Lessons learned from the collaborative European project RESTRAIL: REduction of suicides and trespasses on RAILway property

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RESTRAIL was a three year EU FP7 research project which aimed to help reduce the occurrence of suicides and trespasses on railway property and the costly service disruption caused by these events. The project was coordinated by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and provided the rail industry and researchers worldwide with an analysis of the most cost-effective prevention and mitigation measures. The goal of this paper is to inform the railway and scientific community about the successful completion of the project and to present an overview of the main results and key innovations.

The project covered five relevant issues which significantly contributed to improve the prevention of railway suicide and trespass, and to mitigate their consequences: (1) collection and analysis of data related to railway suicides and trespassing accidents and information about preventative strategies; (2) assessment of preventive measures to reduce railway suicide and trespass; (3) assessment of measures to mitigate the consequences; (4) pilot tests to evaluate some promising measures on the field; and (5) practical recommendations and guidelines.

The main project outcomes included: an integrated data analysis on railway suicide and trespass, a list of 25 recommended measures, 11 field tests which provided new pieces of evidence for the effectiveness of different measures, and a free online toolbox for decision-makers.

These achievements are discussed in relation to the ongoing need of practical and exploitable results from EU-funded research projects, since the scientific and applied outcomes of RESTRAIL are an example of good practice for the benefit of the entire railway community and society.

Safety Security Rail suicide Trespass Incident prevention Consequence mitigation

Reference: Havârneanu, G.M., Bonneau, MH. & Colliard, J. (2016) Lessons learned from the collaborative European project RESTRAIL: REduction of suicides and trespasses on RAILway property. Eur. Transp. Res. Rev. 8: 16.

The effectiveness of platform screen doors for the prevention of subway suicides in South Korea

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Subway suicide can significantly impact the general public. Platform Screen Doors (PSDs) are considered to be an effective strategy to prevent suicides at subway stations, but the evidence on their effectiveness is limited.

We assessed the effectiveness of installing half- and full-height platform screen doors in reducing subway suicides using Poisson regression analysis. Ten-year monthly panel data for 121 subway stations between 2003 and 2012 in the Seoul metropolitan area were used for the analysis.

We found that installing PSDs decreases fatal suicide cases by 89% (95% CI: 57-97%). We also found that the installation of full-height PSDs resulted in the elimination of subway suicides by completely blocking access to the track area; however, half-height PSDs, which do not extend to the ceiling of the platform, were not as effective as full-height ones.

Our findings were based on the data from a single subway operator for a limited period of time. Accordingly, we did not consider the possibility that some passengers choose to die at a station run by other operators. Our study did not examine the potential substitution effects of other suicide methods.

Installing physical barriers at subway stations can be an effective strategy to reduce the number of subway suicides; however, half-height PSDs are not as effective as full-height ones, even when they are as high as the height of an adult. Thus, these barriers should be made high enough so that nobody can climb over them.


Metro suicide; Platform screen door; South Korea; Subway; Suicide; Suicide prevention

Reference: Chung, YW, Kang, SJ, Matsubayashi, T, Sawada, Y, Ueda, M. (2016). "The effectiveness of platform screen doors for the prevention of subway suicides in South Korea". J Affect Disord. 194:80-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.01.026

New article: Suicide on the Railways in Belgium: A Typology of Locations and Potential for Prevention


Suicide on railway networks comprises a serious public health problem. However, the geographical distribution and the environmental risk factors remain unclear. This study analyzed the geographic distribution of railway suicides in Belgium from 2008–2013 at the level of a railway section (average length of 3.5 km). Principal component analysis (PCA) identified three groups of correlations that helped explain the variance of railway suicide. The three groups are related to characteristics of urban spaces, psychiatric facilities, and railway traffic density. Based on the PCA results, the study found four types of railway sections. The density of railway suicide was average and low in the urban and rural/industrial sections, respectively. However, it was high in the suburban sections and the sections close to psychiatric facilities. As the geographical proximity of a psychiatric facility comprises a specific risk factor for suicide on railways, preventative measures should target these sections and establish collaborations with psychiatric facilities. The typology of locations found in this study constitutes crucial information for national and local suicide prevention on the Belgian railway network.

Reference: Strale, M., Krysinska, K., Van Overmeiren, G. &l Andriessen, K. (2018). Suicide on the Railways in Belgium: A Typology of Locations and Potential for Prevention. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 15(10), 2074.

