vs Train website.