19.4 Removal of death memorials

This measure consists in removing or hiding death memorials at stations or along tracks in order to prevent people with potential suicide intent from being death primed and train drivers from being reminded anymore than necessary of an incident that happened at a specific location. Death memorials are usually a collection of mourning artefacts (e.g., cross, candles, flowers, photo of the victim etc.) placed at an accident site as a constant reminder that somebody passed away in that very location. These memorials are therefore very likely to activate death-related thoughts in people who see them.
  • Create an alternative memorial site for mourners (for example one per country / province) and communicate about the alternative memorial site in media.
  • Make it a specialised task for one trained employee to contact the families. Train this person on how to communicate with the public about announcements (keeping people informed) and with families about the prohibition of memorials.
  • Make sure no ‘silent’ or ‘memorial parade’ is organized to commemorate someone who died by train suicide. In the Netherlands such a planned parade was prevented. The plan was to start this parade near the level crossing where the event had happened. ProRail and NS   were in touch with the school of this girl. A letter was sent to all the parents of the students to explain that this would have drawn even more attention to the train as a means for suicide, also in the press.
  • Do not remove memorials without consulting family of deceased. Explain why it is dangerous to have such a memorial and point out how traumatic such a memorial can be for train drivers.
  • Another reason for removing death memorials is that it is usually not at a safe location for relatives to mourn the loved one or to hold gatherings. In the Netherlands the memorials are removed after being in touch with the survivors and after photographing the site. The survivors are explained that there is a special national monument where they can mourn the deceased person. The victim’s relatives appreciate if they are accompanied by someone from the railways (e.g. NS   Aftercare) to visit the monument.
  • In Belgium, there is no overall strategy for managing this aspect. A case-by-case analysis is made to ensure that the memorial is not located within the track gauge or in the vicinity of areas that needs to be accessible for field staff.
  • A study undertaken in the UK investigating the impact of memorials on bridges and associated media coverage on suicidal behaviour at motorway bridges did not show a statistical difference in the proportion of incidents pre decoration versus post decoration (O’Neill et al 2021).

last update: 2022-06-01 Print