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'Created By Accident': Dutch Company Defends Controversial Rail Safety Clothing Campaign

The national rail company said its 'Victim Fashion, created by accident' campaign targets young people in the hope of making them more aware of the dangers around railway tracks.

The campaign features 13 items of damaged clothing, including half-torn jackets and shirts,  replicating what victims of actual rail accidents were wearing at the time.

"The stories behind the items of clothing have been adapted to ensure the anonymity of the victims, but are based on true accidents," ProRail said.

The company said it decided to focus on 'victim fashion' because young people largely engaged with fashion pages on social media.

"It hopefully makes young people think," it said.

"That is the first step towards behavioural change to reach the goal of 0 fatalities."

According to the nation's Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, rail-related fatalities have been steadily increasing over the last two years, rising from 6 deaths in 2016 to 17 last year.

ProRail said accidents were caused by lack of attention, being busy on mobile phones, being in a hurry and recklessness.

Image: ProRail

One of the clothing items, a pair of badly ripped pants, is based on the story of survivor Mike Lingen, who lost a leg and one of his ears when he fell between a platform and a train.

"As a joke, I ran with a train to say goodbye to my friends, just like in the movies," he recalled for the campaign launch.

"That innocent-looking action haunts me, my friends, and my family for the rest of my life."

The campaign features on a specially-designed 'victim fashion' website which allows users to click on an item of clothing and find out the real-life story behind the accident.

But since launching the campaign just two days ago the company has faced a tonne of backlash online  with people slamming the campaign as 'disrespectful', 'disgusting' and 'mindless'

The country's State Secretary of Infrastructure Stientje van Veldhoven reportedly said the campaign was inappropriate and "unnecessarily harsh."

She said it was also too confronting for train drivers and the families of victims.

READ MORE: Watch The Moment This Dutch Cyclist Narrowly Escapes Train Collision

READ MORE: Instagrammers Slammed For Hanging Out Of Train To Get The Perfect Photo

Image: ProRail

Others have supported the campaign, however, saying it was necessary to be harsh to get the message across.

ProRail has since released a statement over the backlash saying they knew the campaign would be "impactful" and was deliberately chosen to reach young people.

"We see that the campaign does indeed appeal to young people in a good way and encourages them to think about unsafe behaviour on and around the track," it said.

Image: ProRail

The company also said it regrets that people who have been affected by rail accidents either personally or at work were touched by the campaign in a "confrontational manner".

"Of course we fully understand these reactions and sympathize with everyone who is touched. Precisely because we know how much impact a rail accident can have, we want to warn young people to prevent unnecessary accidents from happening."

Contact the author vgerova@networkten.com.au