Safety warning as first Overhead Line Equipment for Metro goes live

Written by on 31st May 2023

Trespassing on railway lines in South Wales is more dangerous now than it has ever been, warns Transport for Wales (TfW) and the British Transport Police.

The risk death or serious injury for those who continue to trespass on the rail network has increased significantly with the introduction of ‘live’ Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) for the South Wales Metro carrying 25,000 volts – the equivalent of 100 times standard household electricity.

Contact with OLE is fatal nine times out of 10, with the heat generated from a shock of 25,000 reaching temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees Celsius.

In 2022 there were more than 1,000 recorded incidents of trespass on the Core Valleys Lines alone, which could have been fatal if the OLE was energised.

Lois Park, Head of Community and Stakeholder Engagement at TfW, said:

“The first section of electrified OLE is another significant milestone for the South Wales Metro project, but it brings significant risks for those who choose to trespass on the network.

“The OLE system has been designed to keep people safe and as long as everyone respects the railway boundary and does not trespass onto the railway, they will be as safe. But for those who may have gotten away with trespassing on the lines in the past, the risk of serious injury and death is now significantly higher.

“Within the next two years the whole of the Core Valleys Lines will be electrified to allow TfW to run our brand-new trains, so we are committed to working with communities to make everyone aware of the danger.

“People should stay at least 2.75m away from the OLE at all times as you don’t have to touch it directly to be electrocuted, and take extra care when carrying objects such as umbrellas, helium balloons and fishing rods.”

TfW has been improving security around the network with measures such as additional fencing and extensions to safety barriers on bridges.

But there have been a number of incidents of cable theft and damage in recent months, which have resulted in severe damage to equipment and disruption to services.

In February an empty passenger train struck damaged cables close to Llandaff station following an attempted theft, resulting in delayed and cancelled services into Cardiff for several hours.

BTP Wales and Borders Superintendent, Andrew Morgan, said:

“Trespassing on the rail network is something we take extremely seriously. Not only is it illegal, but the railway is full of hidden dangers that can result in serious and life-ending consequences. It is also one of the biggest causes of train services being delayed across the network, with just over 200 hours of delays caused in Wales alone last year- purely because of trespass incidents. We continuously work with train operators, partners and local communities to raise the awareness of these dangers and we always take action against those who trespass whenever we can.”

Anyone caught trespassing on the rail network could be taken to court and fined up to £1,000.

You can help by reporting suspicious behaviour on the tracks to the British Transport Police:

  • Call 0800 40 50 40
  • Text 61016
  • In an emergency call 999
  • Or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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