BTP drones in use, via Network Rail

Drones in use to identify rail trespassers

Network Rail and the British Transport Police are teaming up to innovate safety in the rail sector as they are now utilising drone technology to get a bird’s eye view of the railway, increasing chances of finding trespassers quickly, keeping everyone safe and preventing delays.

Trespassing incidents are consistent issues within the UK rail sector, increasing during school holidays and half term as antisocial behaviour can be rife. The drones are being used to identify and find individuals who trespass on the tracks, thanks to them being fitted with special cameras with high quality zoom and thermal imaging to speed up the process of finding the person quickly before they come to any harm.

Trespassing on rail lines can be a huge issue, with incidents being reported in the thousands each year, seeing 1105 instances coming between April 2021 – April 2022. These incidents can be incredibly dangerous to those committing the violation as they are putting themselves at risk of trains traversing the tracks at high speeds.

Whilst individual safety is a major concern for trespassing incidents, they also create and economic burden for the sector as they can cause delays to services, with £3.5m worth of delays being recorded in the recent April to April timeframe alone. The implementation of these drones will hopefully reduce the length of time trains are stopped in the area, minimising the impact on services.

In the first half of this year, April 2022 – April 2023, there have already been 572 trespass incidents, resulting in 21,021 delay minutes at a cost of £1.1m to the industry.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said:

“We’re already seeing the benefits of having this technology, in terms of finding people quickly and reducing the length of delays for passengers. The railway is full of danger, both obvious and hidden and this new equipment will help us and the British Transport Police to keep everyone. 

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