Young people are being warned not to use the easing of lockdown and lighter evenings as an excuse to trespass on railways in the region.
Network Rail says the lifting of coronavirus restrictions last summer led to a rise of more than 35% in incidents in Kent and Sussex where young people strayed onto the tracks.
Network Rail and British Transport Police are urging parents to talk to their teenagers about rail safety and the devastating potential impact of trespass to them, their friends and family, and the wider community ahead of the Easter school holiday and the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The calls come as newly released data reveals there was a surge in reckless behaviour on the rail network when the nation emerged from the lockdown last summer, which continued right through to the end of year.
Alarmingly the numbers increased most sharply in the under 18s age group, with a 40% increase in the number of incidents recorded as young people returned to school.
Network Rail’s route director for Sussex route, Shaun King, said: “It’s been such a tough year for everyone but particularly for our young people, who’ve spent so much time unable to live their normal lives or see their friends.
“So I know when we see lockdown end and the sun come out, it’s going to be great for them, but I really, really hope we don’t see what we did last year.
"Trespassing on the railway is unbelievably dangerous, especially here in South London, and Sussex, where we have the electrified third rail and a very, very busy network. If the trains don’t get you, the electricity will.
“So please, before the sun shines and the lockdown eases, have a word with the young people in your lives and remind them of the dangers.”
Trespass is a cause of serious concern for Network Rail, which is why the You vs Train campaign was created in partnership with British Transport Police in summer 2018.
Primarily concentrating on young people, the number of incidents across the railway had been significantly decreasing year on year since the campaign’s introduction.