Track Test study shows how trains kill

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Two entertainers put their hearing to the test in a unique experiment as part of a new Network Rail safety campaign aimed at young men.

Last year two people were killed after trespassing on railways in the North West - contributing to 20 deaths in five years, including seven in Lancashire.

Wretch32 and George the Poet front Network Rail's new safety campaign Track Tests

Wretch32 and George the Poet front Network Rail's new safety campaign Track Tests

Nationally, 16 to 24-year-old males make up 40 per cent of deaths.

However, despite most agreeing it is dangerous to trespass on tracks, a survey revealed more than half of these males think they would hear a train in time to move out of the way.

A new Track Tests video shows how rapper Wretch 32 and spoken word performer George the Poet battle to make a split second decision, relying on only their hearing to work out which direction a train is coming from as it travels towards them at 80mph in the dark.

The artists stood in a warehouse where a mocked-up railway with a ‘spoke’ of tracks was built. Sound engineers created a 360 degree surround-sound system to recreate the noise of an approaching train with other distracting noises such as wind and traffic.

In the test, Wretch and George each stood in the middle of the spoke and, when they were sure which direction the sound was coming from, selected a corresponding button.

Wretch 32 said: “I’ve got 97 per cent hearing, so should have a good idea of where sound is coming from. As soon as I stepped into the Track Test simulator and the normal sounds you’d expect to hear when you’re on the tracks, like traffic noise, are added, I didn’t make it across in time.

“No matter how much confidence you’ve got in your hearing and speed, when you’re in the dark and a train is coming towards you at 80mph, confidence is not enough to get you across safely.”

It is very easy to become disoriented as sound from tracks or nearby can be reflected off fences and buildings and cause an illusion that the train is approaching from the wrong direction.

Dyan Crowther, Network Rail route managing director said: “Too many people think they would hear a train in time to move clear - tragically we know this isn’t the case.

“The sound of a train approaching is much quieter than you would imagine with the wheels pushing noise out sidewards rather than forwards and distorting what you hear.

“Trespass is just not a risk worth taking and so we hope that Wretch and George can help get across this message and reduce the number of incidents we see each year.”

British Transport Police (BTP) has also launched Operation Avert, which will target 64 hotspots across Britain over the next six weeks to reduce trespass with increased patrols, increased community engagement and real time monitoring of CCTV.

Detective Chief Superintendent Miles Flood, from BTP, said: “Billions of pounds have been invested to give us a fast, modern rail network.

“Trains are very fast and often surprisingly silent, particularly if you aren’t paying attention.

“We spend thousands of police hours combating trespass to keep people safe and minimise disruption to the network.

“If this campaign can prevent one BTP officer having to tell someone that their loved one has been killed or maimed, it will be worth it.”

The Track Tests video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/networkrail

People can also pit their wits with a Track Test game at www.youtube.com/user/networkrail/TrackTest.