Eight youngsters were caught trespassing on railway lines in Wrexham and Flintshire last year

Reporter:

Rory Sheehan

EIGHT youngsters were caught trespassing on railway lines in Wrexham and Flintshire last year.

Alarming new figures released by Network Rail and the British Transport Police show the number of people risking their lives trespassing in Wales and the borders has hit a five-year-high

The data, which looks at trends over the last five years, shows trespass incidents are at an all-time high in Wales, with one person trespassing and dicing with death every hour.

Last year alone there were 524 incidents where people risked their lives on the rail network across Wales and the borders – a two 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.

Andy Thomas, route managing director for Network Rail Wales, said: “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 trains can travel at high-speeds, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.”

In response to the seasonal surge in incidents and to tackle the problem of youth trespass, Network Rail and BTP have jointly launched a schools engagement programme, 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, 14 children were caught trespassing by police in Wales, with boys aged 14 to 16 being stopped the most.

Eight of those children were from the counties of Flintshire or Wrexham, a Network Rail spokesman confirmed.

Chief Inspector Mark Cleland, from British Transport Police in Wales, 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.”

Geraint Morgan, community relations manager at Arriva Trains Wales, said: “We take the issue of safety on the rail network extremely seriously.

“Our drivers have seen everything over the years and that’s why they are passionate about passing their experiences on to young people so they know from an early age just how dangerous it can be so they take those lessons with them for the rest of their lives.”

New figures also highlight youth trespass is more prevalent in areas where there is higher socio-economic deprivation.

To help tackle this, Network Rail has also joined forces with children’s charity Barnardo’s to deliver safety education in specific areas of need and where trespass rates are high.

The organisation will raise money for the charity and encouraging their staff to volunteer and help deliver these safety events.

Email:

rory.sheehan@nwn.co.uk

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