Service disruption

The entry today is going to be a bit on a darker subject than usual.

While travelling in the tube this morning, we heard an announcement telling us that the trains in such and such line were severely delayed due to a passenger under the train.

You see, we live in London. Having trains delayed are a normal occurrence for us. If anyone asks me how long it takes me to commute to work, my answer would probably be “30-40 minutes on a good day.” There is always a signal failure, or a service regulation, or some other stuff going on. We even have websites and apps to let us know about the disruptions.

The image we have of the Tube is that when it rains, water gets on the tracks and it stops working. If it snows, then ice is the problem. If it’s too hot… I don’t know, cables melt or something? We know whenever we use the Tube, especially at peak hours, we’re going to suffer delays. It’s part of our daily routine.

So when we hear through the speakers that we’re being held for one reason or another, we grunt and maybe moan, check our watches, and get our phones out to email our bosses.

Normally, the delays don’t last too long, but when we hear that a delay is caused due to a passenger on the tracks, well, that’s a whole different story.

The first reaction is to get annoyed. Now, before you reply anything harsh about this statement, you need to realise this: London is a busy city, and the Tube is a very busy method of transport. We hear about these accidents all the time. Sometimes people are only injured, other times people actually die.

Incidentally, it seems that a person jumping in front of a train and surviving are often charged with offenses such as “endangering safety on the railway” and “obstruction of trains with intent”  which, even if it makes sense, seems a bit unhelpful (even silly) to me, but it probably serves to appease the wrath of the average commuter.

The truth is that we’re getting desensitised about these incidents. They’re becoming too normal.

A relatively quick search online reveals that there were 444 suicides in the Tube in the last 10 years (the majority of these seem happen in the Northern Line: 145!). OK, it’s over the last 10 years, but that means that there are around 44.4 suicides each year, which is 3.7 per month.

Every time one of these incidents happen, people get annoyed and some jokes start going around. The questions people seem to ask are: Why do they do this at peak hours? Why don’t they jump from bridges where trains run faster rather than at stations where they have to slow down?

This morning, I realised that for the average commuter, suicide attempts in the Tube have become nothing more than an annoyance, and little or no thought is given to the actual reasons beneath a person deciding to end their lives, especially in that manner.

For some reason, this makes me sad. Many people think that suicide is the cowardly option, the easy escape. That might or might not be true, I cannot know what goes on in someone’s mind when they decide that’s the only option for them and I have never dealt with this type of situation.

I imagine there are some ways of doing it that might need some preparation: going somewhere specifically, gathering supplies… I imagine people committing suicide in these ways have given it plenty of thought, and it’s some sort of weight on their shoulders they can’t seem to shake off. In these cases, maybe the person actually reconsiders their choice, maybe someone can see the signs and help, I don’t know. Sometimes it might actually never happen. The fact that they still happen is troublesome, to say the least. Nobody should feel so helpless that they consider taking their own lives over a period of time and decide that’s the best option.

However, whenever I hear about a passenger on the tracks, I always get a different sort of sadness. These people were probably thinking about their troubled lives. They were maybe considering different scenarios in their heads and finally reached the conclusion that there was no point. I imagine it being some sort of panic attack feeling, lack of air, the need to get out, or to do something, and then hearing the train approaching.

What I’m trying to get to is that, in my mind, these people didn’t actually have the time to consider their choice. They don’t have the friendly face, maybe the helping hand that sees some telling signs and tries to find out why, maybe give advice, maybe simply provide a shoulder to cry on. It’s the possibly hasty decision they never get to regret.

I’m not claiming that every person who acts this way is thinking the above; as I mentioned before, I really have no idea.

Truth is, suicide rates increase in times of economical crisis and people who cannot cope with their lives, debt, or who sometimes feel they’ve failed their loved ones. These people felt they had nothing else to live for, and that makes me sad. I felt sad for the passenger this morning.

Maybe that person survived, or maybe he or she didn’t, I’ll never know, but I hope they did, and maybe in that second before falling, realised that life is actually worth it.

Finally, as I don’t like writing about sad or dark thoughts since it gives me a feeling that the people reading me might be affected by them, and feel upset, let me leave you with a list of places you can check if you are in this situation, or are concerned about someone close to you,

Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
Childline 0800 1111
PAPYRUS 0800 068 41 41

You can find other websites and more information in the NHS page.