5 minute reads – Work ramps up as Network Rail upgrades track and signalling over August Bank Holiday ready to connect Midland Main Line with new Brent Cross West station

©Network Rail
  • Essential railway upgrades are taking place over August Bank Holiday weekend – ready to connect services to Brent Cross West station when it opens next year
  • Network Rail will also continue with Kentish Town track upgrades and replace points between Kentish Town and West Hampstead
  • Work planned to minimise disruption as much as possible as railway welcomes passengers back
  • Changes to East Midlands Railway and Thameslink services – passengers advised to plan ahead

Network Rail is continuing to make progress on essential railway upgrades over the August Bank Holiday to improve journeys for passengers and prepare for services to call at the new Brent Cross West station.

©Network Rail

Between Saturday 28 August and the first service on Tuesday 31 August, teams will continue with vital work to reconfigure the track layout and improve the signalling system. This work will allow trains to call at the new station when it opens next year, linking people in the community to Central London and the Midland Main Line.

For this work to take place safely, no East Midlands Railway trains will run between Luton and London St Pancras International over the Bank Holiday weekend, and Thameslink services will terminate at Mill Hill Broadway. Replacement bus services will be in place to keep people moving.

During this time, additional improvements will take place as part of a complex project to upgrade the track at Kentish Town. The slab track in the area – which is supported by concrete rather than ballast – was laid in the 1970s. The work to upgrade it will improve journeys and reduce the amount of maintenance required.

Work will also be carried out to replace the points – movable sections of track which allow trains to safely move from one line to another – at Carlton Road junction, between Kentish Town and West Hampstead.

These upgrades will make sure passenger and freight services can continue running safely and reliably for years to come.

Network Rail has carefully planned the work which is taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend and carrying it out when the line is closed reduces the amount of future disruption for passengers.  

The following changes will be in place on Saturday 28, Sunday 29 and Monday 30 August:

  • No East Midlands Railway services will run between Luton and London St Pancras International. Passengers will be able to use replacement buses to connect to London Underground services.
  • A reduced Thameslink service will run between Bedford and Mill Hill Broadway all weekend. Buses will replace trains between Mill Hill Broadway and London St Pancras International.
  • Buses will also run between Harpenden (calling at St Albans) and Potters Bar, and between Luton Airport Parkway (calling at Luton) and Hitchin, where passengers can connect to alternative services into London.

Passengers can find out how their journeys will be affected with their train operator, via National Rail Enquiries, or by following #AugustBHWorks on Twitter.

©Network Rail

Gary Walsh, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Midlands Route, said: “This vital work over the August Bank Holiday will be a major step towards linking the new Brent Cross West station to the Midland Main Line.

“We’re carrying out additional improvements whilst this section of the line is closed to reduce future disruption to services. The slab track at Kentish Town has served the line well and the upgrade is vital so services can continue running reliably.

“As we welcome passengers back to the railway, we’ve worked hard to minimise disruption and keep services moving as much as possible. I’d encourage anyone travelling over the Bank Holiday weekend to check their journey and plan ahead.”

Neil Grabham, Customer Services Director for EMR, said: “For any customers who are planning on travelling over the August Bank Holiday weekend, please allow extra time for your journey. There are no EMR train services operating between Luton and London St Pancras International and a replacement bus service will be in place.

“We would like to thank passengers for their patience whilst this crucial engineering work takes place between Saturday 28th and Monday 30th August.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director for Thameslink, said: “It’s good news that Network Rail are taking the opportunity to make these essential track improvements at Kentish Town while preparing for Brent Cross West further north. The new station will be a vital addition to the Thameslink network. If you do need to travel between Bedford and London during the Bank Holiday weekend, thank you for your patience. Please check a journey planner for details of the service changes and replacement bus options, and allow plenty of extra time. Be aware there may be further changes at short notice because of the coronavirus outbreak.”

People are advised to follow government guidance and wear a face covering in busy indoor settings, unless they are exempt. With good ventilation systems on trains, extra cleaning and improved information about quieter times, passengers can continue to travel with confidence.

