The Midland Main Line, which runs between London St Pancras and Sheffield, is undergoing the largest upgrade since it was completed in 1870

As part of the upgrade the line from Bedford via Kettering to Corby is currently being electrified to enable fast bi-mode trains with increased seating to operate on the network.

Bi-mode trains are quieter when operating under electric power and use less diesel fuel – benefitting passengers and people living close to the railway whilst helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Find out more about the Midland Main Line upgrade.

Remember the danger you can’t see

In order to electrify the railway Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) will be installed alongside and above the existing track to provide power to trains. This consists of overhead wires and supporting steel masts that distribute electricity to trains at 25,000 volts.

The steel masts are spaced between 40-70 metres apart along the track and will carry the contact wire at a height of approximately 4.7 metres above track level – just a little taller than the trains themselves.

So, whilst electrification will bring important benefits, 25,000 volts is an enormous amount of power and why a vital part of our work involves communicating with people living and working along the railway to advise them of the potential risks.

Electrifying the railway

Electrified lines are always on. So always stay off.

Keeping you informed

Significant communications campaigns support the installation of electrified infrastructure, including radio, local newspaper and billboard/poster advertising. In addition, both residents and businesses within several kilometres of the line will receive leaflets containing important safety information.

Working with schools

Network Rail has worked with schools to develop the storyline of a 30 minute film drama highlighting the risks posed by high voltage overhead wires.  It was scripted by Shazia Rashid and cast using acclaimed young actors including BAFTA-nominee Aimee Kelly and Harry Kirton from Peaky Blinders. Watch the film below.

Our workshop was fantastic! The workshop leaders engaged some of our most challenging students and inspired them to participate in a way that even our most experienced teaching staff struggle with. The students didn’t want the workshop to end and felt a real sense of pride that their ideas might contribute to a much bigger project and ultimately help get the message of rail safety out to other kids their age.

Safety workshop with students at Latimer Arts College
Students gather for a workshop at Rushden Academy

The workshops provided students with a real insight into the dangers of playing on the railway and particularly focused on the new overhead line equipment which is being installed locally.The workshops gave students an opportunity to express their opinions and personal views, as well as a chance to develop skills such as creativity, teamwork and the qualities required to present in front of people.

Safety is our top priority and these workshops have done a fantastic job at highlighting the very real dangers of playing on the railway. The workshops focus on electrical safety and importantly offered the students a chance to share their experiences and feed ideas into our new safety film we are producing, which needs to be authentic and communicate the dangers to this hard to reach audience.”

Electricity: Facts vs Fiction

  • The heat generated by an electric shock from high voltage wires is in excess of 3000 degrees Celsius – hot enough to ignite a victim’s clothing
  • Electrified overhead line equipment carries 25,000 volts of electricity – that’s 100 times the power supplied to your home.
  • It is a criminal offence to trespass on the railway – punishable by a £1,000 fine
  • You can see the danger coming. Electricity is invisible (most of the time) so remember the danger you can’t see!
  • Wearing rubber-soled shoes means you can’t get electrocuted. No footwear will protect you from an electric shock.
  • Overhead wires only carry electricity while a train is passing. Electrified Lines are Always On!
  • Electricity is only dangerous if you touch it . Electricity can jump up to 3 metres in some conditions (for example when it is raining).

What happens if you are electrocuted?

Electricity seeks the easiest path to the ground from wherever it starts. The human body is around 60% water so people are potentially very good conductors. If you come into contact with electrified overhead lines…

  • The heat passing through the human body causes severe damage to internal organs
  • Tissue burns beneath the skin cause scarring and black marks on the surface
  • The muscles in your heart fail – stopping the flow of blood and oxygen
  • Lungs and respiratory system are paralysed
  • The body’s nervous system – which relies on tiny electrical impulses to function – is disrupted, causing paralysis and affecting your ability to think, respond and remember
  • 9 out of 10 people die. The remainder suffer life-changing injuries.

It is important to remember…

That there is no danger to anyone as long as people use the railway correctly and respect the railway boundary – a secure fence line that protects both people and the operational railway from deliberate or accidental trespass.

If you live or work alongside the railway near to electrified overhead lines be extremely careful when using equipment such as ladders and cranes – or any object that could encroach onto the railway and put you or others at risk.

Electrified lines are Always On. So Always Stay Off!