Uproar as Dutch rail uses ripped clothes to highlight track dangers

The warning uses replicas of torn clothing worn by people killed and injured in railway accidents.
The warning uses replicas of torn clothing worn by people killed and injured in railway accidents.PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE (AFP) - A campaign by the Dutch railway infrastructure operator to shock young people into responsible behaviour near rail tracks using ripped clothes to symbolise the mangled garb of victims hit by trains unleashed uproar on Saturday (April 6).

Operator ProRail said it used the controversial images to show the potential consequences of straying too close to railway lines.

But their "Vict-m Fashion - created by accident" strapline, accompanying ripped clothing was widely branded as shocking.

"I have expressed our surprise, displeasure and horror to the management of ProRail," the head of Dutch rail operator NS Marjan Rintel told ANP news agency, while drivers and politicians were also highly critical.

ProRail, which manages Dutch track infrastructure, launched the campaign on Thursday, showing replicas of badly ripped garments - some missing an entire shirt sleeve or trouser leg.

Other photos show shredded shoes and dresses. ProRail says the shocking images are necessary "to wake young people up and give them a shake."

The company said: "Sadly, bad things still happen too often on and around railtracks because of lack of attention and recklessness," ProRail said.

It added it had "deliberately" set out to shock in a campaign aimed at 12- to 18-year-olds.

Deaths on and around Dutch railtracks have steadily risen in recent years from six in 2016, to 12 in 2017 and 17 last year with minors among the fatalities.

ProRail said many accidents are down to people's attention being fixed on their smartphones.

While NS notably said it felt the nature of the campaign went too far, minister of infrastructure, Stientje van Veldhoven was slightly more measured in his criticism.

"Everyone favours less dangerous behaviour around railway tracks. And communication on this subject is important.

"But the campaign as it has been organised is unduly harsh for drivers (notably those who have witnessed accidents) and the relatives of those killed on the tracks," the minister said.