TransPennine Express colleague in West Yorkshire helps to save a life as rail industry supports Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives campaign: TransPennine Express colleague in West Yorkshire helps to save a life as rail industry supports Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives campaign. Photo credit: David Oates

Wednesday 4 Aug 2021

TransPennine Express colleague in West Yorkshire helps to save a life as rail industry supports Samaritans Small Talk Saves Lives campaign

Region & Route:
| Eastern: North & East
  • Huddersfield-based railway colleague, Sheila Anderson, has made a life-saving intervention after Samaritans training with Network Rail
  • With 43% of people in Yorkshire rating their small talk as ‘good’*, Samaritans are relaunching their Small Talk Saves Lives campaign
  • The campaign aims to give the wider public the confidence to trust their instincts and, like Sheila, act if they see someone who needs help

Huddersfield-based railway colleague, Sheila Anderson, has made an intervention to save someone’s life after feeling empowered to apply the skills she learnt through Samaritans’ ‘managing suicidal contacts’ training with Network Rail.

With 43% of people in Yorkshire rating their small talk as ‘good’*, Samaritans are relaunching their ‘Small Talk Saves Lives’ campaign in partnership with Network Rail, British Transport Police and the wider rail industry. It hopes to give passengers and the wider public the confidence to trust their own instincts and, like Sheila, act if they see someone who needs help by starting a conversation.

Sheila, a Learning & Development Administrator, has worked for TransPennine Express in Huddersfield for six years and took part in Samaritans’ ‘managing suicidal contacts’ training with Network Rail, as part of the rail industry partnership.

In early 2020, Sheila was heading out for her weekly food shop, when she saw someone who needed help – trusting her instincts, she struck up a conversation and managed to get them the help they needed.

Sheila Anderson, Learning & Development Administrator for TransPennine Express, said: “Around the beginning of last year, I was on the way to my weekly shop when I came across a young woman in floods of tears. I had taken part in Samaritans’ Managing Suicidal Contacts training over four years ago, but something inside me told me something was wrong, so I stopped the car and slowly approached her. I asked, “has something happened to bring you here today?” and I could tell that instantly broke her thoughts. She told me her name and said she was struggling to cope as she wasn’t able to get the support she needed.

“I then encouraged her to move to somewhere quieter to get her to a safer place and she asked me to call the hospital she was at. Another woman stopped and kindly offered to help. She hugged the young lady and made small talk, whilst I arranged for an ambulance.

“I’d encourage everyone, if they see someone who needs help, just say anything – anything that’s going to break that cycle of thought. Even though I was lucky enough to have Samaritans’ training in the rail industry, I think I’m quite an observant and caring person and since that experience I’m even more hyper-sensitive and would do the same again in a heartbeat.”

Network Rail offers this training by Samaritans to give rail staff the skills they need to help identify vulnerable people and get them to a place of safety. Over the past 10 years, the partnership has trained over 23,000 rail and BTP staff to look out for passengers and make conversation if they feel someone might be vulnerable.

Olly Glover, Head of Safety, Health and Environment for Network Rail’s North and East route, said: “At Network Rail, we’re committed to doing all we can to reduce the number of suicides, which is why we work with Samaritans to train railway colleagues in managing this sensitive and vital issue.

“We’re proud to be supporting Small Talk Saves Lives and encourage passengers to join our staff to look out for someone who may be in emotional distress and start up a conversation. Suicide is preventable, so let’s work together to start conversations and save lives.”

The campaign is a reminder that, like Sheila, everyone has the skills to start a conversation with someone who needs help. By trusting our instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, a little small talk and a simple question, such as “Hello, what’s the time?” can be all it takes to interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts and help start them on the journey to recovery. It could save a life.

Find out more about Small Talk Saves Lives at: or join the conversation on social media using #SmallTalkSavesLives.

A press pack is available at


Notes to Editors

  • Photo credit: David Oates.
  • The new campaign video will be shown on social media, along with posters which will be displayed across Network Rail stations, provides small talk scenarios to give people examples of what they could say, encouraging them to trust their instincts.
  • Due to the proven link between certain types of media reporting of suicide and increases in suicide rates, please be mindful of Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicidand Rail Suicide factsheet. 
  • *Survey was carried out by YouGov from 2-4 July 2021 with a total sample size of 2224 adults.  unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • The rail industry and British Transport Police (BTP) work in partnership with Samaritans to reduce suicides on the railway and support those affected by them. Our suicide prevention programme includes training railway employees and BTP staff to look out for and offer support to people who may be considering suicide and working within the wider community to de-stigmatise suicide and promote help-seeking behaviour. To date almost 23,000 rail staff and BTP officers have received suicide prevention training. 
  • Anyone can contact Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or email or go to to find details of your nearest branch where you can talk to one of our trained volunteers face to face.

TransPennine Express

TransPennine Express is an intercity rail provider with a vision to Take the North Further. We are delivering an investment of over £500m that will transform travel and customer experience across the North and into Scotland. This includes the introduction of 220 brand new state of the art Nova carriages, providing new routes, services and will increase capacity by over 80 per cent on a seven day a week timetable.

We are proud to be a FirstGroup plc company which provides easy and convenient mobility, improving quality of life by connecting people and communities.

Our network is:

  • North TransPennine - including Newcastle to Manchester Airport, Redcar/Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport, Scarborough to Liverpool, Edinburgh to Liverpool and Hull to Manchester Piccadilly
  • South TransPennine from Cleethorpes via Doncaster and Sheffield to Manchester Airport
  • North West and Scotland – from Liverpool and Manchester Airport to Preston, Oxenholme, Carlisle, Penrith, Edinburgh and Glasgow,
  • Destinations served by TransPennine Express include Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Northallerton, Thirsk, York, Malton, Scarborough, Hull, Selby, Leeds, Huddersfield, Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Meadowhall, Doncaster, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston, Redcar, Morpeth, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Liverpool

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