Rail Industry Million Hour Challenge

Our Ref: HSR/1/9
Head Office Circular NP/063/19
3rd June 2019

Dear Colleague

Rail Industry Million Hour Challenge

The rail industry has recently announced the five-year Million Hour Challenge, which aims to encourage staff to donate their time, energy and skill to help the Samaritans in their work supporting people in emotional crisis.

This matter was considered by the National Executive Committee who noted and adopted the following resolution:

We note the report on file and instruct the General Secretary to circulate this item to all Branches and Regional Councils.

The aims of the campaign are:

• To give one million hours in support of Samaritans
• Raise £2.5 million
• Reduce the stigma of mental health issues amongst employees and promote workplace cultures of wellbeing
• Promote a culture where it is normal to keep an eye out for colleagues

The Challenge is open to everyone in the industry, and one of the first organisations to have signed up to the Challenge is the RMT alongside Network Rail, Office of Rail and Road, Rail Delivery Group, Transport for London, Rail Safety and Standards Board, and other unions. Train operating companies are supporting the Challenge by promoting it to their staff.

Mental health is of particular concern in the rail industry where the rate of suicide in the workforce is 1.6 times higher than the UK average with 60% of workers have experienced mental health issues.
And research has shown that volunteering brings its own benefits with people enjoying improved mental health, physical well-being, a better work/life balance and a feeling of positivity and pride from helping others.

The Challenge was officially launched with an event at King’s Cross Station in London on 29th March 2019. Volunteers can get involved in a variety of ways, but to begin with everyone is encouraged to complete two online learning courses. Volunteers can also take an Active Listening course, which aims to provide the knowledge and confidence to start a conversation with someone who needs someone to talk to.

Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer of Samaritans, said:

“Whenever I meet anyone from the rail industry, they tell me how proud they are of the work we do together to prevent suicide. And often they say, ‘But, I’d like to do something more’
The Million Hour Challenge will allow Samaritans to make an even bigger impact in suicide prevention, as well as bring the benefits of volunteering to many more people, in new and imaginative ways.
When you give to others, it makes you feel good. People who volunteer through work are happier, healthier and likely to be more engaged with their employer - coming to work has even more purpose. We’re delighted to be working with trusted partners to innovate through this ground-breaking initiative in corporate volunteering.”

Mick Cash, General Secretary RMT, said:

"‎RMT recognises the important work of the Samaritans and the importance of promoting a culture within the rail industry where mental health issues are no longer stigmatised. The stress on front line rail staff continues to increase and the entire industry needs to face up to that fact and provide the support and resources required to address the impact right down to the very local level. No one should be left to feel isolated and alone."

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, ORR Director of Safety, and sponsor of the Million Hour Challenge said:

“We can build on the success of the partnership between the rail industry and the Samaritans further through the Million Hour Challenge which will encourage volunteering from across the whole sector.
This will not only help the Samaritans as they seek to cope with increased demand for their vital services but will also be beneficial for the mental health of all of us in the sector who volunteer our time, not least by encouraging us to talk with each other, and the wider community, about the issues involved.”

The RMT have been at the front of a drive to get employers and regulators to improve their approach to mental ill-health during recent years and believe the full effects on workers are still not fully assessed or understood and that the rail industry’s approach is sometimes seen as little more than a sticking plaster approach. There is still too much stigma attached to mental ill-health that means workers are more likely to bury problems rather than have confidence in local management to be able to deal with their problems in a sensitive and proactive manner.

The Million Hour Challenge should assist the RMT’s agenda to get the industry to take these issues more seriously. We shall shortly be publishing a new campaign document setting out what we believe will be rail industry minimum standards for tackling the scourge of mental ill health.

Full details of the scheme and how to get involved in the million-hour challenge are available at:


Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary