Dancing On Ice champion Joe Swash has partnered with Network Rail and Thomas And Friends for a campaign to teach children about rail safety.
The former EastEnders actor features in a short film, reading from Stay Safe With Thomas, a book to help parents broach the topic with young children.
Swash tells the story of a “cheeky little engine” – Thomas the Tank Engine – who learns being safe is more important than being silly when using the railways.
After a day of reckless behaviour, Thomas is taken to task by The Fat Controller, who explains how his actions could have hurt other people.
Swash, who is father to two children, said he and his partner, Loose Women panellist Stacey Solomon, had only just begun to have conversations about the issue.
He said: “Rail safety is something I knew Stacey and I should talk to the kids about, but we thought it was something they might learn at school when they are a bit older.
“We had talked about being careful when out near the road, but even though we use the railways often, we didn’t really know where to start and we didn’t want to scare them.
“Our kids love Thomas the Tank Engine and when we read the book, they loved it.
“The activities at the end got them thinking too and it was such a gentle way to get the message across.”
Allan Spence, head of public and passenger safety at Network Rail, said: “Last year there were over 3,500 incidents involving young people going on to the track. That’s dangerous and illegal.
“We hope that by encouraging parents to start these conversations earlier, we will see more young people growing up aware of the risks and using the railway safely.
“We are delighted Joe has joined us to help show parents how easy these conversations with children can be, by just reading to them or showing them a short film with a much-loved TV character.”
The book is also being distributed to nurseries, pre-schools and primary schools by Network Rail’s community safety managers.
Free copies of Thomas And Friends: Stay Safe With Thomas can be downloaded at www.networkrail.co.uk/thomas