17.2 Targeted campaign to prevent trespassing


What does this measure refer to and what is its objective?

This measure aims to inform the public of new or little known rules, increase problem awareness or convince people to refrain from hazardous behaviours and adopt safe behaviours.


Best practice and lessons learned

  • Effectiveness depends on having a targeted type of incident and audience. To be effective, a campaign should address target incidents that are locally and temporarily relevant. Example of target incidents can be shortcutting, rail crossing in station, loitering, vandalism, risk-seeking, etc. Both the target incidents and the audience should be clearly identified in order to design the campaign as well as to assess it impact. This can be done through data collection and observation at site. We recommend that campaigns be based on a solid foundation: databases, statistics, research.
  • The message should be optimised for different media channels, including social media.
  • Collaborative approach involving stakeholders has been also emphasized as a success factor.
  • The responsible staff must be trained so that they have the knowledge and skills of how to design and implement effective targeted campaigns.
  • Work with social media influencers to deliver the message to highly vulnerable or target groups. Example from NetworkRail: https://www.thestorycatchers.co.uk/our-work/network-rail

Warning points

Expected difficulties and issues you should pay attention to

  • Fast decline expected; needs to be repeated for durable effect.
  • Be aware that sometimes in an environment your main language is not the only spoken one. So maybe your text on flyers, billboards or messages in community centres should also be in foreign languages. In this sense, pay special attention to the areas with high ethnic minority populations.
  • Acceptance may depend on the target incidents as well as on the approach chosen to deliver the message. For example, fear appeals (using explicit pictures of crashes, casualties, injuries and blood, and the related emotions of pain, sorrow and grief of victims and relatives) might have contrasted effects depending on the culture and the group.
  • Poorly designed campaigns can be counterproductive e.g. regarding suicide. Campaigns might also have the contrary effect of informing about the railway as a means of suicide (for some) rather than dissuading use of the railway as a means of suicide. Be careful with the message “trespassing is dangerous” this could attract possible suicidal persons to the tracks. It is better to address to “the delays caused by trespassers” and “the number of people that are inconvenienced by those delays”.


Other points that you should not forget

  • A media campaign has virtually no effect if it is not combined with other measures. It is recommended to reinforce information campaigns by combining them with physical / environmental measures (such as fencing or prohibitive signs), education (e.g. talk at school and at railside factories, leaflets distribution) or supplementing them by incentives (rewards for safe behaviour) or enforcement procedures (such as punishment or police enforcement).
  • Interactions with external elements passing contrasting messages (e.g. action movies) can yield unexpected results.
  • Try to get authority to fine trespassers and communicate about this in the media.
  • A campaign and discussions in the society that leads to preventative measures would give more long term effects.
  • In Belgium the cost of the measure was €800,000. Contact person: Catherine Limpens.
  • Technologies like websites, mobiles devices etc. may provide new access to targeted audiences. They can also decrease costs related to media coverage. For example this campaign from Spain targeted at different age groups: https://www.seguridadferroviaria.es/normativa/material-divulgativo
  • Similar operational experience can be seen in Germany where DB in cooperation with the German Federal Police conducted awareness campaigns about the dangers of railway infrastructure aiming at youth: link DB and link Police

Study results

Data or other evidence supporting the measure's effectiveness

  • A campaign consisting of environmental intervention (fencing repairing), educational campaign (talk at school and at rail side factories, leaflets distribution) and new warning signs and posters resulted in changing the occurrence of unsafe track crossing behaviour from 65% to 37% for adults and from 47% to 34% for children (Lobb et al., 2001).
  • Public communication alone did not decrease unsafe crossings (Lobb et al., 2003)
  • A media campaign has virtually no effect if it is not combined with other measures like enforcement and/or education (Hoekstra & Wegman, 2011)
  • From internal analysis in Belgium it appears that such a campaign did indeed change the mentality of people and we can speak of a positive impact on trespassing.

last update: 2022-01-24