A rising number of straying helium balloons has been blamed for causing hundreds of train delays across the UK every year.

Highlighting the issue, Network Rail said that it has recorded 619 balloon-related incidents in the last year across England, Scotland and Wales.

Balloons that become tangled around high-voltage overhead wires cause delays and disruptions in services as the electricity on the line needs to be turned off to remove them.

A similar incident occurred at Smethwick Rolfe Street Station in the West Midlands when a helium balloon tangled around the overhead wires. The incident is said to have delayed hundreds of train passengers.

“Dispose of them responsibly, and never release balloons into the atmosphere. Respect the environment and prevent unnecessary danger and delays.”

Besides threatening operational safety and causing delays, the problem is estimated to cost the exchequer around £1m annually.

Network Rail London North Western route chief operating officer James Dean said: “If you’re on a railway station platform with a foil balloon filled with helium on a string and it comes in contact with the overhead wires carrying 25,000V, that could cause huge injury or death.

“Ideally, we’d ask people not to bring balloons into our stations at all. Alternatively, carry them in bags so the risk of them floating upwards is minimised.”

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The National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers (NABAS) also voiced its support to the concerns raised by Network Rail. It has launched a campaign to ban flying foil balloons, sky lanterns and similar aerial objects with plastic string or ribbons attached.

NABAS chairman George Oustayiannis said: “Balloons bring fun and colour and a sense of celebration to any event, but please dispose of them responsibly, and never release balloons into the atmosphere. Respect the environment and prevent unnecessary danger and delays.”