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New report: Characteristics of trespassing incidents in the US

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Stephanie G. Chase, Danielle Hiltunen, Scott H. Gabree (2018). Characteristics of trespassing incidents in the United States (2012-2014). Report number DOT/FRA/ORD-18/24, Federal Railroad Administration, US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, July 2018.

KEYWORDS: Suicide, trespass, railroad, countermeasure, fatalities, grade crossing
ABSTRACT: : Trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in the United States. A large proportion of these trespasser fatalities are from intentional acts (i.e., suicides). The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) has been tasked by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to examine trespasser and suicide incident data on railroad rights-of-way to provide a better understanding of the contributory factors involved in these incidents and provide recommendations of potential mitigation strategies. This document provides a baseline measure of FRA trespassing and suicide incident data from 2012 through 2014. Findings illustrate a number of environmental and individual factors that are associated with each incident, such as location (region, state, and right-of-way vs. grade crossing), time (season, month, day of the week, time of day), and characteristics of the individual (age, gender, physical act that immediately preceded the incident). Each of these factors is analyzed in the hope that they may give predictive value in the future and a better understanding of the best ways to mitigate trespasser incidents on rail. 

Reporting of suicide and trespass incidents by online media in the US

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Scott H. Gabree, Ph.D. and Bianka Mejia. (2017). The Reporting of Suicide and Trespass Incidents by Online Media in the United States. Final Report. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration. Available online:

Abstract: The reporting of a suicide death in the media has the potential to increase imitative suicide attempts for vulnerable individuals who read the article, a phenomenon known as suicide contagion or the “Werther effect.” Organizations around the world have developed recommendations forhow to responsibly report on suicide incidents in a wayless likely to result in contagion. For this research, 1,173 articles on FRA-reported suicide and trespass incidents were collected and analyzed for content.While media outlets often followed many of the suicide reporting recommendations, none were consistently followed in every article analyzedand a few key recommendations were often never applied. For example, the term “suicide” wasoften included in the title of articles, details about the location where the suicide took place andthe actions preceding impact were often provided, while help-seeking information was only rarely included. In general, railway suicide incidents tended tobe reported in a similar way to trespass incidents, rather than as a suicide by another means. The development of railway-specificrecommendations couldhelp to encourage responsiblereporting practices regardingrailway trespass and suicide incidents.

Evaluation of a novel approach to preventing railway suicides: the community stations project

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe an evaluation of the Community Stations Project. The Community Stations Project was designed to address railway suicides in two ways: by improving the station environment in a manner that might improve community members’ feelings of wellbeing; and raising community members’ awareness of poor mental health and likelihood of reaching out to at-risk individuals. It involved four types of interventions (arts and culture, music, food and coffee, and “special events”) delivered at four stations in Victoria. Design/methodology/approach: A short anonymous survey was administered to community members on iPads at the four participating railway stations during the implementation of the interventions (between October and December 2016). The survey included questions about respondents’ demographics, their awareness of the intervention(s), their views of the station, their attitudes towards people with poor mental health and their emotional wellbeing. Findings: A total of 1,309 people took part in the survey. Of these, 48 per cent of community members surveyed reporting noticing an intervention at their station. Noticing the events was associated with positive views of the station, improved understanding of poor mental health, and a greater likelihood of reaching out to someone who might be at risk of poor mental health. Awareness of intervention events was not associated with respondents’ own emotional wellbeing. Practical implications: Continuing to focus efforts on mental health awareness activities may further strengthen the impact of the Community Stations Project interventions and ultimately prevent suicides at railway stations. Originality/value: This paper evaluates a novel approach to improving wellbeing and understanding of poor mental health in the train station environment.

Reference: Ross, A., Reavley, N., Too, L. S., Pirkis, J. (2018) Evaluation of a novel approach to preventing railway suicides: the community stations project. Journal of Public Mental Health, 17(2), 51-60.

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Small Talk Saves Lives : a novel partnership to reduce suicide on the railway

The UK rail industry is working in partnership with Samaritans and the British Transport Police on the Small Talk Saves Lives bystander campaign, launched in November 2017. The first campaign of its type on the railway, it encourages the general public to support those who may be in emotional crisis around them on the railway network.

The campaign aims to give commuters the confidence to trust their own instincts and intervene if they see someone vulnerable who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network, and to talk to them to interrupt their suicidal thoughts. It proposes four "lifesaving questions" that passengers can ask someone who displays warning signs of suicide. 

