MORE youngsters are risking their lives by trespassing on railway tracks than ever before.
Shocking figures released by British Transport Police today show trespassing incidents on train tracks are at an all time high.
Last year alone there were 1,142 incidents where people risked their lives on the rail network in the North West - a 22 per cent rise on the previous year.
Simon Munn, a British wheelchair basketball player who was part of the hugely successful Team GB at both the Rio 2016 Paralympics and the London 2012 Paralympics, tragically lost his leg in a railway accident when he was 22 years old.
Simon has enjoyed some great success as a Paralympian, but the events that set him on that path are harrowing.
He said: “I decided to walk home from the pub. I didn’t live too far, just across the railway. I had somehow ended up on the wrong side of the track. I had to walk an extra five minutes to get to a crossing. I thought, ‘nah, I’ll just jump over, it will save me time’.
“As I crossed the track I got my foot caught. I don’t know how long I was there, but I heard the train coming. I couldn’t move. Trains moving that fast can’t stop in time to miss you and they can’t swerve. It’s too late by then.
“I spent the next few weeks in hospital and had to have my leg amputated. Now I really know what the cost of trespassing and taking shortcuts can be. I was lucky it wasn’t my life. For anyone who messes around on the railway or thinks that it’s safe as long as you can’t see a train, I would say the dangers are real. It’s not cool, it’s not funny. It’s not worth the risk.”
Research shows youngsters are more likely to take a risk on the tracks with seasonal peaks in the spring and summer school holidays.
Iain McLaren from BTP in the North West 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.”
In 2016, more than 90 children were caught trespassing by police in the region, with boys aged 14 to 16 being stopped the most .
Nick Jordan, community safety manager at Network Rail, 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 the electricity on the railway is always on and trains can travel up to 125 miles per hour, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.
“As the railway gets busier and we electrify more lines to improve services, 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.”
Network Rail has launched a schools engagement programme, which aims to teach children in trespass hotspots about railway safety.
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.