Bereaved mum calls for safety education as trespass incidents hit 18,500

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As the school summer holidays approach, the mother of a young boy who was electrocuted by overhead power cables is calling for children to be taught about rail safety as a matter of urgency.

Today (27 June) marks the sixth anniversary of the day that 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne died. He was struck by 25,000 Volts of electricity after trespassing into a rail freight yard located more than a mile away from his home. Harrison’s mother – Liz Ballantyne – has joined forces with Network Rail and the British Transport Police (BTP) to ask that parents and carers talk to their children about the dangers present on the railway, as a matter of priority, before the school holidays begin.

Latest figures show that there were 18, 517 trespass incidents on the British rail network in the last financial year (2022/23), 20 per cent of which (around 3,700) involved young people under the age of 18.

Ms Ballantyne said: “The summer holidays should be about freedom and I always encouraged Harrison to go out and have adventures. I taught him about ‘stranger danger’ and to be careful around water, but I just hadn’t realised that I needed to teach him about rail safety as there was no railway station near our village. I learnt of its importance too late, but I don’t want others to suffer as I have. Please sit down with your children and loved ones and talk to them about the dangers present around the railway so they know how to keep themselves safe whilst they are out having fun.”

The tragic tale of Liz’s son has been made into a short film ‘Harrison’s Story’, part of Network Rail and BTP’s anti-trespass You vs Train campaign. The film was launched last year and has been played to hundreds of thousands of school children, helping to significantly reduce trespass in the high priority areas where it has been shown.

Trespass is a huge problem on the railway with thousands of incidents recorded each year. Though last year saw a drop in the number of trespass incidents involving young people, overall trespass numbers remain too high – almost one for every mile of track in the country – and are yet to drop to the levels recorded in the pre-Covid years.

Louise McNally, trespass prevention lead at Network Rail, said: “Harrison’s Story has been a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that trespass can have, not only to the trespasser but also their loved ones and the wider community. It is important that we share his story and learn lessons from it so that we can ensure that another family does not suffer as the Ballantynes have.”

To learn more about the You vs Train campaign, visit www.youvstrain.co.uk. 

Image credit: Network Rail

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