Electrifying the Midland Main Line to provide better services for passengers

As part of the largest upgrade since it was completed in 1870, the Midland Main Line is being electrified from Bedford northwards via Kettering to Corby to enable quieter and cleaner trains with more seats to operate on our network.

Bi-mode trains, when in electric mode, are quieter and better for the environment than diesel trains – benefitting both passengers and people living close to the railway.

However, this also means there will be a deadly 25,000-volts running through the overhead wires along the railway at ALL times.

Whilst there is no danger to people using the railway correctly, anyone who does not respect the railway boundary – the fence line that protects both people and the operational railway from deliberate or accidental trespass – is placing themselves at risk.

Remember the danger you can’t see

Electrified lines are always on. So always stay off.

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.

Informing communities

That’s why a vital part of delivering electrification involves communicating with people living and working along the railway to advise them of the potential risks.

As well as a significant advertising campaign – including radio, local newspaper and poster advertising – leaflets containing important safety information will also be distributed. In addition, great effort is also going into reaching out to higher risk audiences. For example:

Farmers – We’re working with the Farming Community Network and Tenant Farmers Association to highlight that an electrified railway represents a potential hazard to farmers, who will need to be more careful when carrying out activities such as crop spraying, irrigating or muck spreading close to wires carrying 25,000-volts.

Anglers – Working with the Angling Trust we’re reaching out to its members to highlight that carrying items such as rods on station platforms, over foot crossings or casting lines near an electrified railway can increase the risk of electrocution by bringing you into contact with wires.

Radio-controlled aircraft – Partnering with the British Model Flying Association, we’re asking pilots to be aware of the hazard electrified overhead wires represent and avoid flying in or around the rail corridor completely. Plus of course never to trespass on the line to retrieve a downed model.

Working with schools

Because young people are the most likely to trespass, Network Rail held workshops with schools near trespass hotspots to develop and film a 30 minute drama highlighting the risks posed by high voltage overhead wires.  The students’ story was then professionally scripted by Shazia Rashid and cast using acclaimed young actors including Harry Kirton (from Peaky Blinders) and BAFTA nominee Aimee Kelly. It has won already awards and been viewed over 4.5million times. Watch the film below.

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.


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.

Electrified lines are Always On. So Always Stay Off!