Rail Pastors offer a listening ear around Welsh capital

Volunteers specially trained to assist vulnerable people have been introduced on the rail network around Cardiff.

‘Rail Pastors’ is an initiative of Ascension Trust working in partnership with British Transport Police, Samaritans and train companies across the UK with schemes in the South East, London, Midlands and Scotland as well as this new scheme operating out of Cardiff.

Its objective is to save lives and reduce often life changing incidents on the rail network.

Rail Pastors are a group of trained volunteers who are based in areas which experience suicidal incidents.

All Rail Pastors are already experienced Street Pastors working in city centres.  They have received training in rail safety and security, emergency procedures and have undertaken a Managing Suicidal Contacts course arranged by the Samaritans.

Inspector Phil Hyatt from British Transport Police (BTP) said: “Our officers know that giving someone the time and space to talk can be all that’s needed to help them on a journey to recovery. While this is something our officers do on a daily basis, unfortunately we cannot be everywhere and the Rail Pastors provide extra eyes and ears on the network to prevent vulnerable people from coming to harm.

He continued; “We already have rail pastors operating in other areas across the country and they have proved invaluable in helping vulnerable people on the network, so I am delighted that this extremely worthwhile initiative is now coming to Cardiff.  We look forward to working with the pastors and I am confident they will be able to help us save more lives, while also reducing disruption caused by suicide-related incidents on the network.”

Mary-Bridget Flynn-Samuels, Development Officer for the Ascension Trust said; “Developed from the successful Street Pastor ministry, with approaching 300 schemes internationally and 1500 volunteers, our Rail Pastors are already very experienced and have received additional training from the Samaritans to offer more specialised support to those who may be at risk and vulnerable on our platforms.  Since its inception this has proved to be a critical and life-saving ministry.  During the first year of operation of the first scheme, three lives were saved that we know off but the real figure is probably higher.  The newest Essex scheme saved a life on their very first patrol.”

Rail Pastors do not preach, but provide a caring, listening and reassuring presence. Their mission is to reach out to people in moments of crisis, offering compassion and understanding, taking the time to listen to concerns in order to move a person to a place of safety.

They were first trialled in August 2014. In their first year of operation, they conducted 30 patrols, saved three lives and, as an indirect outcome, reduced crime by 27%. Since then Rail Pastors initiatives have been set up in other parts of Great Britain.

The volunteers will work in teams of three and their patrols will be directed by British Transport Police.  Initially, they will be on patrol on Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings at stations and on trains.

Reports compiled by the Pastors will be reviewed by a partnership team formed of representatives from BTP, Arriva Trains Wales, Network Rail and the Samaritans.  The partnership meets on a quarterly basis to discuss recent trends and consider measures to make the railway a safer place for all.