Rail Industry Focus

01.09.13

Hidden dangers

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Aug/Sept 2013

Slips, trips and falls might not seem that dangerous, but 1,600 accidents happened at just 17 rail stations in the last year. Rob Kirk, Network Rail’s marketing specialist, spoke to RTM about station safety and a new accident prevention and awareness campaign he is leading. 

When you think of safety and the railway, it’s usually dramatic images of trains coming off the rails or shocking crashes at level crossings. But sometimes it’s the more minor incidents, which happen most frequently, that need addressing. 

In the past year, there were 1,601 accidents at Network Rail’s 17 managed stations, the majority of which did not involve a train. RTM spoke to Rob Kirk, marketing specialist at Network Rail, about the latest campaign designed to raise awareness around these accidents. 

Behaviour patterns 

Kirk said slips, trips and falls occur “quite consistently” throughout the year, with spikes at certain times: during wet weather, rush hour and late at night. 

“We know from our research that most people who travel through our stations aren’t aware of safety as an issue. One of our campaigns is to raise awareness that [stations] are pretty complex environments and people do need to take care of themselves.” 

The campaign seeks to identify behaviour or factors that heighten the risk of an accident and to make passengers aware of these issues. 

For example, Christmas saw an increase of incidents, helped along by extra alcohol consumption and more crowds. “You just need to look at the stats, through the time of the day – at rush hour you do see a peak in accidents. Which is why it’s important that we continue to do marketing campaigns to raise awareness and hopefully we can combat this.” 

The message is being promoted in stages, with the first out last December to warn of the risks around wearing high-heels, or tripping over baggage. The latest focuses on alcohol and the impact this can have on passenger safety. 

Not wagging the finger 

Kirk emphasised: “We don’t want to go out telling people ‘Don’t go out and enjoy yourself, don’t have a drink’. In fact, we’ve got bars and restaurants in our stations and people use the train as a way not to drive, coming into town to have a drink and leave their car at home. 

“But we all know what it’s like after a few drinks; it does sometimes affect balance and the way you react to things. So we wanted to go out with something that had quite a light-hearted message. 

“We don’t want to wag our finger at people, just to say ‘be aware that if you’ve had a drink, just take care of yourself’. It’s more of an awareness piece around the risks rather than telling people what to do.” 

No laughing matter 

Compared to more high-profile dangers, Kirk acknowledged: “It’s a difficult message because people do think of it as trivial.” 

But he added: “It’s a serious matter. We had over 1,600 accidents in our stations and even a fatality last year. People might not see it as an issue but we take it very seriously.” 

The number of accidents are constantly monitored through a rolling online awareness survey that tracks all Network Rail campaigns. 

Over 20% of the travelling public were aware of the Christmas phase of the campaign and thought positively about it, indicating that the tone was right for the level of risk. 

He said: “Because people do think of it as quite trivial we are starting in a different place from something like our level crossing campaigns, where people see it as a bigger issue.” 

Working together 

The rail industry as a whole does “an awful lot” around station safety, he said, putting mats out when it’s wet, turning escalators off later in the evening, introducing ‘dry’ trains, and so on. 

“There’s a lot of stuff that is done to try to make passengers as safe as possible. 

“The awareness campaigns are all part of that integrated approach.” 

Northern Rail recently launched a similar campaign to protect passengers from accidents around its stations. 

Kirk commented: “Station safety is becoming a more and more important issue for a lot of train operators, so definitely the more we can do jointly, or as an industry to raise awareness in the general public, the better really.” 

Future campaigns could encourage passengers to take more care on escalators, which Kirk highlighted as a big issue, particularly in London. 

“We’ll go back to our station manager group and have a discussion about what the big areas are and look at the statistics,” he said.

rob-kirk

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