Trespassing on train tracks killed six people last year

Trespassing on train tracks killed six people last year
Credit: Belga/Ine Gilles

The number of pedestrian trespasser reports on Belgian railway tracks increased in 2022 – for the first time since 2017 – rail infrastructure operator Infrabel reported on Thursday. These intrusions led to the death of six people, compared to five in 2021, and caused a record 10 hours of delays per day.

In total, Infrabel recorded 649 cases of trespassing onto its train tracks last year, up 10% from 2021. Such incidents typically involve pedestrians crossing the tracks at a station or walking on railway property, the company specified. The true number of incursions is likely far higher, as many incidents go unnoticed or unreported.

Trespassing onto train lines is an issue across all of Belgium’s regions and provinces. 294 cases were reported in Flanders, 274 in Wallonia, and 108 in Brussels. If caught, offenders risk a fine of €300 while for repeat offenders it is increased to €500.

Nearly half (43%) of the intrusions took place between 15:00 and 19:00, with a peak of incidents during the evening rush hour between 17:00 and 19:00. Infrabel says that incursions onto the railway’s property can have a massive impact on traffic, as it forces trains to slow down or stop.

Last year, trains accumulated a record 21,409 delays due to trespassers, or an average of 10 hours per day. This has almost doubled compared to 2021, where trespassers caused 108,988 minutes or roughly five hours per day.

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Unfortunately due to the nature of rail travel, it is impossible to close off all sections of the Belgian rail network, which encompasses around 3,600 kilometres of track, Infrabel said. The operator is instead working to secure 49 “hotspots” where the highest number of incursions occur. Infrabel blocks the entrance to train tracks with concrete barriers, anti-intrusion mats, and security cameras.

On 14 February, Infrabel equally announced that the number of accidents at level crossings had fallen sharply in 2022, dropping to 32, down from 46 in 2021. On the other hand, the death toll has risen, with there now being almost one fatality per month on average.

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