5 minute read – Ely to Peterborough rail line reopens following incident at Cambridgeshire level crossing

©Network Rail

The Ely to Peterborough rail line reopened this morning (Tuesday 24 August) following completion of works to repair damage caused by a collision between a freight train and a tractor last week.

The collision caused extensive damage after the freight train derailed. Since the incident, Network Rail’s engineers have been working non-stop to complete over a mile of track renewal, repairs to the signalling equipment and level crossing infrastructure. 

Network Rail’s infrastructure director for Anglia, Simon Milburn, said: “We’ve worked around the clock on extensive repairs in order to safely reopen the line as quickly as possible. I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while we completed these works and we are sorry for the disruption it has caused.”

Just after 9am on Thursday 19 August, a freight train collided with a tractor at Kisbeys user worked level crossing in March, Cambridgeshire between March and Whittlesea stations. Network Rail is assisting the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) with their investigation to fully understand the circumstance of the incident.

The crash caused three freight wagons to derail and has caused significant damage to the track, signalling equipment and the level crossing. The train driver and the tractor driver sustained minor injuries.

5 minute read – Major 16-day railway overhaul completed in Manchester as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade

©Network Rail
  • Work to reconstruct/strengthen railway bridges and upgrade track in central Manchester was completed by Network Rail this morning (16 August)
  • Railway lines between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale and Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge have fully reopened following successful completion of the work with final finishing touches being made on Sunday 22 August, Sundays throughout September and the weekend of 2/3 October
  • This forms part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) which will bring faster, more reliable services to passengers travelling between Manchester and York, via Huddersfield and Leeds
©Network Rail

Railway passengers in Greater Manchester move one step closer to faster, more frequent, more reliable trains after major railway upgrades were completed on time between Manchester Victoria, Rochdale and Stalybridge.

Work took place from Saturday 31 July until Sunday 15 August to completely reconstruct railway bridges on Dantzic Street and Queens Road and strengthen and waterproof Bromley Street and Oldham Road bridges.

Over 3000m of track was upgraded and track remodelled between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge. 17 new signals were also installed.

©Network Rail

Further work takes place as planned on Sunday 22 August, Sundays throughout September and the weekend of 2 and 3 October, to make the final changes with less disruption to passengers. All TransPennine Express (TPE) services will again be diverted into Manchester Piccadilly, with TPE services between Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool being operated by rail replacement buses on Sundays. Buses will also replace Northern services between Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria calling at Ashton-under-Lyne.

This work is essential to enable more trains and faster trains to run in future. The newly renovated bridges now allow increased weight loading of more trains and the new and remodelled track will allow trains to run at faster speeds.

This milestone is a crucial part of the multi-billion-pound Transpennine Route Upgrade. This major railway upgrade programme will improve connectivity in the North of England by providing faster, more reliable services for passengers travelling between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York.

©Network Rail

Neil Holm, Transpennine Route Upgrade Director for Network Rail, said: “We’ve made major progress across Greater Manchester on this key part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade. Our teams have worked around the clock over the past 16 days to improve journeys for passengers.

“As well as bringing more reliable services, this complex upgrade will eventually allow more trains and faster trains to run on the busy route between Manchester and York.

“We carefully planned the work to keep passengers moving during the upgrade. I want to say a big thank you to passengers for their patience while the improvements took place.”

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director for TransPennine Express added: “These works completed as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade are the first step to improving capacity and journey times across the Pennines. We’d like to thank everyone involved in the engineering works that have taken place across the last 16 days, helping to create a more reliant and resilient railway for our customers to travel on. We’d also like to thank our customers for their patience throughout the works.”

Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern, said: “The Transpennine Route Upgrade is a vital part of the future of rail in the North and it’s great to see this first phase completed – paving the way for further enhancement work on this crucial business and leisure corridor.

“As an industry we have worked closely to keep disruption to a minimum, and our customers on the move, and we are all grateful for the understanding shown by those who rely on our services to get them where they need to be.”

©Network Rail

5 minute read – Railway fly-tipper fined thousands after home address found in waste

A fly-tipper has been convicted and ordered to pay £3000 after his home address was found in illegally dumped waste on railway land in Lancashire.

