Rail safety figures show the number of deaths on the railways reached an all-time high of 332 last year (2014/15).
The increase in deaths comes despite a record-breaking eighth consecutive year without a fatal train accident, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) said.
In the last 12 months there were 293 suspected suicides and 22 fatal injuries caused by trespassing on main line railways in Great Britain, the RSSB said. This is a rise from the 300 public fatalities from suicide and trespass recorded between 2013 and 2014.
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 show 10 members of the public, including two vehicle drivers, died in accidents at level crossings, and a further four died at stations last year. Two workers were fatally injured in road traffic accidents, and another in an incident at a train depot.
The number of assaults recorded by the British Transport Police (BTP) in 2014/15 was higher than the previous year, with a rise of around 10%. Although this is the first increase in the ‘normalised’ rate for more than five years.
Last week, a 19-year-old man was killed on the railway line at Brierfield, with Samaritan volunteers manning the nearby railway station yesterday afternoon to offer support to those caught up in the incident.
On Monday night, a man was arrested after a train carrying 42 people crashed in to an empty car on a railway track leaving it a mangled wreck.
The 35-year-old is being held on suspicion of obstructing the railway after the crash at Claymills level crossing in Staffordshire, British Transport police said.
The driver of the car was not in the vehicle at the time but was later found unhurt nearby in the Stretton area of Burton upon Trent.
Emergency services attended the scene but no one required further treatment.
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.
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 workGeorge Bearfield, Rail Safety and Standards Board
“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.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “Safety is always our top priority, and the work done to transform our railway has made it the safest in Europe for passengers today.
“The rail industry is constantly looking at its performance and making improvements to keep passengers, staff and the public safe, especially at level crossings.”