The simplicity and strength of Samaritans' partnership with Network Rail, which began in 2010, is that it supplies a discernible benefit to both sides. The rail industry had been struggling to reduce the number of suicides on the railways, which, beside the human tragedy, cost £50m a year in total and £10m to Network Rail alone. So working with a suicide-prevention charity made sense. "It wasn't difficult to make a business case to invest in the expertise of a body like the Samaritans," says Mike Carr, national operations safety manager at Network Rail.
For Samaritans, the partnership, which will last until 2015, provides funding of £1m a year to deliver the charity's mission of preventing suicide. Samaritans provides training to rail staff, helps train drivers in the aftermath of suicides and has set up a referral scheme with the British Transport Police.
But the partnership, which used publicity such as a staged boxing match at Waterloo Station in London to try to reach the target audience of men aged between 35 and 50, has also provided visible evidence that a volunteer-based charity such as Samaritans can successfully deliver long-term strategic relationships. "It shows that we can run a huge national partnership," says Rachel Kirby-Rider, director of fundraising and communications at Samaritans. "A lot of corporations are sceptical about volunteers delivering a partnership."
Kirby-Rider admits the partnership has not been easy - the rail industry was initially unconvinced that the number of suicides could be reduced. But there has been an 11 per cent fall in railway suicides after the first year of the partnership.