The festive season should be a time of year when everyone can enjoy themselves and have fun. But partygoers are being advised to take extra care as newly-released data from Network Rail, British Transport Police (BTP) and RSSB reveals a sharp increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents across the rail network during the festive period.
Of the 7,419 recorded alcohol-related incidents on or around the railway in 2016/17, 16% of those took place over the festive period – between 24 November and 2 January 2017. 21 people have been killed due to alcohol-related incidents at the platform edge and a further 91 people seriously injured over the last 10 years.
Passengers boarding and alighting trains were involved in 469 alcohol-related accidents in the last five years.
As a result Network Rail, BTP and RSSB have come together to launch their “keep a clear head” campaign warning the public to take extra care when travelling on or around the railway network, especially when they’ve been drinking alcohol.
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, explains: “Though trains are the safest way to get around, passengers and people living near the railway must always remember that it can be a dangerous place. That’s why we’re reminding the public to remain alert to those dangers whilst they’re having fun over the festive season. Taking a short cut across the tracks, chancing it at level crossings or tripping at the platform edge can, at best cause delays to your journey; at worse it can result in serious harm. Enjoy yourself but don’t let alcohol stop you or your fellow passengers from getting to where you need to be – keep a clear head.”
Tom Lee, Director of Standards at RSSB, said: “Travelling by train is very safe and we want everyone to have a harmless and punctual journey whilst enjoying the festive season. However, with around 469 alcohol-related incidents at the platform edge over the past 5 years, passengers and level crossing users are reminded to take care so that they get to and from their destination safely.”
According to BTP, there is also a rise in violence at many of the busiest railway stations over the festive season, much of which is caused by excess alcohol. Between 24 November 2016 and 2 January 2017, the number of violent offences reported at railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales increased by 14% compared with the same period in 2015/16. Almost one in 10 of those offences involved alcohol.
In response, British Transport Police are stepping up patrols at railway stations across the country.
Chief Inspector John Loveless said: “Unfortunately, during the festive season, we see a rise in public order offences and antisocial behaviour. Much of this is down to the people involved drinking too much and behaving in a way that would shock them and their family and friends if they were sober.
“We want everyone to get to their destination safely. Our officers will be out on the network helping people to enjoy the festivities safely and encouraging them to think about how alcohol can affect the way they behave and the effect this has on their fellow passengers.
“If you’re using the railway to get around this Christmas, please keep a clear head. Think about what you would do and how you would behave if you were sober. There is no excuse for spoiling other people’s journeys or behaving any differently because you’ve drunk alcohol. We want you to have fun but it’s more important to get where you’re going safely.”
In response to the seasonal surge in incidents, Network Rail and BTP will be holding alcohol awareness events at Britain’s busiest rail stations in the run up to Christmas. Both organisations will also be targeting Christmas revellers in pubs and clubs near railway stations and level crossings with a reminder to ‘keep a clear head’.