Safeguarding railways against trespass and vandalism

clip_image002Trespass and mindless vandalism of railroad property is not only a costly annoyance but also the cause of many fatalities in the UK. Network Rail’s latest figures put the number of trespass related deaths at 18, and a further 280 of which were suspected suicide. The consequences of which extend beyond just loss of life but also inflict trauma on train operators and passengers and often cause extended delays while the scene is investigated, dealt with and train drivers are replaced.

Education of course plays a key part in preventing vandalism and trespass of railway sites. TV campaigns, school visits and advertising campaigns can all help, particularly during the school holidays when many children and teenagers are left unsupervised.

Why does trespass happen?
The dangers of trespass on railways should not be underestimated. There is of course the danger of being hit by an oncoming train or dragged under a train, the risk of being injured in a place where you are unlikely to be discovered and of course the risk of electrocution by both overhead power lines and power lines on the ground. So with that in mind what are some of the reasons that trespass happens? They can include the following:

  • To commit vandalism and criminal damage
  • To take a shortcut to a destination
  • To pick up a lost object like a football or shoe
  • To chase after an animal who has ended up on the tracks
  • To discover a new place to ride a bicycle, motorbike or other vehicle
  • To hunt or shoot
  • To steal valuable materials such as copper
  • To obstruct trains or fire missiles at passing trains

What does the law say?
The law is very clear in the treatment of trespass on railways and offenders risk fines, imprisonment and criminal records. Criminal damage has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, trespassers risk heavy fines and trespassing children face fines billed to their parents. Throwing missiles and obstructing trains carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

What can railway networks do to protect their property and prevent trespass?
Railway networks can use a mixture of chain link fences, barbed wire, barriers, posts, bollards and natural vegetation to prevent access to their sites. This acts as a deterrent not only to criminals but also any dog walkers and children who might not realise they are close to railway tracks.

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