A teenager was electrocuted after putting his ear on a live rail track to see if he could hear his delayed train approaching, an inquest heard.
Kanwal Butt, 17, who moved to Aldershot from Pakistan, was waiting for his train home from Godstone after doing a shift at a restaurant on August 7 last year.
An inquest into his death at Woking Coroner’s Court on January 21 concluded that, growing frustrated at a delay to his train, he jumped down onto the track to use the technique sometimes adopted in his native country, with fatal consequences.
His father, Amjad, said in a statement that Kanwal was a lovely, clever teenager who was using a train alone for the first time and was simply unaware that railway lines were electrified in the UK.
In Pakistan, and many other parts of the world, trains run on either diesel fuel or use overhead electricity cables.
He called for increased safety measures to be installed not only at Godstone station but at others around the country to ensure passengers, many of whom were not raised in the UK, are aware of the danger.
Kanwal, whose family moved to Aldershot two years ago, had been getting some work experience in the kitchen at the Lal Akash Indian restaurant in Godstone to earn some money while he was waiting to go to college.
He lived there for three weeks before deciding to return home to Grosvenor Road to celebrate the Muslim festival Eid with his parents, brother and sister.
Parshuram Pandey and Sandip Pokharel, colleagues at the restaurant, described him as a ‘nice, jolly boy’ who was hard-working and keen to learn. They said they were ‘shocked’ to hear what had happened.
CCTV showed Kanwal arrive at the station at 10.10pm with his suitcase. Soon after, he used the customer enquiries telephone to ask what time his delayed train was due to arrive.
Gary Roberts, the Southern Railways CCTV operator who took the call, said in a police statement that he had told Kanwal the train would be five minutes late and advised him to change at Redhill.
At 10.30pm, Mr Roberts received a call asking him to check the CCTV footage as there were reports of a body on the line. The footage showed Kanwal cross the line onto the opposite platform and then come back again. He said the enquiries line had been busy that night and perhaps Kanwal was trying the other machine when he did not receive an answer.
However, the camera then showed Kanwal climb onto the track once more before kneeling and moving his head towards the line.
“Then, all you could see was smoke,” said Mr Roberts.
Charles Choudhary, Rushmoor and Hampshire councillor making representations on behalf of Mr Butt, said the family were concerned that the lack of information presented to Kanwal, both about the electrified line and the delay to his train, had directly resulted in the accident. He also suggested the teen could have been looking for something on the tracks and not listening for the train.
But British Transport Police’s Detective Sergeant Stockdale, who supervised the investigation, disagreed, saying: “I see what you’re saying, but it also makes sense to use the footbridge nearby to cross the track.
“I agree we all get stressed when we are trying to get home, but I don’t think there is any evidence on the CCTV that he was so distressed he could not use the footbridge.”
Ruling out the possibility of suicide, Belinda Cheney, assistant coroner for Surrey, recorded a verdict of accidental death.
“I have not seen any evidence to suggest this is anything other than a misunderstanding,” she said. “This is a sad and tragic accident for such a young man with such a bright future ahead of him. We would all like to pass our condolences to you.”
Following the verdict, Cllr Choudhary maintained more should be done to keep railway passengers safe. “There are people who don’t understand how things work in the UK. We need some kind of system to help them,” he said.