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Edition No. 70

Date:- 18 October 2002


Railtrack is urging youngsters throughout the North West to stay away from railway lines and not treat them as playgrounds or targets for vandalism during the school half term break.

Fortunately, following a vigorous campaign by Railtrack, the British Transport Police and the train operators, the last six months have seen railway crime falling by an average of 11% each month compared to last year. Initiatives such as sponsoring football in the community, taking part in 'safety town' schemes, visiting schools, improving fencing and using CCTV have all helped get the message across.

Railtrack North West route crime manager Sam Coppin said:- "The new figures are very encouraging and show that the industry's efforts to highlight the dangers of railway crime are making a very real impression throughout the North West."

"However, we still need to hammer home the message that trespassing on the railway is an extremely dangerous thing to do, even on a line that has relatively few passenger trains, because there may be engineering or freight trains in the area or other diverted services."

Modern trains are fast and quiet. They can be virtually on top of a trespasser before they know it, and unlike a car, the train cannot swerve out of the way. They also cannot stop immediately. Long distance passenger trains can weigh several hundred tonnes and, travelling at up to 110 mph, can take almost a mile and a half to stop.

Not only is there the danger from the trains themselves, but also rails and sleepers can often be slippery or tripped over causing injury to trespassers. Points can be moved by the signaller without them knowing that there is someone on the line and it is possible for the trespasser to get trapped in them and end up with a crushed foot.

Vandalism poses serious threats to trains, their drivers and the passengers they carry. Objects placed on the tracks can cause damage to underside equipment meaning lengthy delays for passengers while repairs are carried out. At worst they could result in the derailment of the train. Stones and other missiles thrown at trains can have a devastating effect on both the driver and passengers, who can end up with glass in their eyes and needing hospital treatment.

Anyone who sees somebody trespassing on the railway or doing anything else that they should not, is urged to report it to the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. The number is open 24 hrs a day and the calls are free.



Journeys on the Merseyrail electric rail network are even safer than before, now that the entire system and all the trains have been fitted with the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS).

Railtrack has fitted 86 signals and 14 sets of station buffer stops with the equipment, while Arriva Trains Merseyside has installed the kit in all of its rolling stock, making it the first self-contained main line rail system in the UK to be fully fitted.

TPWS is designed to reduce the risk and consequences of three specific types of incident:-

· signals passed at danger
· derailments as a result of trains exceeding speed limits on bends
· collisions with buffers at stations

Working with the Health and Safety Executive, Railtrack has identified some 12,000 locations on the rail network to be fitted with this safety system. 

It works by detecting whether the signal is set at red. If it is, two pieces of equipment on the track (called TPWS loops) are activated. The first loop starts a timer on the train as it passes over it. If the train then passes over the second loop with the timer still running, it knows that the train will not stop before it gets to the red signal, so automatically makes an emergency brake application. The train driver is unable to override the brake application for a set period.

The emergency brake application will then bring the train to a stop within what is known as 'the overlap'. This is a safe overrun distance past the signal, typically 200 yds, and is the margin beyond the signal before which there is a risk of a collision or derailment.

The Railway Safety Regulations 1999 require TPWS to be operational by 1 January 2004. Railtrack, the train operators and the Health and Safety Executive have been working together to accelerate this deadline and introduce the significant safety benefits this system offers at an earlier date. 

Tim Clarke, Railtrack's North West zone director said:- "This demonstrates our commitment to continually improve safety and reliability on Britain's rail network. With the completion of the Merseyrail system, the zone is well on course to meet the revised target for fitting all relevant signals in the north west by the end of the year."

Councillor Mark Dowd, OBE, Chair, Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority added:- "Trains are the safest form of land travel and as an ex train driver I am delighted about this investment to make the system even safer by installing modern track and train technology, which will benefit all who operate and those who use the rail system within the Merseyside area."

Southport Reporter is Trade Mark of Patrick Trollope.   Copyright © Patrick Trollope 2002.