The parents of a boy who died after he was electrocuted by overhead power cables have launched a campaign film warning of the dangers of trespassing on the rail network.
The film tells the story of 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne, who died in 2017 after he strayed into a rail freight depot to retrieve a lost football. Despite not touching the power cables, Harrison died at the scene after he was hit by 25,000 volts of electricity which had formed an arc.
Harrison lived in a small village near Rugby, Warwickshire, not served by a railway station. His mother, Liz Ballantyne, said: “I had never realised that I needed to educate my children about the dangers of the railway, as I never realised how close the railway was.”
Drew Ballantyne, Harrison’s father said: “Harrison didn’t touch the overhead power cables on that day. I didn’t know that electricity could jump and arc, and I doubt that he did either.”
WH Malcolm Limited, operators of Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, were fined £6.5m after being found guilty of negligence over Harrison’s death.
The prosecution was brought by the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, after Harrison was easily able to gain access to the depot and climb on top of a stationary freight wagon, where he received a fatal electric shock from the overhead line.
The film, called Harrison’s Story, was launched in conjunction with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry.
It forms part of the You vs Train campaign which aims to deter trespassing.
There were 19,408 trespass incidents on the rail network in the last financial year (2021/22) – the highest number recorded for five years.
A quarter of all incidents involved young people under the age of 18.
Robert Wainwright, head of public safety at Network Rail, said: “Harrison’s Story is a tragic reminder of why it is vitally important that we all know about rail safety and the devastating potential impact that trespass can have, not only on the trespasser, who risks serious life-changing if not fatal injury, but also on their friends and family, and the wider community.”
Superintendent Alison Evans of British Transport Police said: “Telling Harrison’s tragic story highlights how, by educating ourselves and others, we can make the railway a safer place.
“High voltage electricity powers the overhead cables and the third rail 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You don’t have to touch them to risk your life – the electricity can arc, just like it did in Harrison’s case.”