A person walking their dog on the track, and someone crossing the track with their shopping trolley are just some of the trespass incidents that have been reported to Network Rail since the COVID-19 lockdown has been in place.

Since the start of lockdown on 23 March, there have been 70 trespass incidents across the Network Rail Wessex route in Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset that have caused unnecessary delays to critical workers and freight services. Nationally, there has been over 1,000 incidents of trespass since the lockdown.

Trespassing on the railway is illegal, so when Network Rail are notified of trespassers, all trains in the area are stopped to ensure that everyone is kept safe. Network Rail is urging people to ‘Stay off the tracks and stay safe’ in a new digital media campaign.

Some of the incidents in Wessex which have caused  delays include someone sitting on the platform and dangling their legs over the track in south west London, and in north Surrey a male was reported as he crossed over the platform with a shopping trolley and a female was reported trespassing on the tracks looking for her dog.

Mark Killick, route director at Network Rail Wessex, said: “Trespassing on the railway is dangerous and can have tragic results as we are still seeing a worrying number of trespassers on our tracks.

“We need the public to stay safe, stay off the railway and never use it as a short cut. The conductor rail carries 750 volts of electricity on most of our routes and is always live; if you are struck by a train or receive an electric shock, this could result in life-changing injuries or even death.”

Inspector Andy Jackson from the British Transport Police who is embedded on the Wessex route, said: “These incidents clearly highlight the widespread impact when someone trespasses on the railway. At this difficult time, it is imperative that people using the rail network are able to do so without causing inconvenience to other rail users, those involved also place themselves in considerable danger by their acts.

“This is a further plea to people not to trespass on the railway network for any reason as the British Transport Police will actively pursue and take positive action against those who fail to comply with this simple instruction.”

Network Rail has worked with British Transport Police on the uncompromising You vs Train campaign since 2018. Initially targeting young people and their parents, the campaign aims to educate on the devastating and wide-reaching consequences of trespass. 

The campaign has proven to be a catalyst for positive behaviour change in young people, with youth trespass levels showing an encouraging decline of 30% in high priority locations. There were 153 such incidents between April last year and March this year, down from 217 the previous period.

The public can also help to keep the railway safe by contacting Network Rail’s 24-hour helpline on 03457 114141 to report any locations where trespassers are gaining access to the tracks.