The number of incidents of people trespassing on Scotland’s railways has soared 16% in a year to an all-time high, new figures show.
Network Rail and British Transport Police (BTP) said there were 710 incidents across Scotland last year alone, up from 612 in 2015.
Some 56 children were caught encroaching on to the tracks by police in Scotland last year, with boys aged 14 to 16 being stopped the most.
BTP warned there are “real-life consequences” of trespassing on the rail network and said they fear the reality is even worse than the figures suggest.
Superintendent David Marshall said: “We believe the number of children we encounter trespassing every year is sadly just the tip of the iceberg.
“Every single day we are called to the tracks because a train driver has had to sound their horn or apply their emergency brake in a desperate bid to avoid youths on the line, who then run off, seemingly unaware of the danger they have put themselves in.
“We continue to do all we can to keep youngsters safe by patrolling areas where we know they’re likely to trespass and prevent them from doing so. However, we cover thousands of miles of track and we cannot tackle this issue alone.
“That is why we are urging parents and young people to heed this warning and take a reality check when it comes to trespass. It’s not a game: they are real tracks, with real trains and real-life consequences.”
The highest number of incidents was recorded in Glasgow, at 210 last year, followed by 104 in the Edinburgh area.
Across Britain, there were 8,265 incidents in 2016, up 11% on the year before. This is the highest number since current records began in 2007.
On average, one person in Britain trespasses on the railway every hour, the organisations said.
Research shows young people are more likely to take a risk on the tracks, with seasonal peaks in incidents coinciding with the spring and summer school holidays.
Network Rail has launched a schools engagement programme which aims to teach children in trespass hotspots about railway safety.
Simon Constable, head of route safety at Network Rail Scotland, said: “Every April we see a huge rise in the number of people taking a risk on the rail network and it’s worrying that these numbers seem to be going up.
“Britain has the safest railway in Europe but still too many people lose their lives on the tracks. The dangers may not always be obvious but the electricity on the railway is always on and trains can travel up to 125mph, so even if they see you, they can’t stop in time.
“As the railway gets busier and we electrify more lines to improve services, we must work harder to keep young people safe by making them aware of the dangers. It may seem harmless to take a shortcut, or fun to play on the tracks, but this is not only illegal, it is also very dangerous. Taking a shortcut or messing around on the tracks can result in serious life-changing injuries or death.”