Many of our members support Rail Safe Friendly. The programme educates young people on rail safety in schools and has a measurable positive social value.


Colas Rail became gold members of Rail Safe Friendly in June. Pictured at the gold disc presentation (l-r) are: Colas Rail UK CEO, Jean-Pierre Bertrand; Colas Rail head of UK Plant Operations, Tony Birrell; Learn Live UK managing director, Stuart Heaton; Colas Rail UK freight director, Simon Ball; Elizabeth Ballantyne, mother of Harrison Ballantyne and Harrison’s Story campaigner; Colas Rail head of Freight Operations, Sep Semsarzadeh; mayor of Rugby, councillor Simon Ward.
Rail Safe Friendly educates millions of young people on rail safety and has reached nearly 6,000 schools. Hosted by virtual education platform Learn Live, Rail Safe Friendly launched in March 2023.

Network Rail, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), and the Office of Rail and Road all fully support the programme. It is an opportunity for schools and the rail industry to work together closely, with rail industry partners including train and freight operating companies and companies in the rail supply chain. Public safety issues happen across the rail sector. Network Rail, for example, is targeting trespass hotspots to reduce incident numbers, which remain high. Child-related trespass events are common according to 2023 data.

Continuing safety campaign

Using content from the Network Rail Switched On Rail Safety website, the Rail Safe Friendly programme is an extension of the You vs. Train campaign. You vs. Train was launched by Network Rail, the British Transport Police, and industry in 2018. It delivered rail safety messages to children and young adults across the country in an impactful way, to help them stay safe. 

Working with Learn Live means the rail industry reaches more young people in more places, and it widens its important messaging. Rail Safe Friendly delivers rail safety programmes for various age groups, and thoughtful classroom activities. Its content trains children to develop important hazard-spotting—and potentially life-saving—skills.

At the programme’s launch in March 2023, Gemma Lavery, professional head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at RSSB, spoke. ‘By bringing together Learn Live’s virtual learning environment, our insight on rail safety and trespass, funding from Network Rail, and support from the Trespass Risk Group*, we have been able to get life-saving messages in front of the people who need to see them.’

Industry support

Companies sign up to one of five levels of support:

  • partner level: sponsorship of 10 schools
  • bronze level: sponsorship of 45 schools
  • silver level: sponsorship of 90 schools
  • gold level: sponsorship of 150 schools
  • platinum level: sponsorship of 300 schools.

Before Rail Safe Friendly launched, Learn Live had worked with Colas Rail, Network Rail, British Transport Police, and the wider industry on Harrison’s Story, for You vs. Train. This safety film is about 11-year-old Harrison Ballantyne. Harrison tragically lost his life when he was electrocuted by overhead power cables. He had strayed into a rail freight depot to retrieve a lost football and was hit by 25,000 volts of electricity.

Harrison’s mum, Elizabeth, is a close friend of Laura Cook, Colas Rail’s rail services fatigue manager. In early June, Colas Rail became a gold member of the Rail Safe Friendly programme, sponsoring 150 schools across the UK.

Laura said, ‘We have to ensure that this never happens to another child, to another family. There are so many dangers on the railway that people outside of the industry would not be aware of.

‘At some point in life, every child will be near a railway and will need to be aware of these dangers and the possible consequences.’

Community engagement

With high levels of anti-social behaviour and trespass along its network, another CIRAS member says Rail Safe Friendly is a chance to get the message about rail safety into schools. And, to start a long-term community conversation.  

The programme found several new schools to engage with, not only known hotspots for anti-social behaviour and trespass. It can raise awareness of specific local issues, such as unmanned rural stations. It also helps tell communities about the risks of work on the network.  

What is social value?

If we can save even one life, or prevent one person being harmed, then all our safety efforts are worth it.

The term ‘social value’ defines the wider benefits that the railway brings people, communities, the economy, and the environment. Measuring the social benefits of railway development, operations, and outreach—just like Rail Safe Friendly—helps the industry leave a positive legacy and find ways to enhance these benefits further.

The Rail Social Value Tool supports organisations to forecast, measure, evaluate and share their outcomes and social impact. Organisations can use it to identify chances to increase the social value they create, track project outcomes, review operations, and see their achievements. They can also share the social value dataset it generates with regulators, stakeholders, and others, through reporting processes and communications channels.

How is your company building social value through safety and wellbeing? Are you working on this with the wider community or staff? Let us know. Get in touch with your stakeholder manager.

*The Trespass Risk Group is now the Trespass and Suicide Prevention Strategy Group.

Find out more

Rail Safe Friendly

Switched On Rail Safety

Rail Social Value Tool