Network Rail

Network Rail owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure. We run, maintain and develop Britain’s rail tracks, signalling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and 20 key stations. We operate, maintain and invest in Britain’s rail network which comprises:

– 20,000 miles of track (and infrastructure)

– 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts

– 20 major stations – more than half of all passenger journeys start or finish at one of them

– 2,500 other stations – leased to train operators

– 8,200 commercial properties

– We have a workforce of over 39,000.

– Every day 4.6 million passenger journeys are made

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry seeks to reduce the number of suicides that take place on Britain’s rail network through physical mitigation measures at key locations, by offering or signposting support to vulnerable people at points along their suicidal journey or by working with others in local communities and local authorities to support or raise awareness of them.

To help achieve these aims the organisation has a contractual relationship with Samaritans and the British Transport Police and works closely with health and government agencies, other charitable organisations and the world of academia.

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What are your current priorities?

Physical mitigation
The rail industry seeks to prevent suicides on the network in many ways. Where possible it looks to reduce access to means with a programme of physical mitigation works such as platform fencing and creates psychological challenges and barriers to interrupt suicidal thinking across its estate.

Partnership working
We work closely with the British Transport Police (including a specialist mental health and suicide prevention unit) and Samaritans through contractual arrangements. With Samaritans in particular we have an award-winning partnership which has led to a series of national campaigns, the most recent being Small Talk Saves Lives. Network Rail works closely with the Rail Delivery Group as well as Train Operators and Freight Operators to reduce suicides on the railway.

Wider community engagement
We continue to explore ways in which the industry can work together to prevent not only suicides on the rail network but in the communities it is part of. That means increased engagement with our neighbours and improving our understanding and support for local authorities with a view to achieving mutually beneficial outcomes in this area.

The industry has submitted evidence to various Select Committee in England, Scotland and Wales and provides expert advice both at home and abroad on the prevention of suicide in public spaces.

Research & development
The industry commissions bespoke research into rail suicides in this country. The first piece “Why do people take their lives on the Railways in Great Britain?” was published in December 2016. Delivered by the Universities of Middlesex and Westminster. Further research from them has been commissioned for delivery in 2020.

Ground breaking anthropological research (the first of its kind) into rail suicide was undertaken during 2017/2018. Further studies in this area will be taking place during 2019 with the outputs being made available in 2020.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

There are two key challenges that the industry faces. The first is that suicides on the rail network are considered to be the industry’s fault particularly by parliamentarians and local councillors. The industry accepts that it must do all it can to prevent access to its infrastructure. Given that suicide is a societal issue however those identified must play their part in preventing it too and affecting change. Considerable time is spent educating them to this way of thinking.

The second is that on average for the last five years or so 250 people per annum have taken their lives on the railway. It now feels as if a putative ‘glass floor’ has been reached. Leaving the industry now to consider how it should move forward and break through it.

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