Piles of rubbish from a home improvement project were dumped at a track access point at Burnley earlier this year.

Railway access points are needed 24 hours a day so engineers can carry out essential maintenance. They also provide emergency access so blocking them risks lives.

The culprit was caught when an invoice for building materials, displaying their name and address, was found amongst the mess.

The matter was handed to the British Transport Police, and court proceedings began.

After pleading not guilty at Burnley Magistrates in May, a judge found the DIY delinquent guilty after a trial at the same court on July 14.

He was fined £1000 and ordered to pay court costs and compensation to Network Rail – totalling £3000 – for illegally dumping floor tiles, planks of wood, and a bed frame on Network Rail property.

Ian Croucher, maintenance protection coordinator, said: “I hope this case shows a strong message that Network Rail will do everything it can to track down illegal fly-tippers and work with the British Transport Police to bring them to justice.

“Not only is illegally dumping waste like this hazardous to our staff who have to clear it up and a risk to railway passengers, it’s also a blight on the environment. It costs millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to clear waste like this every year – money which should be spent improving journeys for passengers.”

Chief Inspector Dave Rams, from British Transport Police, said: “Fly-tipping costs the railway millions of pounds each year which could be invested in the railway network. This offender’s actions have cost him dearly and we hope this acts as a deterrent to others who are thinking of doing the same thing.”

Fly-tipping is a criminal offence and carries a fine of up to £1,000.

Network Rail uses covert tactics and works closely with the British Transport Police to catch criminal fly-tippers.

Hidden cameras are installed in known ‘grot spots’ to gather evidence so those responsible can be taken to court.

For more information on how Network Rail tackles fly-tipping visit https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/living-by-the-railway/litter-and-fly-tipping/

Incidents of fly-tipping can be reported to Network Rail’s 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

If you have information or see anyone fly-tipping contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.

5 minute read – Work progressing well at Bristol East Junction as major track upgrade reaches half-way point

Passengers are set to benefit from brand-new track and better journeys when travelling to and from Bristol Temple Meads station. 

The Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, is visiting Bristol today (Thursday 12 August) to see the progress Network Rail is making on completing the £132m Department for Transport-funded project. 

Network Rail engineers have been working around the clock to complete the track upgrade which involves removing a bottleneck into Bristol Temple Meads and installing a clever new track layout just north of the station. This will allow more trains to enter and exit the station, increase capacity, reduce congestion and help make journeys more reliable. 

The eight-week project started on Saturday 10 July and is scheduled to finish on Friday 3 September. In addition to replacing the 1960s track and components, work is also ongoing to install state of the art signalling equipment. 

Engineers have already replaced over 2.1km of track, laid around 7,000 tonnes of ballast (stones that support the track), completed over 400 welds and realigned 200m of copers to suit the new track alignment design on platforms 1, 3 and 5 to ensure the safe and smooth running of the railway.  

Last weekend (7-8 August) work continued to remove the old signalling gantry and upload the data onto the new signalling gantry, which was installed over the Christmas period last year (2020). 

Attention now turns to the London side of the junction whereby engineers will repeat the similar process of digging out and replacing the old track and stone, focusing on the railway lines towards Bath Spa and London Paddington.  

As part of the upgrade of Bristol East Junction, an extra line is also being introduced which will support new suburban services in the future as part of the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA) MetroWest scheme. Once complete, this scheme will provide over 4,000 additional seats on trains every day in the area. 

This track upgrade work is part of the wider Bristol Rail Regeneration programme that will see a number of improvements to the iconic Bristol Temple Meads station over the next three years, representing a major investment in sustainable transport in the region and creating a major transport hub that will serve millions of passengers each year and support business right across the region. 

Changes to train services

While this work is ongoing, there will continue to be a number of timetable changes to train services, including bus replacement services at times. Passengers are reminded to check before travelling and where possible plan ahead of their journeys. For more information and for the latest timetable changes, please visit GWR.com/Bristol or crosscountrytrains.co.uk/Bristol

©Network Rail

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This £132 million investment will mean more regular and more reliable trains with more seats coming through the station as we increase access to opportunities and better connect communities across the region.  

