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Removing swans from the railway

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When hearing about animals on the railway, one tends to think about the occasional escaped cow. Indeed, the Polmont accident in Scotland on 30 July 1984, which killed 13 people and injured another 61, was caused by a train striking a cow.

However, other animals get onto the tracks as well. Increasingly, swans are getting onto the tracks, often close to electrified third rails, where they are in danger of being electrocuted.  Trains are then delayed while staff remove the birds, which can weigh up to 14kg and so pose a threat to train windscreens and other equipment if they were to be struck.

To train staff how to safely remove the large birds, Network Rail Wessex has partnered with the Swan Sanctuary, a charity in Shepperton, Surrey.

Clyde Howarth, Network Rail.

Clyde Howarth, head of operations delivery at Network Rail Wessex, said: “We’ve seen a rise in visits from our feathered friends, and as they have a reputation for being aggressive, we wanted to provide new starters with some training as the staff will need to know how to handle swans on a track which carries 750 volts.

“Our goal is to safely remove the swan from the track as quickly as possible, so that train services can start running again.”

One of the staff who attended the training was James Sinclair, local operations manager at Network Rail. He said: “It was a really useful course which provided some tips and techniques on how to pick-up swans safely.

“I know that if I come across a swan on the track, I feel confident I’ll be able to use the training so that I can remove the swan and take it to a safe place away from the live rail.”

Sally Thompson head of training at The Swan Sanctuary, said: “We’re only too happy to provide the skills to enable Network Rail staff to safely remove the swans from danger to a place of safety.

“We look forward to assisting Network Rail with their swan related issues in the future.”

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