Criminal behaviour

We have a role in ensuring that Network Rail and rail operators do all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk of crime.

This is critical, as criminal behaviour is the cause of most deaths to members of the public on Britain's railways, mostly due to trespasses.

Acts of vandalism (such as placing obstructions on the track) are also a concern because they can lead to damage, injury, or catastrophic derailment with the potential for multiple passenger fatalities.

As the safety and economic regulator of Britain's railways, we maintain a clear focus on ensuring that all rail industry parties comply with their legal obligations under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act to reduce risks to the general public, so far as is reasonably practicable, through:

  • preventing unauthorised access to the network;
  • making sure the track is kept clear of lineside materials (which can be used in acts of vandalism); and
  • ensuring  risks to the travelling public are reduced. British Transport Police (BTP) lead on matters of criminal damage and the application of railway by-laws on trespass. The civil police may be involved in issues involving vandalism from beyond the railway boundary.

Do duty holders have any responsibility?

As well as the law on vandalism enforced by the British Transport Police (BTP) and the civil police, rail operators have legal duties under health and safety law, which we enforce.

Railway infrastructure controllers (Network Rail on Britain's mainline rail network but also London Underground) have a general duty Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to reduce risks 'so far as is reasonably practicable'.

As part of this duty, they are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to prevent unauthorised access to the infrastructure and to ensure that public safety is not endangered through the presence of uncontrolled railway material left near the track where vandals might use it.