“Alongside this we are doing an extensive refurbishment of Bristol Temple Meads, providing better passenger facilities and improved accessibility.  

“This is another great example of how we are building back better in Bristol and levelling up the South West.” 

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales & Western managing director, said: “I’d like to thank for all passengers for their continued patience as we do this huge piece of work in Bristol.  

“This is a highly complex piece of engineering and once finished, will bring huge benefits in the future such as more trains, more seats and more reliable journeys. The improvements at Bristol Temple Meads will also help transform the station and improve journeys. 

“Work will now continue and in the meantime, I urge passengers to keep planning ahead and checking before they travel, particularly during this period.” 

Richard Rowland, GWR customer service and operations director, said: “This work will in time help us to deliver 4,000 more train seats a day into the city, on more services through Bristol and help to reduce the conflict between long-distance and local stopping services, helping to maintain the reliability of our trains.  

“We continue to operate trains through Bristol for the vast majority of the period, but there continues to be some alterations to timetables and journey frequency, so please do check what is best for you if you’re travelling.” 

Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s managing director, said: “When finished these important improvements will make rail travel to and from Bristol a better experience with more trains able to arrive and depart on time. 

“Until then we’d like to thank our customers for their patience while the work takes place, and ask them to check their journeys carefully to see if there are any changes.” 

For more information about the Bristol Rail Regeneration programme please visit  networkrail.co.uk/bristolrailregen 

5 minute read – ‘Look before you book’ this August bank holiday in North West

  • Railway improvements In Manchester and Cheshire are taking place between 28-30 August
  • Future passenger and freight journeys will benefit from a multi-million-pound investment
  • Passengers are advised to ‘look before they book’, travel at quieter times and out of respect for others, wear a face covering in busy indoor settings

Rail passengers are being urged ‘look before they book’ as major improvements are made to key North West rail routes this August bank holiday.

Millions of pounds is being invested to improve future journeys for passengers and freight.

On the days between Saturday 28 and Monday 30 August:

  • Signalling – the traffic lights of the railway – will be upgraded as part of a £36m investment at Trafford Park in Manchester*
  • Railway track will be upgraded between Macclesfield and Adlington**
  • £5m will be invested replacing two railway bridges by Warrington Central station***

On the routes affected passengers will have longer journeys, fewer available seats, and may need to use rail replacement buses.

The advice to those planning to travel during the railway improvements is to ‘look before you book’ by visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk.

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “The essential improvements taking place over the August bank holiday will improve future journeys for passengers so they can use the railway to get to work and increasingly for leisure to visit friends and family or take a holiday.

“While much of the network will be open as usual, some journeys in the North West will be different with train diversions, slightly longer journey times or bus replacements between certain locations. I’d urge people planning on travelling over the August bank holiday to ‘look before you book’ using National Rail Enquiries so you know exactly what to expect from your journey.”

With domestic tourism in high demand this summer across the country, Network Rail’s bank holiday engineering work has been planned to minimise disruption to passengers with very few lines, stations and destinations impacted by the national £90m investment programme.

Passengers are advised to follow government guidance and wear a face covering in busy indoor settings unless they are exempt.

With good ventilation systems on trains, extra cleaning and improved information about quieter times, passengers can continue to travel with confidence.

People can find out how their journeys will be affected by visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk, contacting their train operators, National Rail Enquiries, or following #AugustBHWorks on Twitter.

5 minute read – Majority of rail network open for business as usual over August Bank Holiday as railway continues to welcome back passengers

  • Vast majority of the rail network – over 95% – will be open for business as usual over the August Bank Holiday
  • Some routes will be affected by the upgrade works taking place, so passengers should plan ahead
  • The railway expects people to follow government guidance and out of respect for others, wear a face covering in busy indoor settings unless they are exempt

The vast majority of Britain’s rail network (over 95%) will be open for business as usual this coming Bank Holiday as it looks to welcome passengers back and reconnect them with family, friends and their favourite holiday destinations.

