Tram-surfing craze sweeping cities puts children in danger

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The Independent Online

A craze among young people for "tram-surfing" - clinging to the outside of moving carriages - has forced a city to redesign its fleet of hi-tech vehicles.

A craze among young people for "tram-surfing" - clinging to the outside of moving carriages - has forced a city to redesign its fleet of hi-tech vehicles.

Manchester has taken the action on the new Eccles extension of their system after youngsters were spotted tram-surfing as they sped through Salford. The 32 trams will be sent back to the workshop to have an outside ledge removed, preventing children from gaining a foothold.

"We're extremely concerned about this," said Jane Nearney, a spokeswoman for the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. The executive has sent representatives to schools to warn children of the dangers, and promises a new classroom campaign in the autumn.

The sport is a version of the deadly train-surfing craze that first surfaced in Brazil, where it claims up to 200 lives a year. Children and teenagers cling to the top or sides of the trains, often at high speed, ducking under bridges and electric cables.

Train-surfing came to Britain in the late 1980s with a series of horrific accidents and deaths on British Rail. A more recent spate was blamed on the hit movie Mission: Impossible, which had Tom Cruise clambering on train roofs.

The tram-surfing has arrived thanks to the rebirth of street car systems in Sheffield, Birmingham and Croydon as well as Manchester.

In Sheffield, the Supertram managers said roller-bladers had joined the surfers, clinging on to the back of the trams at 30mph. A police clampdown seems to have ended that practice. In the latest outbreak in Manchester, children have been seen clinging to vehicle mirrors. These examples of teenage bravado may appear gentler than the railway version, but the authorities are still extremely concerned at the prospect of death or injury.

Cheryl Bevan, from Serco Metrolink, the operating company, said: "We're already re-engineering the outside of the tram so the children won't be able to hang on.

"It's travelling at only 20mph, but even at that speed if you fall off it won't be good for you. It would also be quite easy to be run over by a car."

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