A total of nine deaths were recorded on Irish railways last year — the highest level in more than a decade.
The annual report by the railway safety watchdog reveals that all but one of the fatalities were suspected cases of self-harm, with seven suicides on the Iarnród Éireann network and one on the Luas lines.
The Commission for Railway Regulation (CRR) said there were several other incidents during the year that, under slightly different conditions, could have resulted in further deaths including three incidents where people were struck by a train.
An Iarnród Éireann spokesman said the number of self-harm deaths was a source of sadness for families and friends of those involved, as well as the company’s staff, including drivers, “for whom it can have lasting effects”.
“It is only two years since the lowest total on record and we will continue to work with our employees and mental health organisations including the Samaritans and Seechange to promote mental health issues,” said the spokesman, who added that Iarnród Éireann was grateful for employees, customers, and gardaí who had alerted its staff on numerous occasions about individuals in distress near railway lines, thus preventing more self-harm incidents.
The report shows that 57 passengers suffered injuries while either boarding or alighting from a train last year – down from 79 in 2016 but still one of the highest totals in the past decade.
Overall, the CRR logged 53 collisions involving trains or trams during 2017 including three incidents involving collisions with cars at level crossings — the first time such accidents have occurred since 2014.
Iarnród Éireann said the increase in incidents at level crossings was “disappointing”. The spokesperson said it was developing new warning systems at a number of user-operated crossings to enhance safety further.
“It must be stressed level crossings are safe when used correctly,” he said.
There were a total of 25 incidents of trains colliding with other obstacles on the line and a further 23 incidents of collisions with large animals, mostly cattle, plus two collisions with station infrastructure.
There was one recorded derailment of a train last year when a Dart service came off the tracks near Dún Laoghaire station on September 13 last.
Although there were no serious passenger injuries, the accident is under investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Unit.
No derailments of Luas trams were recorded in 2017.
The CRR welcomed a steady decline in recent years in the incidence of trains passing through red light signals, otherwise known as SPADs (signals passed at danger), on the national rail network.
A total of eight SPADs were recorded last year — the lowest annual total since 2011.
However, the CRR said there was an increase in the number of SPADs recorded on the Luas network — up to 28 last year from 23 in 2016.