Network Rail and National Highways have reached an agreement that will see the two government bodies join forces to fight graffiti.
Many railway bridges over England’s motorways are disfigured by graffiti. While illegal trespassers put themselves in great danger while they are defacing public property, it also costs millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money each year to remove graffiti from motorway bridges, much of it offensive and ugly.
Up to now, the problem has been tackled from the railway. As the bridges are railway property, they have been cleaned and repainted from above, meaning the railway has to be closed and special machines used that will allow workers to access the outside of the bridge parapet. Often, that meant the motorway had to be closed too.
The new agreement in the North West will allow highway workers to clean and repaint the bridges while the motorway is closed for other reasons. This will save having to close the railway as well.
Network Rail will provide materials and paints so National Highways contractors can carry out the clean-up work.
Chris Pye, Network Rail’s infrastructure director for the North West, said: “It’s not right that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being spent cleaning up illegal graffiti and it’s an unnecessary cost which frustrates both Network Rail and National Highways each year.
“We hope that in pooling our resources we will make motorway journeys for drivers more pleasant and reduce disruption for rail passengers through railway closures. It will also send out a strong message to those who want to deface our property that it won’t be tolerated on either the rail or road networks and we will look to prosecute anyone committing this dangerous and careless crime.”
Paul Elliott, National Highways’ maintenance service manager for the North West, said: “Our partnership with Network Rail in the North West is just one of the ways we’re tackling the blight of graffiti on the major A road and motorway network across the region.
“Graffiti is unsightly, a distraction to drivers and costly to get rid of – up to £10,000 at a time. We’d rather use that money to improve our roads instead of cleaning up graffiti, often having to close lanes and carriageways in the process.”
The new partnership supports Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ commitment to get tough on graffiti on transport networks. He commented: “The blight of graffiti on our railways must be tackled, and I am delighted to see that Network Rail and National Highways are working together to deal with this problem.
“Removing graffiti will improve the appearance of our railway and roads, making journeys more pleasant for everybody.”
It is extremely dangerous for those trespassing onto tracks to commit acts of vandalism, as well as being a criminal offence. Trespassing on the railway is a crime – punishable by fine of up to £1,000 – and a number of trespassers on the railway are killed each year by passing trains (17 in 2019/20, down from 35 in 2017/18).