14 December 2022
Technology used by Network Rail aims to curb number of trespassers on the railway through education.
Virtual reality is now being used by Network Rail to teach school children about the dangers of trespassing on the railway. The goal is to drive down the number of railway trespass incidents in the North West by combining sport and railway safety sessions using the high-tech headgear. Since November 2021 there have been 2,127 trespass incidents across Network Rail's North West route.*
Between March 2021 and March 2022 there were 19,408 trespass incidents on Britain's rail network – with a quarter of those involving under 18s. To tackle those numbers Network Rail has teamed up with the Stockport County Community Trust to work with young people in Greater Manchester. Since the summer the two organisations have been working together to encourage healthy play and railway safety awareness.
Chris McLaughlin, Network Rail community safety manager, said: “There’s a real buzz from the children when they use the headsets, and however hard I try I never get a reaction like that from my Powerpoint presentations. Combining the lessons with the football sessions feels like we’re onto a real winner.
“Working with a sporting team like Stockport County Community Trust has so much more influence and it really helps us to deliver our important railway safety message alongside an agency which people already respect, love and trust.”
Matthew Bailey, Stockport County community partnership manager, said: “It’s great to be teaming up with Network Rail so we can both promote the work we do for local communities. The feedback we’ve had so far from schools and groups taking part has been really positive, with the virtual reality and football mix proving to be a real hit with the children.”
The latest session took place at Dial Park Primary School, when 45 year 6 children received their important safety lesson. The students were shown two different scenarios through the headsets leading up to a dangerous outcome. This included being in the train cab with a driver as they approached a trespasser on the track, and then from the perspective of a group of teenagers leading up to one of them touching electrified steel rails on the ground which power trains.
Network Rail Community Safety Manager Chris McLaughlin gives rail safety lesson.
The sessions form part of the rail industry’s joint You Vs Train campaign to discourage young people from going on the railway. This autumn saw a powerful new video launched called Harrison’s story – about 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne who tragically lost his life when he was electrocuted by overhead power cables after straying into a rail freight depot to retrieve a lost football.
For more educational resources on railway safety and information visit Network Rail’s community safety programme on its website.