Preventing railway suicides through level crossing removals

The removal of level crossings in Melbourne, Australia results in new rail fencing and grade-separation of tracks from the surrounding environment. This restricts pedestrian and car access to the rail tracks. Reducing access to means is a known suicide prevention intervention.

Research led by Dr Clapperton from the University of Melbourne and published in July 2022 investigated whether the removal of level crossings in Melbourne, might have a suicide prevention impact. It found “good evident of a reduction in railway suicides within a 500m and 1000m of level crossing removal site (68% and 61% decrease in the number of suicides, respectively)”.

This example translates this result into lives saved.

“in the year before any level crossings were removed, 16 railway suicides occurred within 500m of a level crossing across the Victorian network.  If we assume all crossings were removed at once, and we expect a 68% reduction as we saw at the intervention sites, we could expect 55 lives to be saved over the following five years.”

The paper recommends:

  • “Removing additional level crossings across Australia, especially at sites where suicides have occurred” and
  • “that when considering future plans suicide prevention potential and lives saved to be included in the project calculus.”

The Victorian Level Crossing Removal Project was established in 2015 to oversee the removal of 85 level crossings across metropolitan Melbourne by 2025. At at July 2022, 65 had been removed.

The observation period covered by this research was 1 January 2008 to 30 June 2021.

The published study is available here.

July 2022