Just months after America's largest railroad launched a campaign to get people off the tracks, Britain's rail provider, Network Rail, is doing the same, after one disturbing day showed eight incidents at a single rural crossing. With 6,100 total crossings in their purview, Network Rail is seriously concerned about the safety of its users, particularly as the older crossings do not have many of the modern safety features newer ones do, allowing people to generally walk directly onto the tracks, or as the videos show, even sit on them.
It's no secret that photographers and train tracks have a strained relationship. All too often we see yet another news story about a photographer, videographer, or client who was killed after making the faulty assumptions that trains are loud, move slowly, and provide plenty of time to vacate the tracks. Not only is it illegal to be on the tracks, it's wholly irresponsible to risk your life, the life of your clients, or as this video shows, the life of your child for the same, tired, cliché shots we've seen thousands of times.
What makes the situation particularly dangerous in Britain is that most of these crossings are level crossings, meaning they are at the same level as the rails, often protected by only a gate, a byproduct of the Victorian Era, when trains were slower, safety standards were lower, and selfies on the tracks weren't an issue. As Inspector Eddie Carlin of the British Transport Police puts it:
Trespassing on the railway is extremely dangerous and can have tragic consequences for those involved. I have had to tell devastated families that their loved ones are not coming home due to incidents such as this and it's heartbreaking.
I personally find the issue ludicrous and upsetting on almost every level. These aren't groundbreaking photos being taken; they're simply not worth the risk. It's bad enough to risk your own life, but to risk the lives of your children or clients, or to risk making an engineer live the rest of their life knowing a train they operated killed someone? That's just incredibly stupid.
Network Rail is investing £100 million over the next few years to help mitigate these risks by increasing safety awareness, eliminating level crossings, operating mobile enforcement vans, and increasing detection, and recording of crossing incidents. Nonetheless, I find it upsetting that so much money has to be spent to save us from ourselves. Can't we find a safer and frankly, less cliché place to take photos?