In a Wednesday meeting of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, state railroad officials acknowledged that suicides by train are on the rise in 2022 and discussed possible solutions.
There have been four suicides so far on state rails this year, including the recent death of a Greenwich man who was struck near the Cos Cob station. Comparatively, 2021 saw one fatality.
Rich Jankovich from the Connecticut Department of Transportation said the state is implementing safety measures and is working with federal agencies including the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration to address the problem of suicides on the state’s rail lines.
“In this particular case with depression and suicide, it’s going to be a really hard one to try to control or try to get a handle around,” Jankovich said.
He explained that the department has been speaking with Metro-North about implementing strategies like changing the lighting at train stations, but stated the platforms themselves are the key issue as there is no protection.
“You’ve got the platform, you’ve got the edge and you’ve got a train coming on. And it happens quick,” he said.
Gregory Burnes, a member of the council, asked Jankovich if he had seen Japan’s implementation of sliding doors on the edge of platforms to prevent injuries and fatalities. Jankovich was not familiar with the concept.
Jim Carlson, a manager of Shore Line East, said that the rail’s stations have ample fencing and signs all the way to New London with suicide hotline numbers. Additionally, he is involved with the FRA’s System Safety Program which develops and implements proactive security processes.
Michael Donnarumma, superintendent of the New Haven Line at Metro-North Railroad, also mentioned that CTDOT is involved with Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization committed to preventing railroad fatalities. The group runs various campaigns across the state, including an upcoming one in which they will visit local schools to discuss train station safety.
Despite state programs and station efforts, officials agreed that suicides by train are difficult to stop. “If they want to do it, they are going to find a way to get out there, unfortunately,” Donnarumma said.
Jankovich said he could speak to the 2022 increase as former CTDOT Commissioner Jeffrey Parker died earlier this year by train suicide. “It hits us personally. I knew him personally.”
He explained that he knows the numbers are up and the department is looking into various solutions and speaking to specialists.
“We’re doing our best to try to advocate for folks, and we’re gonna work harder on it,” Jankovich said.