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Railway death toll at all-time high

Published 21/07/2015

The number of deaths on the railway reached a high of 332 last year
The number of deaths on the railway reached a high of 332 last year

The number of deaths on the railways reached an all-time high of 332 last year, despite a record-breaking eighth consecutive year without a fatal train accident, according to safety figures.

In the last twelve months, there were 293 suspected suicides and 22 fatal injuries caused by trespassing on main line railways in Great Britain, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) said. This is a rise from the 300 public fatalities from suicide and trespass recorded between 2013 and 2014.

In addition, 10 members of the public, including two vehicle drivers, also died in accidents at level crossings, and a further four died at stations.

Two workers were also fatally injured in road traffic accidents, and another in an incident at a train depot.

RSSB's director of system safety, George Bearfield, said the rail industry took the issue of suicide "very seriously".

He added: "RSSB is part of a cross-industry National Suicide Prevention Group which has been set up to tackle the issue of railway suicide and is supported by the Samaritans.

"Local Samaritans branches also work with station managers, station staff from both train operating companies and Network Rail and the British Transport Police, in prevention and post-incident support work."

The annual safety figures also reveal a 6% rise in the number of passenger and public assaults for the first time since 2008/9. This takes into account the 4% increase in the number of journeys made over the past year, which reached 1.66 billion.

But for the eighth year, there were no passenger or workforce fatalities in train accidents - the longest period on record.

The last fatality occurred in February 2007, when a passenger train derailed in Cumbria, killing Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, and injuring 86 people.

Mr Bearfield said: "While we are pleased to be reporting some positive figures today, no one in the rail industry is complacent about safety and there remain areas of concern that we will be working with the industry to address.

"However, rail remains one of the safest forms of transport. The reports being released today are part of the robust evidence base that the industry uses to develop and drive targeted safety improvements."

Office of Rail and Road (ORR) director of railway safety, Ian Prosser, said there was still "room for improvement".

Mr Prosser said: "Great Britain's railways have a strong track record on improving safety, and after a decade of investment and growth, are now statistically the safest in Europe. While this improvement is to be commended, statistics only tell part of the story, the industry cannot become complacent. ORR's inspectors have identified that there is still room for improvement.

"ORR's evidence highlights the challenges facing the rail industry, in particular, the need to manage growth safely. Our safety inspectors report a mixed picture, with improvements at level crossings, on platform safety and asset management. However, inspectors are also seeing scope for improvement in safety risk assessments and worker health and safety.

"The regulator is working with the rail industry to help it take a more proactive approach, recognising and managing safety issues before passengers or rail workers come to harm."

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