We all teach our kids about road safety. Even now it seems the Green Cross Code is embedded into our psyche and we pass these essential personal safety skills on to our children.
But how many of us teach our children about the dangers on the railway? With the demise of the TV public information films and headteachers facing ever more pressure to meet targets and deliver curriculum, are our children getting taught these messages? A recent survey showed that two thirds of parents hadn't discussed rail safety with their children.
This week, there was a tragic fatality on my rail line. It's opened up some old memories. Ones that I'd prefer to forget. I've seen things that I can't unsee, heard stories that I wish weren't true.
I worked for over 10 years on the railway, joining at the tail end of what was British Rail. The things I learnt in my training are ingrained. But how many members of the general public know these facts?
Did you know for instance, that the overhead power cables can carry over 25,000 volts of electricity? Did you know that this silent and invisible killer can jump and arc by up to 9ft? Did you know that the electricity (both overhead and on third rails) is ALWAYS on - not just when a train passes through as some people alarmingly think.
I'll never forget the time I saw a (very tall) man walking along a platform. He had his young daughter up on his shoulders. In her hand she was holding the ribbon to a foil, helium filled balloon. He thought I was totally crazy when I asked him to put his child down. Until I explained.
|Photo credit: www.trackoff.org|
Or the time I was waiting on a platform and saw a group of boys playing dares with each other. They were early teens, and were egging each other on to see who could stand closest to the edge of the platform for the longest while a train came in. They were stood, toes on the edge, chests puffed out as a train pulled in, inches from them. I got a load of verbal and a karate style kick in the back as thanks for giving them a rollicking. I got my own back though. I took the CCTV footage of them into their headmaster and it was shown to the entire school assembly. They were also shown some rather graphic photos by the British Transport Police. Weren't so cocky after that.
One of my many roles on the railway was in HR. Part of that role included delivering training and induction courses to new entrants. During the safety session we'd show CCTV of a student on a platform. She leaves her suitcase by the edge of the platform and wonders off to check the departure board. In that moment a high speed train passes through, the turbulence whisks the suitcase off with the train and her entire year's work is spread for miles. Paper blowing in the wind. If the video elicited giggles, we'd simply say: imagine if that wasn't a suitcase, but a buggy with a child in it. That normally turned them green.
You see, the yellow lines are there for a reason. Trains can travel at 125mph. The turbulence they can cause is powerful and you can be pulled under with the slipstream if you are standing too close.
Up to 60 people are killed each year in this country crossing the tracks. Of course, unlike a car, a train can't swerve out of your way. Nor can it stop quickly - it can take up to a mile and a half to come to a complete standstill.
OK, OK, I know it's a fine line between teaching your kids to be safe and sensible and scaring the hell out of them. For this reason, I'm not the person to do it!
There is a wealth of information and resources available to parents and teachers. Schools can arrange safety talks and visits from the British Transport Police. The information is tailored and age appropriate, so please, please take a look at some of these useful links and spend some time talking to your children about how to enjoy the rail network and stay safe. Why not encourage your nursery or school to cover it too.