YOUNGSTERS across the district are being warned about the dangers of playing near railway lines.

British Transport Police (BTP) are preparing to step-up patrols as the school summer holidays draw closer.

This time of year traditionally sees a rise in incidents.

“Youngsters are not aware of just how dangerous the area around the tracks can be,” said Leeds-based Inspector Andy Roberts, who oversees this district.

“On some routes, such as the Airedale line between Skipton and Bradford Forster Square, 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.”

But Insp Roberts said it wasn’t only the trains that posed a danger to trackside trespassers.

“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 them,” he said. “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, are also an issue.

They can cause damage and delays to services.

Insp Roberts added: “We liaise with Network Rail and are advised by it as to which locations are seen as ‘hotspots’.

“In conjunction with them, we formulate a plan for the holidays.”

During term-time BTP visits schools in areas where there are known problems in a bid to get the safety message across.

And it says parents also have a role to play, in educating youngsters and knowing where their children are playing.

Duty inspector Matt Crawford said that in the past three years, he had been involved in dealing with the aftermath of the deaths of two West Yorkshire schoolchildren.

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

Trespass involving older teenagers and adults too is common, with many incidents being mental-health-related.

BTP has worked on campaigns with Network Rail and the Samaritans.

* To contact BTP, call 0800 405040 or text 61016.