Suicide prevention on the railway

How our world-leading, cross-industry suicide prevention programme with Samaritans is helping to save lives.

In 2016/17 there were 237 suicides/suspected suicides on the over ground rail network – 15 fewer than the previous year. This represents the lowest number of suicides events recorded on the railway since the rail industry’s suicide prevention programme began in 2010.

Central to our programme is the belief that suicide is not inevitable and we can work collectively to reduce the traumatic loss of life and devastation that suicide causes.

Working closely with other organisations

In partnership with the wider rail industry, Samaritans and British Transport Police our suicide prevention programme aims to reduce suicide on the railway. We work closely with other suicide prevention experts, national agencies and charities such as Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) to develop and maximise its impact.

We recognise the important role we can play in influencing and supporting a wider community-based approach to suicide prevention – addressing the challenge suicide presents to society as a whole and working with local authorities to ensure that suicide prevention strategies and measures exist for high-risk communities near the railway.

In recent years the rail industry has made significant strides with its partners in preventing suicides on the railway. In the last two years we have seen 47 fewer people take their own lives on our rail network, 18 per cent fewer than in 2015/16. That’s a sobering thought. It means those individuals have gone on to live their lives, and that our staff and customers have been spared the trauma of being involved in potentially tragic events.

Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive

National suicide prevention agenda

The rail industry has become influential in promoting the suicide prevention agenda nationally, focusing its efforts around a number of calls to action including:

  • working to de-stigmatise mental health and suicide and encourage vulnerable people to seek help
  • supporting the Government’s target of a 10 per cent reduction in suicides by 2020/21, with appropriate resources to be made available to ensure it is achieved
  • supporting the implementation of compulsory suicide prevention training for all those in the health sector
  • working with schools to make young people aware of mental health issues to allow them to look after themselves and others.

Our programme

Our suicide prevention programme includes the following initiatives:

  • training railway employees to look out for and offer support to people who may be considering taking their own life on the railway – to date, 16,000 railway employees have received training to intervene in suicide attempts (and in 2016/17 rail employees, the Police and public intervened in more than 1,593 suicide attempts on the railway)
  • working in partnership with Samaritans within the wider community to de-stigmatise suicide and promote help-seeking behaviour
  • traditional mitigation measures, such as fencing to prevent access to the tracks
  • developing new ways to meet the suicide challenge on the rail network, such as a smartphone app for customers to alert us to those they consider to be at risk on the railway
  • contributing our specialist knowledge of suicide prevention to national strategies and guidance so others can benefit from our experience.

Suicide prevention campaigns

The rail industry works in partnership with Samaritans and British Transport Police on campaigns with the aim of preventing people taking their lives on the rail network. Our most recent campaign is Small Talk Saves Lives, a bystander campaign that encourages people travelling on the railway to support those who may be in emotional crisis around them.

Make small talk and you could save a life

Our suicide prevention campaigns