Train companies target stone throwing in school holidays01/06/2010
Train companies are stepping up efforts to crack down on young people who throw stones at trains as schools close for half term.
Operators are determined to tackle anti-social behaviour that can cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of criminal damage every year, money that could otherwise be spent on improving services for passengers.
Although it is extremely rare for trains’ double-skinned windows to be smashed through, each window must be replaced at a cost of at least £500 per window.
Taking a train or carriage out of service to carry out the repair costs an estimated £1,000 a day and can also impact on punctuality and in some circumstances can lead to overcrowding.
The issue is set to be more prevalent during half term this week and during the longer summer break, and train companies are working with the British Transport Police (BTP) and local agencies to tackle it:
• Chiltern Railway continually monitors levels of stone throwing as one of its key performance indicators. It is working with BTP, Network Rail and local councils to tackle the issue by looking at possible changes to prevent it such as blocking off access to tunnel mouths where youths stand to throw missiles; identifying hotspot areas; and educating young people about the dangers and implications. The operator has seen a noticeable reduction in incidence after sending trained staff to speak at schools near hotspot areas.
- Merseyrail has put in place a series of measures to deter and prevent stone throwing including a school visits programme; CCTV; intelligence gathering at potential hotspots; security patrols using designated vehicles for rapid response; and regular communication with Network Rail about the issue.
- Arriva Trains Wales works with the local BTP’s Community Partnership Coordinators to visit schools and youth groups to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of anti-social behaviour, and arrange for groups of younger children to travel on trains accompanied by Neighbourhood Police Team officers; and with Network Rail to improve fencing at many locations.
Train company c2c and BTP London North are looking to run Operation Shellshock for the third year running. The summer holiday campaign targets wider anti-social behaviour issues and sees high-visibility BTP officers work with c2c staff to patrol the network, particularly in known hotspots, and c2c pays for a rapid response car for the BTP to use. Key to the scheme is joint work with Network Rail to educate young people in local schools about railway safety and the potential penalties for stone throwing.
Andy Odell, Police and Security Liaison Officer for the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and a former police officer, said: “The impact and frequency of stone throwing at trains varies widely for different operators, but for those in areas where it happens a lot, it is a costly and irritating problem.
“Some train companies have to repair tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage every year, money which could otherwise be spent on improving services for passengers. In addition there is the knock-on effect on train punctuality and potential overcrowding due to carriages being taken out for repair.
“Stone throwing can also put passenger and staff safety at risk, and safety is of the highest priority for the rail industry.
“That is why operators, working with BTP and Network Rail, are determined to do all they can to minimise the issue, and the expense.”
Superintendent Andy Ball from the BTP said: “We have made progress in this area, with missile throwing down 27% in 2009/10. But it remains a priority for us and it is shocking that this still happens at all. Despite the industry’s continuing efforts to educate young people some of them still don’t realise the serious consequences that can result from this type of behaviour.”
Notes to editors
- The average cost of replacing a carriage window is £500; a side windscreen is £500; a front windscreen is £1,000.
- Operation Shellshock has seen considerable success, with the number of damaged windows falling from 54 in 2007, to 41 in 2008 and 29 in 2009.
- There have been no reported injuries caused by stones being thrown at passing trains.
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