A new team of specialist police officers will be patrolling near railway lines in parts of Yorkshire amid fears the start of the school holidays will prompt a rise in potentially fatal cases of trespassing.
The British Transport Police (BTP) unit are carrying out plain clothes and uniformed patrols in a bid to stop people going on railway tracks around West Yorkshire.
It comes days after a 17-year-old boy died from electrocution from overhead power cables when he jumped over a fence and climbed onto a freight train in Wrenthorpe, Wakefield.
And last month BTP released footage of teenagers “larking around” on a crossing in Leeds as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of trespassing on the railway.
The team of officers have already started patrolling priority areas along the Trans Pennine line from Marsden to Micklefield, focusing on Milnsbridge, Lockwood, Dewsbury and Seacroft.
They are also patrolling along the line from Leeds to Wyke, focusing on the Pudsey, Laisterdyke and Bowling areas, and will continue to police the areas during the summer holidays.
The team of four officers, brought in from other parts of BTP, is the only one of its type in Yorkshire, though there is also one in Manchester, and has been set up because of the relatively high number of trespass incidents in the county.
They will also be tackling other offences relating to the rail network, such as throwing stones at trains or placing items on the line to be run over.
Chief Inspector Lorna McEwan of BTP said: “The team have an in depth knowledge of geographical hot spots in the West Yorkshire area and will carry out plain clothes and increased visibility uniformed patrols in the areas in a bid to deter people from going on the tracks.
“These patrols are vital to reducing disruption on the railway and crackdown on the number of incidents of trespass, obstruction on the tracks and route crime involving items thrown at trains.
“The teams will work closely in partnership from colleagues from Network Rail and train operators who are often our eyes and ears.
“I would also like to appeal to members of the public who may see anyone trespassing on the tracks or playing near the lines to report every incident to us. We take all reports very seriously and this type of crime is a priority for us.
“Traditionally these incidents increase during the school holidays, risking lives and damaging and delaying train services.
“The message is clear – we want children and young people to remain safe this summer holiday and not risk their lives.
“No officer wants to have to inform parents that their child is never coming home because they were killed playing on the railway. Our team will be tackling this problem head on and targeting areas where youngsters are drawn to, in a bid to crackdown on this serious problem.
“Apart from the obvious risk to life, trespassing endangers train passengers and drivers. Our officers will be out there and if you are trespassing or obstructing the railway you will be caught and dealt with.”
As well as the extra patrols, police say they are doing engagement work in schools and local community organisations.
They are also urging parents to keep an eye on their children during the holidays and to make sure they know their whereabouts.
Miss McEwan said: “We are appealing to parents and guardians to help the team by warning children of the dangers of the railway and to make themselves aware of where they are playing or hanging around this school holidays.”
Last week the inquest was opened into the death of Wakefield teenager Kyle Bradley, 16, who died from electrocution after climbing on a freight train in Wrenthorpe.
Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard the Wakefield’s Cathedral Academy student and two friends had jumped over a fence on Fox Lane before climbing onto the train on the overpass.
Last month, BTP announced that they are investigating after children were caught putting their lives at risk “larking around” on a railway crossing in Leeds.
Three youths were recorded on CCTV interfering with the telephone used to contact the signaller at Ducketts Crossing in Daleside Road, Pudsey. One jumped onto the tracks before running across the line to get to the telephone box.
Inspector Granville Sellers, of BTP in Leeds, said Ducketts Crossing was the most problematic in the Leeds area. There were 30 incidents at the crossing in a three-year period.