Changing perceptions to save lives


In 2015/16 there were 252 suicides on the rail network in the UK. Every single one brought tragedy into the lives of the people it affected; family members, train drivers, witnesses. Network Rail leads the rail industry’s efforts to reduce suicide on the network and the UK is Untitledrecognised as a world leader in the field. One example of this pioneering work is the effort to engage the millions of people who use the rail network every day in the effort to reduce suicide. This poses particular challenges around communicating with the public without promoting the link between rail and suicide and doing so in a way that can demonstrably lead to a reduction in suicide without prompting or encouraging the public to intervene directly.


The Project Leader for the industry’s suicide prevention efforts approached Network Rail’s Marketing Director for help with this work and Untitledwas recommended to speak with The Space. A thorough strategic review and planning process was undertaken involving industry stakeholders and specialists in mental health and suicide in the UK and globally. The Space eventually drafted a strategy for engaging the public, Society on the Move,  based on creating a social obligation amongst the public by highlighting the social context of rail travel. In the strategy was a proposal to create and pilot a new service codenamed The Button. The Space was retained to develop and direct the pilot of this service including developing the branding and communications strategy, being Product Owner for the Agile development of a bespoke web-app front end and directing its implementation. The service, branded by The Space as Rail505, allows rail customers to report people that think are at risk of harm on the railway so that the right assistance can get to them as quickly as possible. It was piloted with a full communications campaign in the Kent and South London region during June and July of 2016.


Research as part of the pilot showed that the public were 82% more likely to report relevant at-risk individuals and incidents. Indeed seven reports were made during the pilot and two led directly to interventions by British Transport Police. The communications campaign generated 1.5million impressions online and 160,000 views of Rail505 videos. On reviewing the pilot results the rail industry Suicide Prevention Duty Holders Group agreed to hold a second pilot in 2017 across a much larger area of the rail network as a prelude to a national roll-out as soon as possible after that.