With domestic tourism in high demand this summer, Network Rail’s bank holiday engineering work has been planned to minimise disruption to passengers with very few lines, stations and destinations impacted by the £90m investment programme.

Passengers are advised to follow government guidance and wear a face covering in busy indoor settings unless they are exempt. With good ventilation systems on trains, extra cleaning and improved information about quieter times, passengers can continue to travel with confidence.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The railway will be open for business over the August Bank Holiday, so people can reconnect, visit friends and family or take a holiday.

“While some works are taking place, we’ve worked hard to reduce the impact on passengers as far as possible so that they can enjoy and rely on our railway.”

The engineering works that are taking place have been planned months, and in some cases years in advance, and will help us deliver a better and more reliable train service for passengers in future.

Among the major pieces of work being delivered over the August Bank Holiday are:

  • HS2 preparatory works at London Euston to help deliver the enhanced high-speed railway for passengers and boost capacity. An amended timetable will be in place to/from London Euston all weekend, with platforms 12-16 out of use.
  • Track renewals and HS2 works between Water Orton and Nuneaton, and track renewals between Birmingham International and Long Lawford to improve track reliability. This work will impact services in the Birmingham, Nuneaton, Coleshill Parkway and Coventry areas.
  • From London St Pancras to Mill Hill Broadway there will be switches and crossings renewals at Carlton Road Junction, while work will also be under way to help construct the new station at Brent Cross. As a result, there will be no trains running between Luton and London St Pancras over the course of the weekend, and an amended and reduced service will be in operation between Bedford and Mill Hill Broadway.
  • Remodelling works at Bristol East to improve reliability for passengers. Platforms 7 and 9-15 will be out of use at Bristol Temple Meads, with buses replacing trains between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath, Keynsham and Oldfield Park.
  • Maintenance and enhancement works between Moorgate/Canonbury West and Finsbury Park to improve passenger safety. Moorgate services will be diverted to London King’s Cross between 28-31 August.

Passengers can find out how their journeys will be affected with their train operator, via National Rail Enquiries, or by following #AugustBHWorks on Twitter.

5 minute read – Major bridge reconstruction work starts in Manchester – passengers reminded to check journeys

  • Work to reconstruct and strengthen railway bridges in central Manchester has started and will continue until Sunday 15 August
  • Passengers travelling through Manchester Victoria are being urged to check their journeys at nationalrail.co.uk
  • This work is part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) which will bring faster, more reliable services to passengers travelling between Manchester and York, via Huddersfield and Leeds

Railway engineers have started major upgrade work to completely reconstruct railway bridges on Dantzic Street and Queens Road and strengthen and waterproof Bromley Street and Oldham Road bridges in Manchester.

During the 16-day upgrade programme (31 July – 15 August) there are changes to services between Yorkshire and Manchester. Network Rail, Northern and Transpennine Express have built a plan to keep passengers moving on trains across the Pennines as much as possible.

Some journeys may need to be completed partly by bus, primarily between Rochdale and Manchester Victoria. The latest, state-of-the-art buses will be available to passengers so they can travel in comfort throughout.

Passengers looking to travel over this period are being urged to check nationalrail.co.uk.

Timelapse footage showing steel beams being lifted into place, with the help of a 650-tonne crane at Dantzic Street, has been released by Network Rail. Over 3000m of track is also being upgraded to bring smoother, more reliable journeys.

This work forms part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU), a multi-billion pound, transformative, long-term railway infrastructure programme between York, Leeds and Manchester which will improve connectivity in the North.

Neil Holm, Transpennine Route Upgrade Director for Network Rail, said: “Our improvement work in Greater Manchester is a key part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU), which will enable more trains and faster trains to run between Manchester and York in future.

“This major upgrade includes demolishing ageing railway bridges to install new ones, upgrading track and installing new signals. Though we can’t keep these railway lines open through Manchester Victoria while we do this, we’ve created diversionary routes so passengers can still get in and out of Manchester by train as much as possible.

“Thank you to passengers travelling this summer for your understanding while we deliver these much-needed improvements.”

Tricia Williams, Northern’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It is welcome news that the railway continues to be invested in and the infrastructure improved upon.

