Christmas should be a time of year when everyone can enjoy themselves and have fun. But for some festive revellers it can spell danger, with Network Rail reporting a 25 per cent increase in alcohol related incidents across the rail network in December, compared to the beginning of the year¹.
Data collected over the last 10 years also shows that on average there are more incidents reported involving intoxication in December than any other month. As a result Network Rail, British Transport Police and RSSB are joining forces to urge party goers to take extra care when travelling on or around the railway.
Network Rail is issuing a warning to those who live near or may be out near level crossings. Many people may be out visiting family and friends in areas they are unfamiliar with and with many crossings located within a mile of pubs and clubs it’s important that people take extra care. Passengers should also be careful when around the platform edge after having a drink, with 25 people killed due to alcohol related incidents and a further 82 people seriously injured over the last 10 years.
According to British Transport Police, there is also a rise in violence at many of the busiest stations over the festive season, much of which is fuelled by excess alcohol. Between 24 November 2015 and 2 January 2016, the number of violent offences reported at railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales increased by 8% compared with the same period in 2014/15. At least one in 10 of those offences involved alcohol².
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “We want everyone to have fun over the festive season and trains are the safest way to get around. But passengers and people living near the railway must remember that it can be a dangerous place. After a few drinks people can take more risks.
“Taking a short cut across the tracks, chancing it at level crossings or tripping as you get onto trains can kill you or change your life forever. Don’t let the drink take bad decisions for you – keep a clear head.”
Over 4,000 alcohol related incidents reported over the past five years
Almost half (44%) of all incidents reported last winter involved alcohol³
Nearly 250 incidents recorded at level crossings last December
Passengers boarding and alighting were trains involved in 395 alcohol related accidents in the last five years
Chris Dos Santos, 30, received a 750 volt electric shock through his leg and into his body after deciding to cross the railway after a day out drinking. He now works with Network Rail to warn others about the dangers of drinking and crossing the railway.
“I fell and landed on the electrified rail that powers the trains that go along the track. I didn’t even know there was an electric rail on the railway. I received a 750 volt electric shock through my leg and into my body.
“I had a cardiac arrest. Three of my friends came and tried to help me but also received a shock. They thought I was going to die. I remember the smell of burning skin. It was awful. I received severe burns to my legs, back and arm. When I got to hospital they thought they were going to have to amputate my leg.
“A year later and things are starting to improve. I have started to work with Network Rail to support safety events and try and warn others about how dangerous the railway can be. I feel like this has really helped with my recovery.
“If I could go back to that night, I would never have walked along the railway. People should understand how dangerous it is. You don’t just put your life in danger, but others as well. No matter how many drinks you’ve had, making the wrong decision can leave you with consequences that you have to live with for the rest of your life. If my story can make just one person more aware of the dangers, then it’s worth sharing.”
In response to the seasonal surge in incidents, Network Rail and British Transport Police will be holding alcohol awareness events at the UK’s busiest rail stations in the run up to Christmas. Both organisations will also be targeting Christmas revellers in pubs, clubs and stations with a reminder to ‘keep a clear head’.
Officers from British Transport Police are stepping up patrols at stations across the country.
Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Bunyard, from British Transport Police, said: “Unfortunately, during the festive season, we see a rise in public order offences and antisocial behaviour. We put much of this down to the people involved drinking more than they normally would and behaving in a way they wouldn’t dream of if they were sober.
“Our priority is to make sure everyone gets to their destination safely. You can expect to see our officers out on the network helping people to enjoy the festivities safely and encouraging them to think about how alcohol can affect the way they behave and the effect this has on other passengers.
“We are asking you to keep a clear head. Think about what you would do and how you would behave if you were sober. There is no excuse for spoiling other people’s journeys or behaving any differently because you’ve drunk alcohol. We want you to have fun but it’s more important to get where you’re going safely.”
The campaign is also supported by Drinkaware who will be helping to deliver the message. Ben Butler, Director of Marketing and Communications at Drinkaware explains,
“Drinking alcohol can make us more vulnerable or prone to accidents as it slows down the brain which can affect the body’s responses. The more you drink, the more likely you are to take a risk. Alcohol affects our judgement and reasoning, slows down reactions, upsets our balance and coordination and can even impair vision and hearing. The best way to keep the risks from alcohol to a low level is to plan your night out in advance; make sure you know how you will be getting home and that you have people you trust with you. Whilst out you should limit the total amount of alcohol you consume, drink more slowly, with food, and alternate with water.”
Notes to eds:
RSSB data on alcohol related incidents 2006/15
BTP data on alcohol related violence 2016
BTP National Disruption Fusion Unit data 2016
Alcohol related incident explanation: An incident is said to involve drugs or alcohol when either has been reported as being a factor in an incident.
British Transport Police (BTP) is the national specialist police force for the railway in England, Scotland and Wales.
Our job is to keep the travelling public and people who work on the railway safe from harm. On over 10,000 miles of track, we keep more than 6 million people and 400,000 tonnes of freight safe and secure every day.
Our police officers and staff are experts in their field. Our specialism makes us unique and a vital player in the growing rail industry, keeping us at the cutting edge of modern policing.
Through research, analysis, and insight RSSB supports our members and stakeholders to
deliver a safer, more efficient and sustainable rail system.
Our vision is to be a centre of excellence, valued by its members and stakeholders as an
essential contributor to their success.
Our independent evidence based approach is built on strong technical capability, and the
enabling of collaborative industry engagement for the benefit of the whole rail system.