Railtrack acts to cut suicides

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The Independent Online
Railtrack is to liaise with psychiatric hospitals along one of the country's main train routes to set up an "early warning system" to reduce the number of people who throw themselves in front of trains.

Around 120 people commit suicide on Britain's railways each year, a figure which has prompted Railtrack, which runs the tracks and stations of the train network, to liaise with the Samaritans and mental health experts along the East Coast Main Line from London to Newcastle.

Railtrack is to work with representatives of mental-health institutions sited within 20 miles of the railway lines.

"Ideally it means that if someone under supervision at a psychiatric unit goes absent and there is a fear that person may be at risk of harming themselves, our staff can be alerted," said Sue McKinstry, a Railtrack spokeswoman. "It would essentially be an early warning system."

Up to 75 per cent of railway suicides are committed by men, with the 45 to 54-year-old age group most at risk. Most people who jump in front of trains have a link with the railways; either they live near a train line or have worked in the business.

The 193-mile East Coast Main Line between King's Cross, London and the Scottish border, sees a disproportionately high number of suicides and attempted suicides. Since the line was electrified in 1991, 120 people have killed themselves on it.

A poster carrying the Samaritans' telephone number will ask staff and customers to be aware of people who may be at risk.

"It may just be someone hovering around a platform edge, someone who is looking sad or depressed," said Ms McKinstry.

The Samaritans said people should approach someone who may be in trouble. "People seeking to take their own lives are often just unable to cope with the life they have, rather than life itself," said Emma Borton, a spokeswoman.