The effectiveness of trackside fencing in preventing railway suicides

This article provides a sample of recent Australian research that demonstrates the effectiveness of fencing in preventing railway suicides.

Clapperton et al, 2023 The effectiveness of installing trackside fencing in preventing railway suicides: a pre-post study design in Victoria, Australia

This study finds that the length of fencing on the railway network may be an important determinant of its effectiveness in reducing railway suicide. It found a significant suicide prevention effect of fencing installed to prevent intruders accessing the track at known problem locations on the railway network, only when the fencing was greater than 100 metres in length.

In recent years small amounts of standard fencing (not mid-track fencing) have progressively been installed on the railway network in metropolitan Victoria. To examine whether this was an effective railway suicide prevention measure, the researchers used data from the Victorian Suicide Register to test whether the incidence of railway suicide occurring near to sites where fencing was installed changed after the installation of the fencing.

The study identified a 57% decrease in the rate of railway suicides within a 1000m radius of sites where the fencing was more than 100m in length. This finding is relatively consistent with other suicide prevention research that has demonstrated superior results of interventions that completely, rather than partially, restrict access to means at a site.

This study led by Dr Angela Clapperton from the Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne was published in August 2023. It is one of a number of publications resulting from a research project supported by TrackSAFE.

Access the full Clapperton et al paper here.

Gregor et al, 2019, Patterns of pre-crash behaviour in railway suicides and the effect of corridor fencing:  a natural experiment in New South Wales

This research by Shirley Gregor, Gary Beavan, Adrian Culbert, Priscilla Kan John, Nguyen Viet Ngo, Byron Keating, Ruonan Sun & Ibrahim Radwan was published in December 2019 in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.

Suicides on railway systems remain a significant concern world-wide.  Understanding patterns of pre-crash behaviour, whether jumping, lying or wandering on tracks, is important for the design of preventative measures, yet prior studies have reported divergent patterns of behaviour. This study tested the hypothesis that higher standards of corridor fencing reduce the proportion of train suicides in the non-jumping category. Data was analyzed as a natural experiment for 171 cases of apparent railway suicides in New South Wales (NSW) for the period 2011-2018. Results were congruent with the hypothesis. A higher level of corridor fencing in metropolitan Sydney was associated with a lower proportion in the non-jumping category (33%) compared with regional areas (74%). The article contributes by showing that: (i) fencing appears to lead to a reduction in some types of rail suicides and thus; (ii) contributes to a lower overall rate of suicide by train; and (iii) even with fencing, the non-jumping incidents warrant attention for appropriate countermeasures.

This research Patterns of pre-crash behaviour in railway suicides and the effect of corridor fencing:  a natural experiment in New South Wales is available here.

See also:

Effectiveness of barriers on bridges

Effectiveness of removing level crossings

Updated 11 January 2024

10 September 2023