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"On the railway a split second can make a difference."

Sajid Ismail, a train driver for Avanti West Coast, on the effect of trespassing and why he wanted to educate about its dangers.

23 April 2021

Having joined the railway nearly 20 years ago as a driver, I have experienced many trespass incidents. The consequences of these incidents can stay with people forever, which is why I wanted to share a driver’s perspective at Network Rail’s Rail Safety Live 3 event.

The annual event, which educates young people about safety on the railway, provided a great platform to highlight the issue of trespassing. Many are unaware of the dangers the railway poses and I’m pleased to play my part to encourage people to think ahead and keep themselves safe.

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When sat in the driver’s seat we have a responsibility to get our customers and onboard colleagues to their destination safely.

Drivers must stop immediately and inform the signaller when a trespasser is on the line. But a train’s braking capabilities means it cannot stop instantly. The combination of the speed as well as the weight of the train means when a driver sees something untoward and applies the emergency brake, it is some distance before the train comes to a halt. When travelling at 125 miles per hour our Pendolino trains have a stopping distance of one mile.

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Until the trespasser is apprehended by the British Transport Police, trains must travel at significantly reduced speeds. This delays people’s journeys – not just the train involved but others passing through the area, which can have a knock-on effect across the wider network.

Because the train is on a track, drivers cannot steer out of the way or make a sudden manoeuvre to avoid something in its path. In these situations, everybody gets scared – the driver being met with someone on the tracks who shouldn’t be there; and the trespasser faced with a train speeding towards them.

"One wrong move can lead to devastating consequences."  

People do not seem to grasp the risk of crossing tracks. On the railway a split second can make a difference – trains suddenly appear. Trains run day and night. The infrastructure, such as the overhead wires, which supply power to trains are always live. Therefore, it poses a constant danger.

The tracks are not a steady surface - you can easily trip or fall. One wrong move can lead to devastating consequences, which can cause trauma for the families and railway workers involved.

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Young people need to understand something as ordinary as taking a shortcut or a picture is not worth it. They should ask themselves: “Do I really want to take that chance?”

Experiencing a trespass incident can affect you. When you come that close to fatal consequences or life-changing injuries involving another human being it is often something that doesn’t leave you.

Images: Sajid Ismail at Manchester Piccadilly station 


Watch Sajid speaking at Rail Safety Live 3 below:

Along with the risk of serious injury railway trespass is a criminal offence which can carry a fine of up to £1000 as well as the risk of a criminal record. The railway is full of hidden dangers, if you’re not hit by an unexpected train you’ll be hit by the lethal current in rails and power lines. Anyone who spots someone trespassing should report it to a member of railway staff or contact BTP by text on 61016 or by calling 0800 40 50 40. Always ring 999 in an emergency. For more information on the far reaching consequences of trespass visit www.youvstrain.co.uk