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Incidents of trespass on Cambridge railway tracks reach five-year high

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A train at Cambridge railway station
A train at Cambridge railway station

A shocking number of people are putting their lives on the line

More people than ever are risking their lives on Cambridge’s railway tracks – according to alarming new figures released today (April 13).

Network Rail and British Transport Police have revealed trespassing on the city’s rails has reached a five-year high.

Last year alone there were around 120 incidents where people risked their lives on the rail network in Cambridge – a 41 per cent rise on the previous year.

Research also shows young people are more likely to take a risk on the tracks, with seasonal peaks in incidents coinciding with the spring and summer school holidays.

Richard Tew, Network Rail’s head of safety for Anglia, explains: “Every April we see a huge rise in the number of people taking a risk on the rail network and it’s worrying that these numbers seem to be going up.

“Britain has the safest railway in Europe but still too many people lose their lives on the tracks. The dangers may not always be obvious but the electricity on the railway is always on and trains can travel up to 100 miles per hour, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.

“As the railway gets busier we must work harder to keep young people safe by making them aware of the dangers. It may seem harmless to take a shortcut, or fun to play on the tracks, but this is not only illegal, it is also very dangerous. Taking a short cut or messing around on the tracks can result in serious life-changing injuries or death.”

In response to the seasonal surge in incidents and to tackle the problem of youth trespass, Network Rail and BTP have jointly launched an engagement programme with schools, which aims to teach children in trespass hotspots about railway safety. Additionally, the ‘Tackling Track Safety’ programme will be rolled-out to more than 100 schools across Britain, using sport to educate children about the dangers across the network.

In 2016, more than 61 children were caught trespassing by police in the region, with boys aged 14 to 16 being stopped the most.

Inspector Steve Webster from BTP in East Anglia said: “We believe the number of children we encounter trespassing every year is sadly, just the tip of the iceberg.

“Every single day we are called to the tracks because a train driver has had to sound their horn or apply their emergency brake in a desperate bid to avoid youths on the line, who then run off, seemingly unaware of the danger they have put themselves in.

“We continue to do all we can to keep youngsters safe by patrolling areas where we know they’re likely to trespass and prevent them from doing so.

“However, we cover thousands of miles of track and we cannot tackle this issue alone. That is why we are urging parents and young people to heed this warning and take a reality check when it comes to trespass. It’s not a game: they are real tracks, with real trains and real-life consequences.”

Jay Thompson, head of safety, security and sustainability at Greater Anglia, added: “Our aim is to operate a safe and punctual railway. We fully support this campaign and the work of the British Transport Police and Network Rail to educate young people who are risking their lives by trespassing on the railway. We investigate incidents of trespass and report these to the British Transport Police.

“If anyone witnesses someone trespassing on the tracks, we encourage them to report it immediately to prevent a fatal accident.”

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