Communicating suicides on the railway

22 June 2015

Transport Focus has undertaken research looking at communications with passengers in the event of a suicide on the railway. In doing so we worked closely with Network Rail and the Samaritans. The research was funded by Network Rail on behalf of the rail industry.

A key purpose was to establish if, from a passenger perspective, there is a better phrase than “person hit by a train” as the explanation for delays and cancellations following a suicide. The need to understand passenger opinion was driven by belief within the rail industry that the phrase may be advertising the railway as a place to commit suicide.

The research is clear.  Irrespective of whether passengers accepted the premise that “person hit by a train” may be leading to copycat behaviour, they did not like the phrase. It was regarded as too graphic.  It was regarded as insensitive when spliced into a computer-generated public address message. The phrase which passengers in the research strongly preferred was “emergency services dealing with an incident”. It was felt to be honest and convey a sense of gravity, while not being unnecessarily graphic. However, passengers felt that if an individual specifically asked about the nature of the incident, for example in conversation with a member of station staff, they should receive an honest response.

In the light of these research findings, Transport Focus has recommended that for top level communications the rail industry moves to using “emergency services dealing with an incident” in place of “person hit by a train”.

If anything is troubling you the Samaritans are on 08457 90 90 90 or you can email

Since the publication of this research Transport Focus has received a response from the National Task Force/Rail Delivery Group

Communicating suicides on the railway - June 2015-600dpi.pdf
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