“To complete these initial works there will be some planned changes to our services and our message to customers is very simple – please plan ahead and check your journey before travelling.

“To minimise disruption we will be running state-of-the-art replacement buses, offering clear customer information, including via digital and social channels, and will have more colleagues at stations to provide assistance both before and during the engineering works.”

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director for TransPennine Express commented: “We’re delighted to see continued investment in the North of England’s railway as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade. And with these works this summer, we will see a better, more reliable railway for our customers.

“To complete these engineering works, some of our services will be diverted and customers may have to change trains in Manchester, so we would advise those travelling to check before they travel. To help with those affected, there will be more railway colleagues at stations to help people get to where they need to be.”

5 minute read – Network Rail and Busk In London team up to provide summer of music at London King’s Cross station

Performers at King’s Cross: @John_Clapper @Lucymaywalker

Network Rail and Busk In London have joined forces to create a summer schedule of music for travellers at King’s Cross station.

Running throughout August and September, there will be more than 60 musical performances on a newly installed stage on the concourse in King’s Cross station to help welcome back passengers to the railway following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

The performances will take place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 12:00 and 18:00 until Saturday, 11 September and will showcase the best busking talent which the capital has to offer.

John Clapper performing at King’s Cross

Laura Murphy, King’s Cross station manager for Network Rail, said: “We’re really excited to have partnered with Busk In London to provide free, in-station entertainment for our customers.

“It’s great to see more passengers using the railway following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and we wanted to put on these events to provide a warm welcome back for all those visiting us this Summer.”

Lucy May Walker performing at King’s Cross

Kate Jones, Programme Director for Busk in London, said: “Busk in London is delighted to be working with King’s Cross station to present a diverse range of high quality performances from artists on the Busk in London scheme.

“After many months of no live music, our artists are thrilled to be back doing what they do best. Whether passengers are arriving or departing or just visiting King’s Cross for the many retail and dining options, our performers will provide a fantastic soundtrack throughout August and September.”

5 minute read – Network Rail gets on board for Samaritans’ Small Talk Saves Lives

©Network Rail
  • As the nation begins to readjust to life with easing restrictions, Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry joins charity to empower the public to act if they see someone who needs help by starting a conversation
  • New survey reveals over three quarters of the nation have continued to use small talk with strangers during pandemic restrictions, including connecting with neighbours they hadn’t spoken to before
  • One in five surveyed are more likely to want to make small talk once restrictions have lifted, appreciating the sense of community the pandemic brought out

British reserve may be internationally renowned but a new survey by Samaritans shows how much we rely on small talk as a nation, even with the limiting social restrictions of the pandemic. The findings come as Samaritans launches a new phase of Small Talk Saves Lives this summer, in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry, to empower the public to act to prevent suicide on the railways and other settings.

The YouGov survey found that over three quarters of UK adults (78%) used small talk during the pandemic, whilst almost one in five of those surveyed say they are likely to want to make more small talk with a stranger face to face once restrictions are lifted (19%).*  Just over half of those who want to make more small talk said it was because they now recognise the importance of human connection (51%) and with 39% of respondents saying they also appreciate the sense of community the pandemic brought out in people. Whilst during pandemic restrictions, people said they made small talk with neighbours they hadn’t spoken to before and with strangers at the supermarket (both 37%).*

Despite the unprecedented events of the last year, the good old British weather still remains the go-to subject for striking up conversation, chosen by 71% of people, compared to coronavirus in second place with 45%.*

After an incredibly tough year and as the nation begins to readjust to life with easing restrictions, the campaign reminds the public they already have the skills to start a conversation with someone who needs help, giving them the confidence to act. By trusting our instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, a little small talk and a simple question, such as “Hello, what’s the time?” can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help start them on the journey to recovery. It could save a life.

The survey also highlighted the benefits small talk can have, with over half of respondents saying it can make people feel less lonely (57%) and boost their own mental health and wellbeing (45%), as well as showing others that people care and want to help them (28%).*

Network Rail’s Dom Mottram, age 32, knows the importance of small talk after he experienced suicidal thoughts aged 19 and was considering taking his life when a lady approached him and asked him a question – her kindness “snapping him out of harming himself in the moment”. Dom has since helped others in a similar situation both in and out of the rail environment.

