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Spy Cameras To Trap Train Vandals

SPY cameras will be used to name and shame vandals who are wrecking the rail network in the North West.

SPY cameras will be used to name and shame vandals who are wrecking the rail network in the North West.

Railtrack's campaign will identify and expose school-age offenders by supplying video material to headteachers when the new term begins in September.

For the first time, Railtrack staff armed with video and stills cameras will ride trains in known trouble-spots, sitting up front with train drivers to catch vandals in the act.

The surveillance equipment will take digital pictures of the tracks ahead of the train, recording acts of criminal damage as they happen.

And special keyhole cameras have been installed inside carriages to catch offenders vandalising the interiors of trains.

The crackdown, backed by British Transport Police, has started throughout Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales, where an estimated £500,000 of damage has been caused in the last 12 months.

Digital cameras are better suited to surveillance work because they can store more images than a traditional one. But digital images are not allowed to be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions.

Railtrack hopes the threat of being found out by teachers or parents will be enough to act as a deterrent for many offenders.

A Railtrack spokesman said: "The whole point of the campaign is to identify young vandals and trespassers in the act, so that when schools return after the holidays, we can arrange meetings with the teaching staff and get the safety message across to those pupils concerned.

"We can then tell them about the danger they placed themselves in as well as telling them what were the consequences of their actions."

The vandalism crackdown was launched last month and comes as Railtrack battles to return services to normal after months of disruption while work was carried out on the tracks in the wake of the Hatfield disaster.

Last year, there were 715 incidents of trespass and vandalism in Merseyside and North Wales, which delayed trains for a total of 495 hours.

Operators can be fined up to £60 for every minute their services are delayed.

In June, vandals set fire to signalling equipment in Northwich, damaging 80 signal relays and forcing Railtrack to put staff next to railways lines to instruct drivers with hand signals, causing delays to passenger services.

During the same month, Railtrack recorded 19 incidents of stone-throwing and three incidents of trains hitting objects on the line such as shopping trolleys and a lorry tyre.

In another incident, a herd of cows was hit by a train, killing several, after lineside fencing had been removed.

A Railtrack spokesman said: "The amount of railway crime always escalates in the summer months. The days are long and children quickly become bored. It is then that they take it out on the railway and their foolhardiness can mean delays and damage to trains, injury to staff and passengers as well as themselves.

"We will be able to show the headteacher photos of what they are up to. We cannot force headteachers to act, but we hope they will," he said.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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