Network Rail has issued a safety plea to the public not to let helium balloons loose near the railway after one caused delays to rail passengers when it got tangled in 25,000-volt overhead electric cables that power trains on Merseyside
The foil balloon got caught on the high-voltage overhead wires in Prescot, causing delays to three trains between St Helens and Liverpool Lime Street. Engineers had to close the line and switch off the power to trains to and from the Liverpool City Region, so the balloon could be safely removed.
Helium-filled balloons cause dozens of train delays for passengers across Britain each year. Network Rail recorded more than 600 balloon-related incidents across England, Scotland and Wales over the last ten years.
In addition, other items, including garden trampolines, get blown onto tracks and delay trains. Lines have to be closed, and the power switched off, so they can be removed safely.
People who live close to the railway should make sure that lightweight garden equipment is securely pegged down so it can’t be blown away and onto the tracks.
Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “While helium-filled balloons are fun, they pose a real safety and performance risk to the railway.
“Our advice is not to let them loose outside, especially if you’re near the railway. Leave them indoors, away from high-voltage equipment, so we can keep trains running on time.”