Network Rail is urging people to stay off the tracks as a surge in trespass incidents since lockdown started across the Thames Valley, south west and west has led to numerous delays for passengers, like NHS staff, who still rely on the railway to get to work.

Since lockdown started on 23 March the number of unnecessary delays caused by trespassers has increased with 65 reported incidents across Network Rail’s Western route including in Cornwall, Devon, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Trespassing on the railway is illegal and dangerous. For this reason, when Network Rail are notified of trespassers, all trains in the vicinity must be stopped to ensure that everyone is kept safe.

Incidents include teenagers playing chicken on the track in North Somerset, a cable theft attempt in Oxfordshire, someone putting objects on the line in Devon and young people sitting on bridges dangling their legs over the edge in Wiltshire

The figures also include 28 level crossing misuse and vandalism incidents.

Steve Melanophy, community safety manager for Network Rail, said:

“These trespass incidents are shocking, and show how many people are oblivious to the dangers they are putting themselves, their friends or loved ones in.

“It’s never safe to hang around on the railway or use it to take shortcuts, but sadly too many people ignore the warning signs and take risks that have resulted in tragic consequences.

“We’ve seen a worrying number of incidents at a time where people should be following Government guidelines and staying at home where possible. We are urging people to stay safe and stay off the tracks.”

Superintendent Mark Cleland, British Transport Police, said:

“Trespass on the railway is a criminal offence and can lead to a fine or imprisonment. More importantly, the non-public parts of the railway can be a dangerous environment for those who do not have permission to be there.

“Trespass often leads to death and serious injury for those who are ignorant of the inherent dangers and so the message is clear, use common sense, don’t take risks, do not trespass on the railway and in these times, stay safe, stay at home, protect the NHS.”

Network Rail and British Transport Police run a hard-hitting safety campaign – You vs Train, which highlights the devastating consequences of trespassing on the railway. The resources on the website are free to download and use.