Teenagers' deaths prompt demand for better railway warnings

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A coroner has demanded action from the rail industry to prevent people crossing train tracks and being electrocuted.

In a report on the death of a teenager, Berkshire's senior coroner Heidi Connor says: "I cannot conceive of many (if any) scenarios in which electrical power of this magnitude would be open and accessible without significant signage". 

It is said James Fennell, 19, did not know of the live third rail on the ground when he died attempting to cross the tracks at Wokingham station on 1 February 2019.

The Office of Rail and Road declined to comment.

Mr Fennell's death came six weeks after another teenager, Carl Klimaytys, was killed in similar circumstances at Preston Park station in East Sussex. 

Mr Klimaytys' father Volker told talkRADIO: "In this day and age with everything being so health-and-safety conscious, it's like the railway has got a joker card out to be excused. It shouldn't be."

Approximately 40% of the UK rail network is electrified, with the vast majority of those lines powered by overhead cables. 

Some tracks, mostly in the South East, have an electrified third rail but it is feared many people are unaware of this and any signs are often placed at the end of platforms.

"It seems incongruous that the public should need to be warned in an area where there is unlikely to be any member of the public present", Ms Connor adds, "but no warning in the areas where most of the members of the public stand to wait for trains."

Her report has been sent to the ORR and South Western Railway, which operates the line at Wokingham, warning of a risk of future deaths unless action is taken.

A SWR spokesperson said: "We work closely with industry partners to ensure we educate the public about the risks involved.”

Volker Klimaytys added: "It's not enough. People still don't know the live rail is there."

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