Rail trespassing above pre-Covid levels


Trespassing on Britain’s railways remains above pre-pandemic levels, figures show.

18,517 incidents of people trespassing on railway tracks and land were recorded in the 2022/23 financial year, according to British Transport Police (BTP)

Although that number is down 1% from the previous 12 months, it remains 14% above the total for 2019/20 which was mostly before the pandemic began.

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The number of incidents surged at the end of the first coronavirus lockdown, possibly due to people becoming used to crossing tracks as there were fewer trains running.

A fifth of reported trespassing incidents involve children.

Tuesday marks the sixth anniversary of the electrocution of 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne who was trespassing at a rail freight depot in Northamptonshire more than a mile from his home.

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Harrison’s family have partnered with Network Rail and BTP in urging parents and carers to talk to their children about the dangers of the railways ahead of school summer holidays.

His mother, Liz Ballantyne, said: “The summer holidays should be about freedom, and I always encouraged Harrison to go out and have adventures.

“I taught him about stranger danger and to be careful around water, but I just hadn’t realised that I needed to teach him about rail safety as there was no railway station near our village.

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“I learnt of its importance too late, but I don’t want others to suffer as I have. Please sit down with your children and loved ones and talk to them about the dangers present around the railway so they know how to keep themselves safe whilst they are out having fun.”

The death of her son has been made into a short film named Harrison’s Story as part of the anti-trespass You vs Train campaign.

This highlights how electricity can jump, endangering people even if they do not touch its source.

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Network Rail trespass prevention lead Louise McNally said: “Harrison’s Story has been a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that trespass can have, not only to the trespasser but also their loved ones and the wider community.

“It is important that we share his story and learn lessons from it so that we can ensure that another family does not suffer as the Ballantynes have.”

BTP Superintendent Alison Evans said: “As the summer holidays approach we urge parents and carers of young people to talk about trespass and rail safety and warn them of the dangers of straying onto the railway.

“We continue to share Harrison’s story in the hope that it will resonate with others and make a difference. “The rail network can be a deadly place. Trespassing can result in devastating injuries or death. Please spread the word to stay off the tracks – it could just save a life.”

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