Helium-filled balloons have hit the UK newspaper headlines once again, following the announcement from Network Rail that they cause hundreds of train delays for passengers each year.
The transport infrastructure company says that it is looking to highlight what it describes as a ‘growing problem’, with 619 balloon-related incidents being recorded across England, Scotland and Wales in the past year.
Many of these incidents involve balloons getting caught in the overhead wires, causing delays and safety risks while the electricity is switched off and the lines made safe.
A balloon got caught in the overhead wires earlier this week at Smethwick Rolfe Street Station in the West Midlands. Hundreds of train passengers were delayed for more than two hours, and the cost of rectifying the incident was £5,000.
“If you’re on a railway station platform with a foil balloon filled with helium on a string and it comes in contact with the overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts, that could cause huge injury or death,” said James Dean, chief operating officer for Network Rail’s London North Western route.
“Ideally, we’d ask people not to bring balloons into our stations at all. Alternatively, carry them in bags so the risk of them floating upwards is minimised.”
Network Rail claims the annual cost of this problem to the British taxpayer is around £1m a year.