Former Manchester United and England footballer Paul Scholes, who co-owns Salford City Football Club, helped to launch the initiative in Walkden.

Over the past 10 years, more than 360 people have lost their lives while trespassing on the railway – and almost half have been young people under 25. There have been over 2,700 reports of trespass by young people on Britain’s rail tracks since the start of 2015.

Paul Scholes gets involved with Walkden Launch
Paul Scholes gets involved with Walkden Launch

Paul Scholes recently attended a session at Christ the King RC Primary School in Walkden, Manchester – one of more than 100 schools across Britain that will take part in the project in 2016.

Focusing on children aged 7–11 in around a dozen trespass hotspots, it aims to regularly reinforce the educational messages at school to discourage trespass and reduce the number of incidents.

    “Our club is a big part of the community and we want to work with schools and Network Rail to help make young people aware of the injuries that can happen and the dangers of playing on the railway. “It was great to see how football can help drive home those important safety messages and if Salford City FC can help prevent one more injury, then we’re winners all round.”

Paul Scholes

Fun and engaging PE sessions with coaches and players from local sports clubs support the classroom-based learning about how to stay safe around the railway, including how to safely use level crossings, the dangers of electricity and the speed of trains.

Pupils of Christ the King RC Primary enjoying their Rail Safety lesson
Pupils of Christ the King RC Primary enjoying their Rail Safety lesson

The Tackling Track Safety Project is also aiming to work with Network Rail’s community safety teams and community groups across the country to deliver diversionary activities for teenagers and young adults in disadvantaged areas. These will range from street games, such as football or cricket, to music, drama or art.

The reasons for rail trespass are varied, from perceived convenience – taking a shortcut along the tracks – to a spur-of-the-moment decision, for instance to pick up something mistakenly dropped from the platform edge, or thrill-seeking.

There are significant risks, with 22 fatalities to trespassers in the year 2014/15 and 869 trespass injuries recorded over the same period.

Being struck by trains is the biggest danger, accounting for 72 per cent of all trespasser fatalities over the last 10 years, but in 2014/15 the percentage of trespasser fatalities in the UK caused by electrocution is 27 per cent – almost double that of the previous year.

Britain has the safest railway in Europe but still too many people lose their lives on the tracks. 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 that exist. Taking a shortcut or messing around on the tracks can result in serious life-changing injuries or death.

“Together with The Tackling Track Safety Project we have developed a fantastic new curriculum-based programme combining classroom learning and sports activities.

“We know that having superstars and coaches from clubs like Salford City FC helps inspire and engage the kids and drives home the important safety messages designed to keep them safe.”

Graham Hopkins, Network Rail director of safety