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British Transport Police

Rail partnership warns against dangers of level crossing misuse following shocking ‘railway selfie’ craze

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Hashtags like #railphotography and #railwayshoot have escalated dramatically in recent years ― with more than 1M uses on trend-setting apps like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.

The dangerous craze has contributed to a rise in illegal access to level crossings in Wales ― with 433 serious incidents recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

The figure was announced today (07 July) by Transport for WalesNetwork Rail and British Transport Police (BTP) ― alongside a stark warning for Welsh residents and visitors alike to stay away from the tracks or risk potentially fatal consequences.

The safety message is shared in an emotive new film, inspired by a series of real-life incidents.

Released alongside CCTV footage of everything from casual “railway selfies” in Harlech to a full-blown photoshoot on the tracks in Neath, it’s hoped that the news will help the three Welsh rail partners to curb the growing trend ahead of the summer school holidays.

A mother poses her toddler on the tracks to take a photo

It’s all part of “At What Cost?” ― a Transport for Wales, National Rail and BTP safety campaign, designed to raise awareness of the very real dangers of  level crossing misuse in Wales and the UK.

Ronnie Gallagher, Route Level Crossing Manager at Network Rail said: “Our campaign has been designed to complement our priorities of risk management, education and enforcement ― all while encouraging people in Wales to consider the true cost of taking a risk at a level crossing.

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“With an expected rise in staycations and holidays to Wales this summer ― not to mention the imminent arrival of the school holidays ― there has never been a more important time for us to launch a safety awareness campaign around level crossings.”

Centred around a hard-hitting film, the joint campaign illustrates some of the motives people cite for taking risks at level crossings ― whether to save time, show off in front of friends or take an ‘Instagrammable’ photograph.

Highlighting the true, sometimes fatal, costs of these actions, the film tells the story of three shocking incidents on the tracks ― all through the emotive power of poetry. What’s more, the poem is narrated by members of railway staff from the three organisations ― each of whom have personal experience in dealing with near-misses and even fatal incidents at level crossings.

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Jody Donnelly, train driver at Transport for Wales said: “Over the years, myself and many of my colleagues ― from within station, driver and conductor roles ― have had to deal with hundreds of frightening and sometimes tragic occurrences at level crossings.

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“People seem to think that the worst won’t happen to them ― but if you’re caught short at a level crossing, it simply isn’t true. Unlike cars, trains can take hundreds of metres to stop when travelling at top-speed, meaning that a decision to nip across the tracks can be fatal.

“I have no doubt that our campaign will help to save lives this summer ― and with this, I hope it will allow myself and my team to rest a little easier… Knowing that despite rising social media trends, our customers are educated on the very real dangers of level crossings.”

The film features as part of a Wales-wide advertising campaign this summer ― appearing across TikTok, Instagram and Spotify, complemented by youth-outreach presentations at schools and holiday parks ― with the aim of driving awareness among young people in Wales.

Richard Powell, Inspector at British Transport Police said: “Messing around on level crossings ― including lingering to take photos ― is illegal and extremely dangerous. You could be taken to court and face a £1,000 fine.

“Trains approach almost silently, so if you’re distracted, you won’t notice until it’s too late. Take care around level crossings. No photograph is worth the risk to you or the consequences for your family and any bystanders.” 

For more information on the dangers of level crossing misuse and how to avoid incidents, please visit https://tfwrail.wales/about-us/travel-safety/level-crossings or visit Transport for Wales, Network Rail or British Transport Police on Facebook.

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