Published: 14:44, 08 May 2019
| Updated: 16:09, 08 May 2019
More people risk their lives on railway tracks in Swale than any other place in Kent, it has been revealed.
New figures reveal more than 250 incidents a week of people messing about on the railway in the South East, taking shortcuts and even selfies – sometimes with tragic consequences for their friends and family.
It comes as Network Rail and the British Transport Police today launched a new partnership with the English Football League Trust (The EFL Trust) and StreetGames to tackle the rising number.
Young people make up a third of all cases and the partnership is hoping to warn and educate risk takers in Kent, Sussex and south London.
A new hard-hitting film aims to educate people about the hidden dangers, especially the third rail, which carries 750-volts to power trains – easily enough to kill you.
The only way to avoid this hidden danger is to avoid stepping foot on the tracks in the first place.
During 2018/19, 521 young people aged 11-18 were involved in trespass incidents in Kent, Sussex and south London, which make up Network Rail's south east route.
When you include adults, that figure rises to 2,562, further highlighting the dangers of stepping on the railway.
In a list showing the number of young people trespassing by council area in the South East in 2018/19, Swale is the highest in Kent with 22 – only four less than Bexley, which was top of the table with 26.
Meanwhile, Thanet had 15 and Medway 12.
In a list of the amount of all trespassers by local authority area in 2018/19, Swale came fourth with 83 – again the highest in the county.
The only other part of Kent to feature in the top 10 was Medway with 48.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, said: “Children, and adults alike, continue to risk their lives by going onto the track and it has to stop.
"Every day across the country we see over three dozen incidents and each one could be a potential catastrophe leading to life-changing injuries or even death.
“Sport is a powerful vehicle for communicating with this hard-to-reach audience, so by working in partnership with these sports charities we hope to be able to reach children and teens in those communities most at risk with this incredibly important safety message.”
The 'You vs. Train' campaign, launched last year by the rail industry and British Transport Police, saw incidents involving children reduce by 12%, but young people are still risking their lives.
Responding to the continued problem, this year's campaign hopes to drive the rail safety message directly to this group.
Robin Smith, BTP assistant chief constable, said: “The lack of knowledge about the potential dangers seems to be why children choose the tracks as a place to take risks, so our main focus is on providing much-needed education.
"By working closely with The EFL Trust and StreetGames, it will give us the best possible chance of ensuring that the message resonates where it is most needed.”
The EFL Trust is the official charity of the English Football League and StreetGames is a charity that runs a network of local projects.
'Children, and adults alike, continue to risk their lives by going onto the track and it has to stop...' – Allan Spence, Network Rail's head of public and passenger safety
Mike Evans, director of operations at The EFL Trust, said: “Bringing about positive change in the community is at the very core of The EFL Trust’s values. Football can be an enormous force for good and have a profoundly positive impact on communities – so we are looking forward to helping tackle this issue in those areas where children and young people are particularly vulnerable.”
Stuart Felce, StreetGames head of community safety, added: “We were alarmed to hear how many young children unintentionally risk their lives on the railway every year. Our projects involve working closely with disadvantaged children and young people every day and so we are perfectly placed to help deliver this safety message in a way that we hope will resonate.”