To learn more about this initiative, visit

New article: Developing a framework of behaviours before suicides at railway locations

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Abstract: Better knowledge of behaviours of people at railway property could help with identifying those at risk of suicide. Literature has been reviewed from a range of disciplines on what is known about studying behaviour in this type of public location. Secondary analysis has been carried out on descriptions of behaviour from structured exercises with experts and other pre-existing sources. A framework has been produced with five main classes (display of emotion, appearance, posture/movements, activities and interactions) and associated sub-classes. Commentary has been provided on factors that influence identification of suspicious behaviours, how to distinguish these from normal behaviours and the circumstances that inhibit timely reactions to the behaviour amidst the complexity of the operational railway. Opportunities to develop and use the framework are discussed, including using this to prompt collection of additional behavioural data from wider resources, enhancing staff training and developing requirements for effective use of surveillance technologies.

Practitioner Summary: Many railway suicides could be prevented with better understanding of behaviours before events. Pre-existing data sources have been analysed, producing a framework highlighting five aspects of behaviour. This can prompt the collection of better evidence on pre-suicidal behaviours, with future applications in developing surveillance technologies, training staff and public awareness.

Keywords: Suicidal behaviour, railway, reporting, observation, surveillance technologies

Reference: Ryan, B. (2018). Developing a framework of behaviours before suicides at railway locations. Ergonomics, 61(5), 605-626. DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1401124

Suicides on the Austrian railway network: hotspot analysis and effect of proximity to psychiatric institutions

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Abstract: Railway suicide is a significant public health problem. In addition to the loss of lives, these suicides occur in public space, causing traumatization among train drivers and passengers, and significant public transport delays. Prevention efforts depend upon accurate knowledge of clustering phenomena across the railway network, and spatial risk factors. Factors such as proximity to psychiatric institutions have been discussed to impact on railway suicides, but analytic evaluations are scarce and limited. We identify 15 hotspots on the Austrian railway system while taking case location uncertainties into account. These hotspots represent 0.9% of the total track length (5916 km/3676 miles) that account for up to 17% of all railway suicides (N=1130). We model suicide locations on the network using a smoothed inhomogeneous Poisson process and validate it using randomization tests. We find that the density of psychiatric beds is a significant predictor of railway suicide. Further predictors are population density, multitrack structure and—less consistently—spatial socio-economic factors including total suicide rates. We evaluate the model for the identified hotspots and show that the actual influence of these variables differs across individual hotspots. This analysis provides important information for suicide prevention research and practice. We recommend structural separation of railway tracks from nearby psychiatric institutions to prevent railway suicide.

Keywords: railway, suicide, prevention, cluster, hotspot, spatial point pattern, Austria

Reference: Strauss, M. J., Klimek, P., Sonneck, G., & Niederkrotenthaler, T. (2017). Suicides on the Austrian railway network: hotspot analysis and effect of proximity to psychiatric institutions. R Soc Open Sci, 4(3), 160711.

New study: Characteristics of Railway Suicides in Canada by C. Bardon and B.L. Mishara

Mishara, B. L., & Bardon, C. (2017). Characteristics of railway suicides in Canada and comparison with accidental railway fatalities: Implications for prevention. Safety Science, 91, 251-259.

Abstract: This study presents and compares the prevalence and characteristics of rail-related suicide and other railway fatalities in Canada over 10years, from 1999 to 2008. The methodology involved in-depth data analysis of records from provincial coroner and medical examiner’s investigations, railway company reports and Transportation Safety Board data. We identify physical risk factors and psychosocial descriptions of people who commit suicide and compared them to accidental (non-suicide) railway fatalities in order to identify at-risk populations and better target and elaborate railway suicide prevention strategies. We identified 460 accidental deaths and 428 suicides. Most people (94.7%) died on the site of the incident, although not always immediately. Canada does not have any specific locations with high incidence suicide or accidents clusters. We conclude that impairment of some type, by illness, substance abuse or intoxication, advanced age or immature youth, play an important role in a significant number of accidents, suggesting that more intense warnings of approaching trains may help prevent accidental deaths. Mental illness, although often being treated, is associated with the majority of suicide fatalities, and more than one-third of suicides occur on rails near psychiatric facilities, suggesting targeted prevention strategies in facilities near rails and at track locations in proximity to mental health facilities. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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A Partnership to Reduce Railway Suicides in London, Ontario

In a bid to reduce the number of suicides on London-area railway lines, CN's Police Service and the local Canadian Mental Health Associations are teaming up to erect hundreds of trackside signs that tell people in distress where they can get help.

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