In Stockport we are quite rightly proud of our heritage architecture. Perhaps most of all of our iconic viaduct, which towers over 30 metres above the Mersey and is a Grade II listed structure. The viaduct is also a crucial link in our railway network, used by all the train companies to connect Stockport passengers with the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, trespassing on the railway network is an increasing problem according to Network Rail, reaching a five-year high in 2018. Network Rail says that teenagers, particularly boys, are amongst those most likely to trespass, and they do not fully understand the dangers they are putting themselves in.
There are spikes in trespass incidents at key times during the year – one of which is during the summer holidays.
Last month we had an incident in Stockport, when a vulnerable older man got onto the viaduct in the early morning and was only brought down safely almost 24 hours later following specialist help from the police and emergency services. I am very grateful to those involved in managing to avoid a tragedy.
As well as putting lives at risk, this dangerous incident also resulted in absolute chaos on the railway that day. With the line closed, no trains could stop at Stockport and passengers faced huge delays and cancellations. There was a knock-on effect on train services across the network.
Network Rail has taken measures such as end-of-platform fencing and heat cameras, to prevent trespassing at Stockport. I am making enquiries to see if more could be done to prevent people getting onto the viaduct itself in future, such as railings on the viaduct itself. This option would require special planning permission because of the listed status of the viaduct. And from my enquiries it seems that if an individual is determined to walk along the tracks, railings on the viaduct would not prevent them.
This makes it all the more important that the railway industry works with local communities on these vital safety issues. You Vs Train is a new campaign, launched jointly by the rail industry and British Transport Police, which includes a graphic video aimed at young people. I hope teachers, parents and the Council will support the campaign which spells out the dangers which people put themselves and others in if they step onto the railway track.