London Bridge is joining major railway stations across four of Britain’s biggest cities to host a sleepout in aid of vulnerable children who run away from home.

Network Rail and the wider rail industry is teaming up with the Railway Children charity to raise money and awareness for the work being done to help the thousands of children who run away from home every year.

To raise the profile of the Railway Children’s work, directors from Network Rail, train companies, rail industry partners and politicians, will sleep out on January 31 at London Bridge, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly, and Liverpool Lime Street stations, with the aim of raising £25,000.

At London Bridge station, up to 50 people will sleep on the concourse, including staff and directors from Network Rail and train operators. The event is being sponsored by Virgin Trains.

The railway is one of the easiest ways to travel for runaway children, and this year the British Transport Police estimates it will deal with 10,000 child safeguarding incidents on Britain’s railways, a 20% increase from 2017/18.

Across the capital, the BTP dealt with 2,156 child safeguarding incidents last year – 27% of the 8,000 incidents recorded nationally. Approximately a third of those children will have run away from home or care, escaping issues such as violence, abuse or neglect.

Pete Kent, programme director for the Railway Children charity, said: “The rail network is often the easiest way to travel for troubled young people looking to run away from their problems. As the BTP are on the transport front line, day in, day out identifying these vulnerable children, working so closely with them gives us the chance to intervene before it is too late and keep these young people from any further harm.

“We have only been able to carry out this work thanks to the amazing support we have continued to have from across the industry, and we’re hoping this event will see the rail community coming together once again to support us and to support these children. Everyone and anyone can take part – and we’re hoping as many people as possible will get behind our first ever Railway Children Sleepout.”

Issues faced by these young people include sexual and criminal exploitation, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, domestic violence, unhealthy relationships, addiction and mental illness.

Network Rail chairman and supporter of the Railway Children charity, Sir Peter Hendy, said: “The Railway Children charity does amazing work to help children and young vulnerable people when they need it. Working with the British Transport Police, Network Rail staff help identify children who may be at risk among the millions of people who pass through our stations every year. We are proud to be working in partnership with the wider rail industry to raise as much money as we can for the Railway Children charity.”

Amanda Hines, general manager at Virgin Trains, said: “We’re proud to be sponsoring the Big Station Sleepout to raise funds for Railway Children – a charity we have supported for many years. We’ll be joining other rail industry colleagues sleeping out for the night at major stations to help reach the £25,000 target, which will go towards the vital work of identifying and supporting vulnerable children across the railway network.”

For more information on how to take part in the fundraising, or by booking one of the limited sleepout places in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool, visit:

https://www.railwaychildren.org.uk/events/events/railway-children-sleepout/

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/railway-children-15157637904

For more information on the Safeguarding on Transport programme go to: www.btp.police.uk

Follow #BigStationSleepout for the latest updates on Twitter.

Railway Children case study:

Samantha was desperate and suicidal when rail staff found her.

A conductor on a passing train saw Samantha, 14, on a remote platform and contacted the BTP and station staff who went to find her.

Samantha was very drunk and distressed and later told staff she had been thinking of harming herself.

CCTV showed that earlier she had been approaching older males who she seemed not to know – being young, alone and vulnerable she was in very real danger. Luckily, station staff acted promptly and the BTP referred Samantha to Railway Children for ongoing support.

She said she was happy to talk to someone as she knew her drinking was out of control. Railway Children made contact with Samantha and her parents – who had no idea how their daughter had been feeling.

With help from our team, Samantha is now being supported by the services she needs and talking to our staff about changes she wants to make. We’re also meeting up with her parents every week to help them understand how they can manage and support their daughter.

The family are building strong and trusting relationships and Samantha is making great progress, getting good results from school, and developing a much more positive outlook.