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Parents told to keep children off the rails after school closure sparks rise in trespassing in Kent

Rail bosses have urged parents and carers to keep their children indoors after seeing a rise in trespassing on the railways.

There has been a spike in trespassing and vandalism on the live rails across Kent with 16 cases recorded since schools were forced to shut on Friday due to the coronavirus.

Network Rail has warned parents to keep children off the tracks. Photo: Network Rail
Network Rail has warned parents to keep children off the tracks. Photo: Network Rail

Network Rail has raised concers the railways could become a "catastrophic playground for young people" in the coming weeks.

Head of public and passenger safety, Allan Spence, said: “Each year, we see hundreds of people taking risks on and around the railway, resulting in tragic consequences and life-changing injuries.

“Please talk to your children, access our free school railway safety lessons and help us to help protect young people.

"It’s straightforward: everyone loses if you choose to step on the track.”

It follows an incident yesterday in which a bicycle was thrown on the track and hit by a train at Swanley.

A train struck a bike on the tracks near Swanley. Picture: Network Rail Kent and Sussex
A train struck a bike on the tracks near Swanley. Picture: Network Rail Kent and Sussex

Trains were ground to a halt between Dartford and Gravesend also after a mattress was thrown on the line at Stone Crossing.

This meant services to Maidstone had to be delayed, revised or cancelled as a result.

More than 13,500 trespass incidents occur on the rail network each year, a quarter of which involve young people.

Managing director of Network Rail Southern Region, John Halsall, said: “Young people think nothing bad will happen to them but sadly we know that’s not the case.

A mattress on the tracks halted services from Gravesend to Dartford
A mattress on the tracks halted services from Gravesend to Dartford

"This period of school closures is likely to last for an extended time and we are already seeing a rise in incidents.

“Our railway is so dangerous, with electrified rails at ground level and trains running 24 hours a day even with the impact of the coronavirus, I can only appeal to parents and carers to make sure the message is reinforced - please stay away from the tracks.”

Network Rail has launched a safety campaign alongside British Transport Police to draw attention to the consequences of stepping out onto the lines.

Parents can sign up for free online tutorials of the You Vs Train railway safety lessons here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent


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