YOUNGSTERS across the country will be looking forward to their summer holidays.

The long, warm days are not easy to fill, and while most children will behave sensibly, some may gravitate towards activities that, while they appear exciting, are fraught with danger - both to themselves and others.

Railway lines can act as a magnet for youngsters looking for something to do. They may stray onto or near the tracks, they might throw objects such as stones or bricks at trains or place them on the rails, endangering the lives of rail staff and passengers.

“School holidays see an increase in these sorts of incidents,” says Leeds-based Inspector Andy Roberts of the British Transport Police (BTP), who oversees an area including Bradford.

“Youngsters are not aware of just how dangerous the area around the tracks can be. On some routes, such as the Skipton to Bradford Forster Square line the electrified trains are so quiet, you can’t hear them coming.

“The fast East Coast Mainline is also very quiet - trains can appear without warning, and at speed they take between one and two miles to come to a halt.”

Other dangers also lurk in this hazardous environment. “There are 25,000 volts in the overhead wires and the electricity in them can arc up to ten feet away, so you don’t even have to touch it,” adds Insp Roberts. “And if it is damp it can arc even further. Children hanging over bridge parapets dangling items put themselves at great risk.”

Items placed on the line, such as bricks or branches of trees can cause damage and delays to services. Delays to trains for reasons such as vandalism not only disrupt people’s travel plans, but can cost operating firms thousands of pounds.

Patrols are stepped up over the summer holidays. “We liaise with Network Rail and are advised by them as to which locations are seen as ‘hot spots’,” says Insp Roberts. “In conjunction with them, we formulate a plan for the holidays.”

Targeted areas in Bradford include Dalcross Grove on the Bradford to Halifax line north of the city centre before trains enter Bowling Tunnel and Ducketts’ Level Crossing in Pudsey.

“We have high-visibility patrols in areas where there are a high number of instances of trespass, obstruction and stone throwing,” says BTP duty inspector Matt Crawford, who oversees an area of Northern England from Sheffield to the Scottish borders. “With lighter nights children are outdoors for longer. The privacy of the railway draws them, going where they can’t be seen. They know they should not be there - there is an element of danger that attracts them.”

Neighbourhood policing teams - of which there are two covering West Yorkshire - visit schools in areas close to hot spots, or approach head teachers about raising the subject in assembly.

“Parents also have a role to play in finding out where their kids are when they are not at home,” says Insp Roberts.

While train delays are temporary, deaths on the railway have a human cost that, for the families of those concerned, will last a lifetime.

Says Insp Crawford: “Over the past three years I have been involved in dealing with the aftermath of the deaths of two schoolkids from West Yorkshire from electrocution. Both youngsters were in areas where they should not have been.”

Network Rail, who work with the BTP, has installed high, robust palisade fencing along many miles of track across the region, but some individuals - normally adults looking to steal cable or equipment - will manage to breach it.

“The gap they create then provides a means of access for youngsters,” says Insp Roberts.

In rural areas, such as those around York, bordering farmers’ fields, fencing is not as robust as they are in urban locations.

“There is no public access, but you will still get kids running across tracks,” says Insp Crawford: “Kids are naturally curious - we want to get the message across that these places are not safe.”

Trespass involving older teenagers and adults too is common, with a sizable proportion of incidents being mental-health-related.

The team Matt leads have worked on campaigns with Northern rail and the Samaritans, which has an ongoing presence through posters in stations.

Anyone caught trespassing on the railways risks being prosecuted and fined for what is a criminal offence, while obstructing trains can, depending on the circumstances, result in a custodial sentence ranging from two years to life.

First offences involving children, again depending on the nature of the crime, are usually dealt with through Community Resolution. “The youngsters will be told about the dangers of what they were doing, and the possible consequences,” says Insp Crawford.

“We don’t see many repeat offenders,” adds Insp Roberts.

*To contact the BTP ring 0800 405040 or text 61016; Samaritans helpline 116 123

For real incidents click on the following BTP videos.

Click here for the first video

, and

here for the second.