Youngsters dice with death on rail lines

GANGS of children playing chicken in front of trains on the Felixstowe-Ipswich line were today warned to stay off the tracks because they could be killed.

GANGS of children playing chicken in front of trains on the Felixstowe-Ipswich line were today warned to stay off the tracks because they could be killed.

Rail officials say there have been two incidents in the past two weeks - and in one a train had to stop until the youngsters got off the line.

Education experts from Network Rail will now be contacting schools in the area and seeking permission to go in and present special safety talks. The external liaison officer who deals with educational matters will speak to pupils, show a film, carry out role play activities and give out information to try to make them more aware of the dangers of playing on the tracks.

On Monday March 14, around 20 children were seen playing chicken on the rail line at the end of Hawkes Lane, where a foot crossing links Walton with the west Felixstowe estates of Grange Farm and Orwell Green.

Laura Dobson, a spokeswoman for Network Rail said: "It was a fairly nasty incident with children running backwards and forwards across the line - the train driver could see down the track to where they were and stopped the train because he was so worried."

It is not known how old the children were because they had run off by the time the train then made its approach. There are three schools close to the line.

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Ms Dobson said: "It is extremely dangerous for youngsters to be on the railway line or playing near it - I don't think they realise the consequences it could have, or indeed the impact on the train driver.

"If a child fell or failed to get off the line in time, they could be killed. Trains cannot swerve out of the way or slam on their brakes and just stop.

"Some drivers who have been involved in incidents have been so shaken they have been taken off at the next station and replaced, and others have been off for weeks afterwards."

There was a similar incident involving children on the line on March 7 at the rear of Runnacles Way, just a bit further down the line.

The incidents are part of a growing trend of rail trespassing and vandalism being highlighted by Network Rail as the Easter holidays approach.

The rail infrastructure operator has produced a list of troublesome "hotspots" in East Anglia - and the Derby Road area of Ipswich is one of the most serious areas for people trespassing on the line.

Another area of concern is near Hadleigh Road bridge and the East Suffolk junction.

Miss Dobson said steps had been taken to try to prevent people getting on to the tracks such as new fences.

She said: "But it is also a question of education - we need to get the message across that railways are not playgrounds, and can be very dangerous indeed."

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