Railway Mission is a Christian charity founded in 1881, which provides independent, confidential, impartial pastoral and spiritual welfare to railway workers, regardless of their personal faith or background, supporting them through life’s journey. Our chaplains are a key care provider for rail staff, police and members of the public affected by railway related incidents, such as fatalities and major incidents such as the terrorist attacks of 2017.
Intervention to save lives:
When there is a fatality or serious injury on the railway, Railway Mission is notified by Network Rail Control and British Transport Police; this contact enables our team to quickly contact those rail staff directly affected by the incident to give them confidential pastoral support.
Where there is a concern for the mental wellbeing of a person connected to a person who has taken their own life or for a witness, British Transport Police will offer the Railway Mission chaplain as a support to those individuals where it is felt appropriate. This is because research has found that a person is more likely to attempt to take their own life if a close relative has already done so or if they have witnessed a fatality.
However, our support is also extended to those vulnerable people who have been identified as being at risk of suicide by the British Transport Police Vulnerability Unit and Suicide Prevention and Mental Health team, this partnership helps to reduce the likelihood of further loss of life.
Scale of the task:
Sadly, on the railways, there were 263 public fatalities in 2017 -18, 253 were recorded as suicide; with a further 10 unexplained deaths and 27 fatal accidents. Each death represents a grieving family, as well as a traumatised train driver, police officers, Network Rail staff, witnesses and passengers and others affected by these tragic incidents.
Proactive and reactive:
By proactively and reactively supporting those affected by traumatic incidents and by working in partnership with British Transport Police’s Fatality Investigation Team and Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Team, chaplains support families and railway staff when they most need it.
Over the last couple of years our chaplains have supported witnesses as young as 10 years old and visited a number of schools that have had pupils take their own lives on the railway.
“Emotional and spiritual support in a time of crisis is one of the most valuable things you can give to a person. The Railway Mission provides this help to railway staff, the British Transport Police and the travelling public – taking care of the mental welfare of our railway family both day-to-day and following traumatic incidents.” Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair Network Rail
Pressures of work and home:
Across the UK there are in excess of 150,000 rail staff and around 5,000 British Transport Police officers and staff. They are essential for maintaining and improving railway services and facilitating the 1.3 billion passenger journeys each year on 10,261 route miles across the UK.
Many people working on the railway shoulder a high degree of responsibility for passenger and colleague safety, often working unsocial hours and in roles located remotely. Rail staff are often the focus of passenger aggression, whether it is fuelled by alcohol, frustration over delays or cancelations or just plain nastiness; added to this are the normal stresses and strains of modern life that cause mental health problems. Trusted by both staff and railway companies, our chaplains are the friendly face for whom rail staff can turn to when things are difficult at home or at work.
Recognised for our outstanding contribution:
Railway Mission was given an award in 2018 at the British Transport Police ‘Make the Difference Awards’ for the support we provided in the aftermath of terror attacks of 2017. It was a great honour to be recognised for the ‘excellent work supporting colleagues in the most testing of circumstances’, this commitment to supporting our railway colleagues has won praise throughout the railway industry, and beyond. But the assistance we provide in the event of a major incident is just one of the aspects of our work.