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Why has train surfing become a modern phenomenon for all the wrong reasons?

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on Jan 8, 2017

The accidentalTrain 'surfers' death of British free-runner, Nye Frankie Newman, 20, on the Paris Metro on New Year’s Day, has cast a spotlight on “train surfing.”
Although there was initial internet speculation that he died as a result of this activity, Mr. Newman’s parkour group insists this wasn’t the cause. Although this fatal accident is still under investigation, there have been a number of recent deaths caused by this online phenomenon. Whilst the act is illegal in many countries, it has not stopped a recent surge in the number of videos posted on Youtube and across social media platforms. It has gripped the attention of a worldwide online audience and the number of uploads are continuing to grow. To give just some indication of its popularity, at least 87 people were arrested towards the latter part of 2010 in Melbourne for train surfing. Then in 2011, Russia announced that over 1000 train surfers were arrested within ten months. And in India,153 people were prosecuted every single day in June 2012 on its Central Railway. Rail operators are now looking into more ways that they are able to deter this activity and raise the penalties.

What is train surfing?

It describes the act of jumping onboard a moving train, tram or any form of rail transport. This activity is highly dangerous and life threatening with the possibility of electrocution, the danger of falling off as well as colliding with rail infrastructure like bridges, tunnels and platforms. It has become an extreme hobby and adrenaline rush as people aim to successfully mount a train travelling at terrifying speeds. Consequently, the act is illegal in most countries.

Learn more about SmartRail Europe 2017.

Making the headlines last month was a young group of British teenagers who filmed themselves riding on top of the Parisian metro. The main offender Rikke Brewer who subsequently uploaded the footage to his Youtube channel had strapped a camera to his body as they performed the lethal stunt. The video is named: ‘Train surfing Paris!! (Nearly caught)' and after just a month the video has received 299,094 views. Paris transport network chiefs RATP condemned the stunt and said it would take legal action against those behind it. A similar act was carried out along the metro in 2013 which ended in the ‘surfer’s’ death. “Such behaviour is extremely dangerous, irresponsible and reprehensible,” RATP said in a statement. “That is why we have decided to contact judicial authorities.”

The video of Rikke Brewer's activity can be seen here (contains some strong language):

Following this was the story making the press this week about Nye Frankie Newman's death, a freerunner from Surrey and friend of previous train surfing offender Rikke Brewer. The teenager died in a mysterious “train accident” and the cause of death is yet to be confirmed. However, sources have denied the claim that Newman was involved in train surfing at the time of his death.


It isn't uncommon for some groups of train surfers to organise events to ride on local trains inviting dozens to participate in. This has resulted in a recent spike of activity with an ever increasing death toll. In response to this, some countries' rail networks have set up an intolerant approach by employing railway police and guards to prevent the act from taking place. In some areas, police officers and guards patrol a territory of large passenger stations and freight yards, and can arrest train surfers if they are spotted. On some occasions police have been known to arrange unexpected raids to remove the perpetrators. A zero tolerant approach was introduced by Indonesia in 2012 when a rail company started using suspending concrete balls above the railway – a tactic that was greatly criticised.


Recent incidents in Melbourne, Australia in November last year were committed by a gang known as ‘The Sky High Idiots’ who are now under police investigation, but have no intention of stopping their stunts. "It's completely our decision and if we want to risk our lives doing that then it's what we're going to do," one of the group told 9 News last week. 

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Topics: quirky, TransportSecurity

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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