A HUSBAND and wife who work for the railway have won an award after saving the life of a man found on the tracks.

Paul and Agy O’Brien were recognised with an Inspiration ‘Pride’ Award for saving a manwhen he tried to take his own li fe on the railway. Last week, on World Suicide Prevention Day, the couple helped promote a series of motivational messages including “It’s OK not to be OK” in a campaign launched by GTR.

Their employers Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express trains won threenational safety accolades, including the special ‘Pride’ award for Mr and Mrs O’Brien.

The engineering team, which maintains, upgrades and cleans the network’s 2,800 carriages, won Gold for its health and safety record while the company as a whole won Silver for health and safety overall, at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Health and Safety Awards.

Engineering Director Steve Lammin said: “In the Engineering teams, there is a real determination to drive the ‘Zero Harm’ ethos. Receiving such a prestigious accolade shows that we are certainly heading in the right direction.

“The different departments within Engineering have really come together to deliver best practice and an even safer environment for our staff and passengers alike.”

Head of Safety and Health Mark Whitley said: “This is an excellent achievement that recognises the hard work teams across the business have put in over the past year, and the progress we are making towards our ambition for Zero Harm.”

Having worked on the railway for 13 years, Paul O’Brien has had his fair share of challenging days, but on this occasion, it was his wife Agy that had to raise the alarm. We tell their story after #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, which was on September 10.

“I remember the day very clearly because it was our daughter’s first day at nursery and I really wanted to be there to collect her at home time”, explains Project Manager Agy O’Brien, who also works on the railway.

“I was off sick at the time with a broken leg and I had agreed with Paul that I’d set off early and meet him at the nursery. I was approaching the station when I saw a man standing in the middle of the track and I knew instantly something was wrong. To avoid startling him or causing any panic, I simply started speaking to him and asked what had happened, as I could see he had blood all over his hands.”

The man told Agy that he’d been dumped by his girlfriend and wanted to die. Thinking on her feet, Agy called husband Paul to handle things from an operational perspective. “I phoned Paul so that he could immediately contact the control centre and put a cautionary speed limit on approaching trains. I then went back to the man and calmly kept speaking to him – I used my broken leg as an excuse to ask for help to the other side of the track and luckily this worked to get us both away from immediate danger.”

Whilst Agy dealt directly with the suicidal man, Multi-Skilled Team Leader Paul alerted Sussex Police, whose presence spooked the man into running away.

“I managed to catch up with him two streets later” says Paul, who didn’t want him to walk away from this situation. “I knew if I let him go he’d just find another track, or another bridge; and I was determined not to let that happen. I wanted to reassure him that he wasn’t alone and we were getting him help.”

Paul and Agy managed to get the man to safety and left him in the capable hands of Sussex Police and the British Transport Police. The couple’s lifesaving intervention has been recognised formally with a prestigious RosPA Pride Award. They warn others not to judge a book by its cover.

“We are all vulnerable in one way or another and anyone can feel suicidal”, says Paul. “Don’t focus on what someone looks like, watch their body language to look out for potential signs that something is amiss and together we can all make safe interventions that will save lives.”

Mr and Mrs O’Brien saved the man at a station in East Sussex, the exact location of which is not being disclosed due to the nature of the incident.