Taunton Rail Responders
Whilst rail travel is very safe, sadly stations and railway lines are locations where some people suffer injury and death due to accidents and illness.
The British Transport Police are responsible for public safety on and near the railways. They work in partnership with local communities, and approached Taunton Team Chaplaincy to ask if we would be part of a new initiative to offer a welcome and caring presence at our station.
The Samaritans are aware some people experiencing mental health problems might be drawn to the railway. They have provided training for staff and volunteers to help them engage appropriately with anyone showing signs of distress or anxiety. By means of a simple, friendly approach and a listening ear, help can be given, often by signposting to Samaritans, other charities or NHS services.
Experience from similar schemes piloted elsewhere in the UK has shown that a timely intervention can prevent someone making a decision which has irrevocable consequences. If it is followed up with an appropriate referral to professional support, most will not repeat their action.
Drawing on many years of experience offering a listening ear, prayer and compassion in workplaces and community locations, Taunton Team Chaplaincy has recruited a team of Volunteers. These members of local churches are trained and willing to offer regular visits to the station and the Obridge Viaduct nearby.
‘GWR is pleased to welcome these community-minded volunteers and looks forward to a productive partnership which will enhance the experience of all our customers, and help to ensure a warm and friendly station environment.’
Tracy McCarthy, Station manger for Taunton Station (January 2018)
Wearing a distinctive blue uniform and labelled ‘Rail Responders’, these Christians seek to respond to human need with God’s love, following Jesus’ example of care for those who suffer and struggle with many aspects of life.
Like the now familiar Street Pastors, these Christians do not preach but they provide a caring, listening and reassuring presence in an informal manner. Working in teams of three or four, each volunteer patrols at least once a month, at various times of the day. They will help rail operators spread basic safety messages among young people who sometimes play dangerously near fast trains.
Similar schemes elsewhere in the UK have brought the added bonus of a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour on and near the stations they visit.
“The railway is seen often as a safe refuge for people in crisis. This can attract vulnerable people to places like Taunton and Bridgwater train stations. The rail staff are obviously very busy with the safe running of the railway and sometimes these vulnerable people can be overlooked. The Scheme is aimed at ensuring we have capable, trained guardians that are able to identify and engage with anyone that appear vulnerable. By engaging with them, and more importantly listening they are able to provide the much needed empathy and care. Sometimes this can be in a practical way, like helping them with their onwards journey. Other times, just by being there for them and listening to them.”
Superintendent Matt Allingham, British Transport Police (June 2018)
Taunton Rail Responders are among a number of organisations in partnership with rail operators and transport police to help keep the staff and travelling public safe and well. The staff of the Railway companies are supported by the long-standing ministry of the Railway Mission, who provide chaplains to each of the rail network areas. Samaritans display their contact details prominently in stations and locations known to attract people contemplating suicide.
Similar schemes are operating in Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Birmingham, Colchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Fife and Reading.
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