A TEAM of volunteers who help people in danger on or near the rail tracks in Taunton have won a windfall of nearly £10,000.

Taunton Rail Responders have been awarded £9,900 from the National Lottery to help tackle mental health issues on the railway.

The group, drawn from local churches, will use the cash to recruit and train more members and to increase the number of patrols on the platforms at Taunton Station and the nearby Obridge flyover.

Taunton Rail Responders, which has been running since early last year and is staffed by 12 volunteers, was developed by Taunton Team Chaplaincy following an appeal for help from Supt Matt Allingham, of British Transport Police (BTP), who was concerned about the number of incidents involving mental health issues on and near railway line.

Founder Adrian Prior-Sankey said the Christian volunteers do not preach, but, like Taunton Street Pastors, provide "a caring, listening and reassuring presence in an informal manner".

They are trained by The Samaritans and work in teams of three or four, patrolling at least twice a month at various times of the day. They also help rail operators spread basic safety messages among young people who sometimes play dangerously near fast trains.

Mr Prior-Sankey said: "We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund has recognised our work in this way.

"Now, thanks to the National Lottery we will be able to extend our activities and reach to safeguard young people in particular and better serve the travelling public in general.

"We are grateful to all who have partnered with us in the early stages of our project."

He added that the lottery grant would lead to "greater engagement with young people who might otherwise be victims of abuse or lured into criminal activity".

Similar schemes elsewhere in the UK have resulted in a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour on and near train stations.

The Taunton group is providing additional patrols to ensure a presence on the days of the World Cup Cricket matches in the town.

The development is supported by BTP and regional commander Supt Mark Cleland said: "Taunton Rail Responders save lives and change lives.

"It is a privilege to work side by side with them."

Tracy McCarthy, station manager at Taunton, said: "Great Western Railway is pleased to welcome these community-minded volunteers and looks forward to a productive partnership which will enhance the experience of all our customers and help to ensure a warm and friendly station environment."