News, Transport

Blue lights coming to more UK stations in bid to deter suicides

Blue lights were installed at Gatwick last summer following a spate of suicides on train lines in the south of England. There have been no such incidents at the station since

The company behind the blue floodlights that Gatwick Airport is using to try and cut suicides and antisocial behaviour on train platforms, is now hoping more stations will take up the idea.

UK-based Minimise Energy custom-made the blue lights for the platforms at Gatwick, after the worst year for suicides on railway lines in the south of England.

As well as the human tragedy of deaths on the railway, suicides cause huge disruption, delay and cost, which station operators are desperate to avoid.

Staff are trained to try to spot the signs and help people, but unfortunately it’s difficult to predict when or where such incidents will take place.

Terry Denyer, senior asset engineer for Network Rail, says early indications from the Gatwick project are good. ‘Thus far we have had no reported suicide-related incidents at the station since the lights were turned on and we have received anecdotal evidence only from station management that secondary effects such as vandalism, littering and staff abuse may well have fallen.’

The organisation plans to install the lights at four more stations in Sussex, and is  is looking at ways of measuring the effects of the lights. But with so many different factors influencing how people behave, it’s very difficult to pinpoint how much difference the lights themselves have really made.

Minimise Energy is now offering blue versions as a variant of its T-Flood product, saying it ‘can positively affect mood and help tackle issues such as self-harm, violence, vandalism and graffiti’.

Tokyo’s Yamanote Line, where blue lights are believed to have helped deter suicides

The idea of using blue lights came from Japan, where they have been fitted in a bid to reduce the number of suicides on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line. Incidents have fallen there since a peak in 2009 when the installation started.

However it’s still not clear why blue lights should have such an effect – some scientists point to a calming effect, but that’s just one of many theories. Even so, station operators in the UK and Japan are convinced enough to invest.

In its description of the product, Minimise Energy says: ‘Research has shown that blue light can induce calm, and as a colour often associated with authority, particularly the police, blue light in public places is different enough from the norm to encourage people to rethink before committing unwanted behaviour.’

As well as train stations, the fittings are suitable for car parks, stairwells and building exteriors.

Andrew Shortis, managing director of Minimise Energy, says: ‘Our T-Flood luminaires are ideal for exterior and architectural lighting and can have a positive effect on lowering antisocial behaviour rates.’

Watch our exclusive video on the blue lights at Gatwick below: