SOVRN Project

The SOVRN (Suicides and Open Verdicts on the Railway Network) project started in 1999 to find ways of reducing the occurrence and the impact of suicides on the railway. SOVRN was commissioned and is funded jointly by Railway Safety and the Director of Health and Social Care North of the Health Service (NHS). The work is hosted by the Doncaster and South Humber Healthcare NHS Trust and supported by a team of academics from the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Sheffield.

The main aims of SOVRN are:

  • To identify the characteristics of people who commit suicide on the railway.
  • To assess the impact of railway suicides on those they affect.
  • To evaluate policy and practice in managing the effects of railway suicides.
  • To examine how the agencies involved might work together to reduce the frequency and the impact of railway suicides.

The research for SOVRN was completed on time in August 2002, and the project report is now being prepared. Following peer review, the final report should be available by the end of December 2002.

The main thrust of the research was an audit of all available information relating to suicides on a selected railway route over an eight-year period. The route selected was the East Coast Main Line from London Kings Cross to Berwick on Tweed including the spur from Doncaster to Leeds. This gave a sufficient number of events across a good cross-section of urban and rural locations to meet the needs of the project. The research of actual events was supported by a Delphi survey which revealed actions and methods which could be used to apply the research findings in practicable ways.

The end of the research activity was marked by a conference held in Doncaster on 25 September 2002 which had two purposes:

  • To communicate emerging findings from the research to a wide representation from the railway industry, the NHS, the emergency services, and voluntary organisations.
  • Through workshop sessions, to identify good practice and expert opinion which would lead to practical measures likely to reduce both the frequency and the impact of railway suicides.

Railway Safety’s representative on the SOVRN steering committee is Bill Robinson, who said: ‘SOVRN will be successful if it provides specific information and advice to the railway industry which leads to reductions in both the occurrence and the impact of suicides. The results of SOVRN will be used both to provide advice of practicable measures and to guide any further research which may be necessary.’