©Network Rail

Dom said: “I’m thankful for the ripple effect of that lady saving my life – without her stopping and checking if I was okay, I might not be here to now look out for and save others. I’m always on the lookout for anyone who might need help. If I see someone who looks out of place or a bit down, I often just go over and ask if they’re alright and try and bring them to a place of safety. Nine times out of ten the person is absolutely fine – but trusting my instincts and talking to that one person can make such a difference.

Dom Mottram – ©Chris Turner

“It took me a long time before I spoke to anyone about that moment – but it was a wake-up call and I eventually got help from the university and my family. I’ve had my ups and downs with my mental health after that, but I’ve come a long way since my 19-year-old self and feel I know how to support my mental health now. I’d encourage everyone to talk about how they’re feeling and ask for help. It’s so true that small talk is enough to save someone’s life – just as it did for me and it’s what I always try to do for others.” 

©Network Rail

Samaritans CEO Julie Bentley said: “We know that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s mental health and wellbeing and even though restrictions are lifting, people are still struggling. It’s so important we look out for one another now more than ever, because suicide is preventable and it’s everybody’s business.

“How people act when they are struggling to cope is different for everyone – people may seem distant or upset, but suicidal thoughts are often temporary – so if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and try and start a conversation. Whether that’s on a journey home from work as we start to travel more or someone you may pass in the street – any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life. Let’s start a conversation and work together to prevent suicide.”

Initially launched in 2017, Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research showed passengers have a key role to play in suicide prevention.** The latest phase of Small Talk Saves Lives has the backing from leading suicide prevention expert and psychologist, Associate Professor Lisa Marzano, from Middlesex University. Further new research from Marzano has confirmed that when asked, people with experience of suicidal thoughts said that verbal interventions, including small talk, providing reassurance and listening, are the most helpful things a person can do to respond to someone in a crisis.*** 

Associate Professor Lisa Marzano, Middlesex University said: “I am pleased to support Samaritans’ latest phase of Small Talk Saves Lives. This important campaign remains a testament to the fact that we can all play a crucial role in preventing suicide and help someone who may be in need by looking out for one another. It could save lives.”  

Rupert Lown, chief health and safety officer at Network Rail, said: “As lockdown restrictions lift, it’s essential that we continue to take care of ourselves and each other. That’s why we’re supporting Small Talk Saves Lives and encouraging passengers to join our staff to look out for someone who may be in emotional distress and start up a conversation. When you’ve initiated a conversation, listen to what they have to say and repeat it back to them to make them feel listened to and understood. Suicide is preventable, so let’s work together to start conversations and save lives.”

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Doyle, said: “When our officers make lifesaving interventions, they may simply start by saying hello and engaging the person in conversation. There’s no magic formula for what to say – I’ve heard of officers chatting about the weather or the football. What I’d like the public to take from this campaign is that everyone has the ability to make a difference. Starting a conversation can be all that it takes. We’re not suggesting people intervene if they don’t feel comfortable or safe to do so. They can tell a member of rail staff or a police officer – many of whom have been trained by Samaritans – or call 999.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris said: “We have all been through a year of difficulty, many feeling cut off from friends and family, so it is more important than ever for people to look out for each other. The work that Samaritans is doing on our rail network is vitally important to so many people. It is incredibly reassuring to see how comforting just a few small words can be to those struggling.”

©Network Rail

Find out more about Small Talk Saves Lives at: www.samaritans.org/smalltalksaveslives or join the conversation on social media using #SmallTalkSavesLives.

A press pack is available at www.samaritans.org/stslpress. For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Samaritans Media Manager Amy Shacklady on 07983500137 or a.shacklady@samaritans.org

Network Rail Senior Media Manager Lucy Jones on 07734649250 or lucy.jones@networkrail.co.uk

British Transport Police Media Relations team 0300 123 9104 or Mediarelations@btp.police.uk