Network Rail is warning against the dangers of trespass on the railway after a 25% increase in incidents in the first month of the government’s restrictions to combat coronavirus.

Figures published this week by Network Rail show trespassers disrupted vital passenger and freight services across Britain a staggering 1,024 times between 23 March and 26 April. The numbers equate to an average of 34 incidents a day and compare with 818 in the same period last year.

As a result, more than 380 hours of delays hit people relying on the railway to get to work and freight trains transporting essential supplies to hospitals and supermarkets.

Network Rail is urging people to stay off the tracks and not put themselves and others at risk as it prepares to gradually increase rail services.

Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety for Network Rail, highlighted the vast majority of trespass incidents in the weeks following the introduction of the government’s restrictions had involved adults.

He said: “These figures are disappointing. Trespass is often seen as a young person problem but less than a fifth of the trespass incidents recorded in lockdown involved youngsters. Adults are far more likely to be the ones putting themselves in harm’s way.

“In addition to the many life-threatening dangers on the railway, trespass has a significant impact on the smooth running of rail services until the police can find the culprits. It interrupts vital freight transport and delays those workers who have to travel.

“As train service levels begin to gradually increase, it is more important than ever for people to stay off the tracks and stay safe.”

The warnings comes as Network Rail recorded two trespass incidents on level crossings in Kent within a day of each other this month.

The most shocking incident at Whitehall Lane level crossing near Canterbury involved two young girls and two men, who walked through a gate past a red light and ran across in front of an oncoming train. The group left the railway just seconds before the Southeastern Margate-St Pancras train passed them.

In the other incident, a group of dirt bikers cut the padlocks off a locked and bolted level crossing at Shornemead, near Gravesend, to access private property. The crossing is kept locked with only authorised users having keys.

You vs Train

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.

A new phase of the campaign targeting young adults will launch in the summer. In the meantime, Network Rail has launched a digital media campaign reminding adults of the stark “Stay off the tracks. Stay safe” message.

Further information on the dangers of railway trespass and the You vs Train campaign can be found on the You vs Train website.

Read more:

New campaign launched to tackle lockdown trespassers

You vs Train: the third rail

You lose if you step on the tracks during school shut-down

“I was burnt from head to toe.”