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Case study: You vs Train

Changing behaviour and tackling railway trespassing among teenager boys

Published: 13 Jan 2020

You vs Train

Client: Network Rail, the British Transport Police and the wider rail industry

Agency: Pegasus

Campaign: You vs Train

Timescale: N/A

A quick look

Over the past two years, the number of teenage boys trespassing on the railway has significantly increased. At the centre of the issue was a lack of understanding about the risk. Due to the way their brains work and the impact of peer pressure, teenagers can struggle to weigh up the rational consequences of their actions in the heat of the moment. In order to get through to this audience, we needed to present the rational facts in a highly emotional context.

‘You vs Train’ was a bold and memorable new campaign that resonated with teenage boys and secured the support of the entire rail industry. Rather than focus on statistics which can feel anonymous, we built the campaign around the story of one family whose lives were turned upside down when schoolboy Tom climbed onto a train. He survived but with life-changing injuries. At the heart of the campaign was a social film, supported by paid, owned and earned activity, including influencer and media outreach to help amplify the campaign messaging and give it a sense of gravitas. The results were phenomenal and the data suggests a reduction in trespass incidents in trespass hotspot locations and beyond since launch.


Trespassing not only causes frustrating disruption and delays for passengers – it can also lead to serious injury and death for those involved. Research highlighted that children trespassing on train lines was a persistent issue. This was being done for various reasons, but at the centre of the issue was a lack of understanding about the level of risk. There was a clear need to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of trespassing among teenage boys – the highest risk group. Our research revealed that there is recognition of the risk of trespassing among teenage boys, but the majority underestimate it.

Previous campaigns have been deployed, but the messaging has been inconsistent and activity has been intermittent. What was needed to change behaviour was a campaign that would be backed by all stakeholders with a clear and compelling central message that could be delivered repeatedly through different media.


The campaign identity, ‘You vs Train’, was created, with the direct yet empathic tagline of ‘Everyone loses when you
step on the track’, which tested very well with the teenage boys who were consulted during the planning phase. Rather than focusing on anonymous statistics, the campaign was built around the story of The Hubbards – a family whose lives were turned upside down when 16-year-old Tom climbed on top of a stationary train. Despite not touching them, he was struck by the 25,000 volts carried in the overhead cables. He survived but with life- changing injuries and emotional scars.

Based on audience targeting and the opportunity to tell stories, social media was put at the heart of the campaign by creating a 60-second film, designed to be shared. This film was accompanied by a suite of social content that acted as teasers and reminders about Tom’s story. To maximise intrigue and engagement, the posts took the form of mock social media updates from Tom’s mum’s perspective, talking about the accident and Tom’s recovery.

To add authenticity and impact, real pictures of Tom in hospital were also used. Influencer and media outreach amplified the campaign message and helped to give a sense of gravitas. Targets were identified that would reach teenage boys and their parents.

The mock social posts also formed the basis of the OOH creative, which appeared on billboards in trespass hotspot locations and stations across the country. Additionally, the video also played in cinemas in significant trespass locations and in-app advertising was used to further maximise the campaign’s reach.


The results were phenomenal. The story appeared on every mainstream broadcast media channel at launch, including BBC Breakfast, Radio 1 Newsbeat and Sky News.

Post-campaign research among teenagers and parents found that 92% of children and 95% of adults said they were motivated to take some positive action towards improving rail safety as a result of the campaign. The data also suggests a reduction in trespass incidents, in the trespass hotspot locations and beyond, since launch.

Client verdict

“You vs Train was a compelling and dramatic response to a tragic yet preventable issue. The target audience is notoriously difficult to reach and this bold and thoughtfully developed campaign was designed to reach teenage boys who generally feel invincible. By putting a true narrative at the centre of the campaign, it allowed us to illustrate the real, life-changing impact that trespassing on the track can have in a convincing and memorable way.” Steve Longden, Senior Trespass- Prevention Programme Manager, Network Rail

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