There were 268 incidents of suicide on the national rail network during 2018/19. The level has been relatively static over the past five years, with approximately 250 incidents of suicide each year. This represents 4% of the total number of suicides nationally.
The trauma and devastation caused by suicide and the social impact on all those affected is immense. In addition, there is a significant operational and financial impact to the industry. There were 846,740 delay minutes linked to fatalities (which includes non-intentional deaths as well as suicide) on the railway during 2018/19, with associated costs more than £68m.
There is concerted activity by the rail industry to manage the risk and put in place suicide prevention strategies.
The industry’s suicide prevention programme is a partnership between Network Rail (NR), the Samaritans, the British Transport Police (BTP) and the wider industry. The programme also works closely with other suicide prevention experts, national agencies and charities such as Public Health England and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance to develop and maximise its impact. This programme has been recognised as an exemplar externally, and the previous Suicide Prevention Minister met rail representatives to discuss how learning from it can be shared more widely.
As a result of this work, there were nearly 2,000 lifesaving interventions on rail last year. Six people were saved for every one that took their life.
I was also pleased to see that over one hundred railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales took part in the Samaritans’ Brew Monday earlier this week, with volunteers handing out teabags to commuters and people passing by so they can share a cup of tea with someone they care about and to help people become better listeners.