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Black-spot barriers Preventing suicides on the Swiss rail network

The Swiss Federal Railways is responding to the problem of suicides by erecting barriers on certain “black spot” bridges and sections of track. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)

On August 22, thousands of commuters were heavily delayed for hours on a popular stretch of track along Lake Geneva following “passenger action” at Rolle station. Passenger action is, as everyone knows, a euphemism for a suicide or attempted suicide. 

According to the Federal Office of Transport, cited in a Le Tempsexternal link article on Wednesday, last year there were “140 desperate acts” on the Swiss rail network in which a person died and 14 in which someone was seriously injured. 

The Federal Railways published a study last month called Suicide on Railwaysexternal link in which they said on average 115 people killed themselves a year between 2003 and 2017. 

“In addition to relatives, railway suicides place railway employees and sometimes passengers in situations which are very difficult to deal with,” the authors wrote, explaining why the railways had decided in 2013 to implement a set of measures against rail suicides. 

These include improving the exchange of information with the relevant authorities and organisations, showing restraint when providing information about rail suicides, the construction of fences or barriers, and training staff about the issue. 

Such measures have proved effective, says the report: “Courageous interventions by Federal Railways employees near railway stations and tracks have on several occasions prevented suicides and helped save lives.” 

On Monday, World Suicide Prevention Dayexternal link, the Federal Office of Public Health launched an online research platformexternal link with the aim of making it easier for people to find advice, information and self-help groups related to suicide prevention. The online tool is accessible both to professionals and the general public, and it covers all regions of Switzerland. 

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