Post-incident support at stations

In a similar way to road traffic accidents, deaths or serious injuries as a result of being struck by a train can be hugely traumatic for those involved. As part of our Network Rail partnership Samaritans provide a 24 hour call-out service for railway stations across England, Scotland and Wales should there be a traumatic incident.

What is post-incident support?

When a traumatic incident takes place at or near a station, Samaritans’ post-incident support may be requested by Network Rail or the train operating company managing the station. Volunteers from local Samaritans branches who have been trained in Emotional Support Outside of Branch (ESOB) will be contacted to see if two or more can attend the station. This might be the same day, the next day or sometime in the next few weeks.

Who can be affected by a traumatic rail incident?

The driver of the train is always the first person caught up in an incident on the railways, and they may go on to have time off work, and some may suffer from post-traumatic stress. If a death or serious injury occurs at a station, passengers, staff, cleaners, shop workers and train crews can all be impacted.

Those involved in responding to incidents at or away from stations, or those involved in tending to the scene or repairing the train, can also be affected. This includes police officers, paramedics, Coroner’s officers, Network Rail operations staff, CCTV personnel, signallers and maintenance teams.

What do volunteers do when they arrive at the station?

For rail staff, volunteers provide a friendly face and an outlet for support, if needed. This can be particularly well received at smaller stations where rail staff may feel isolated, but is also appreciated at larger stations where there may be more flexibility for staff to step away from duties for a chat with one of our  volunteers.

Our volunteers are also on hand to provide information and support to passengers and  members of the local community. If a death has occurred, family and friends may come to the station and our volunteers are trained in offering support to them too.

Is it difficult supporting passengers affected by an incident?

It can be difficult to reach passengers affected by a traumatic rail incident as they often leave the station shortly afterwards. However, if an incident has happened during a peak time on a weekday we will look to get volunteers to the station at a similar time to when the incident took place to try to reach the same passengers.

Many train operators will also check on passengers caught up in an incident and will offer Samaritans services or take details to arrange a third party referral (TPR). A TPR involves taking a name, telephone number and a requested call-back time from a passenger in need of support and arranging for Samaritans’ to call them back.

Is post-incident support restricted to stations?

For health and safety reasons our post-incident support service provided as part of the Network Rail partnership is largely restricted to stations. However, we are able to provide additional support outside of stations in certain circumstances. For example, should a young person lose their life as a result of a rail incident, we can activate Samaritans Step by Step support service for schools. Our volunteers have also attended depots and vigils to help support rail staff, family and friends or the local community affected by a tragic incident.

Do Samaritans offer support in other ways to rail personnel?

Yes, we offer our  award-winning Trauma Support Training course to rail staff support information on what you might expect if you’re affected by a traumatic rail incident, and where to find support.

See Improving support for those affected by a traumatic rail incident



The rail industry also had some words of appreciation for Samaritans volunteers.

Stephen Norris, Southern Railway Station Manager commented:

Samaritan's support, provided after an incident is seen as a positive reaction. It shows that there is help available.

Inspector Tara Doyle, on behalf of British Transport Police, had the following to say:

It has been reassuring to know that we have been able to use the additional resources and support of Samaritans at such traumatic and emotional times, to have the support for the staff, officers and travelling public at a time when our own resources are fully utilised and deployed.

Ian Stevens, Suicide Prevention Programme Manager at Network Rail:

Following a traumatic incident the support and reassurance this service offers to those that may have been involved or a witness to it is immeasurable.  What can be measured through positive feedback is the sense of wellbeing those that use it experience after talking to Samaritans. Network rail and the industry are indebted to those volunteers that support it.  Our thanks go to you.